November 2019: Super Exciting Fall Arrivals

November 05, 2019

Tian shui mian by The Mala Market

The New Fall Season

Hello, Friends of The Mala Market!

New products are beginning to roll in via ocean, air and road. First in is our organic, stone-ground, pure Chinese sesame paste! Your dan dan noodles and sesame noodles are about to improve mightily with the addition of this super toasty, nutty, pourable paste. 

Last you heard from us, we were heading to Sichuan to hunt for new products, visit producers, establish relationships and see how things are made. I can't tell you how fun it is to visit a factory that's been making soy sauce by hand the same way since 1828. Zhongba soy sauce is a household name in Sichuan, and we are proud to be the first to bring the handmade version to the U.S. In fact, you can't even find this ultra-premium product in Chinese stores, since the company make too little of this labor-intensive sauce to distribute widely. 

Excited as we are to bring in new things, there is no shortcut between China and the U.S. Both the soy sauce and the 2019 harvest of Sichuan pepper, chilies and other spices are still on the slow boat from China. The importing process feels like a never-ending series of obstacles and setbacks, which is why we've been so quiet as we worked overtime to sort them out and speed up the process. (In fact, we've been so quiet that several of you have checked in on us to make sure everything is ok. It's good to be missed! But I do apologize for the long silence.)

We expect that shipment to arrive very very soon, however, and it will be worth the wait! It also includes loads of new umami: a red-oil doubanjiang, Sichuan-style fermented black beans, and sweet wheat paste, meaning we will never run out of these products again now that we're importing them ourselves. 

All of this is to say that we are well on our way to importing top-quality versions of all the products you need to stock a serious Sichuan pantry. The timing couldn't be more perfect, because you are going to need them as you cook from the just-released new edition of Fuchsia Dunlop's Sichuan cooking bible. This is a very big deal for anyone who loves Sichuan food, and Fuchsia very generously answered all our questions about the new book—the whys and hows of updating it after 20 years—in this wonderful Q&A on our blog

In other news, we have finally found a warehouse and fulfillment partner that we trust to take over that function for us. This means that Fongchong and I will no longer be packing and shipping every order, and that you're likely to get them much more quickly with professionals doing it instead. This also gives us more time to cook and develop new products and recipes (like the ones below). So watch this space for news of product arrivals and inspired ideas for what to do with them.

Thank you for your patience and all the kind words of support you send our way. We appreciate you!

🌶Taylor & Fongchong 🌶


P.S. We'll send another email as soon as the other products arrive. (Hopefully this week!) In the meantime, enjoy the photo above of the Chengdu cult-classic tian shui mian, hand-cut noodles I made  from the recipe in The Food of Sichuan
 

The Food of Sichuan

Chatting With Fuchsia Dunlop

If you are serious about cooking Sichuan food, or even just eating it, you must have The Food of Sichuan in your library. No one writing in English knows more about the history of Sichuan dishes and how to cook them than Fuchsia Dunlop. This update and expansion of her landmark 2001 Land of Plenty has 70 new recipes and considerable revision of older ones. Go here to read her illuminating thoughts on the changes in Sichuan cuisine over the past two decades. 

Yes, Amazon sells this book for a bit less than we do, but they can't send you a full complement of top-quality ingredients to cook from it in the same box! And wouldn't this cookbook plus our Complete Sichuan Pantry Collection make the most perfect gift ever for the Sichuan-food lover in your life?
 

Organic Chinese Sesame Paste

Organic Chinese Sesame Paste

A good Chinese sesame paste is hard to find. Or at least it has been until now! Although sesame paste is an integral part of the sauce for many Chinese noodle dishes—including dan dan noodles, zajiang noodles, Chongqing xiao mian and plain old sesame noodles—as well as used as a favorite hotpot dipping sauce, there are no reliably great ones available in the U.S. The sesame pastes at Chinese supermarkets often have additional, unnecessary ingredients, most notably peanuts and soybean oil. But quality sesame paste should be nothing but toasted and ground sesame seeds. And in U.S. markets, even the pastes that are pure sesame have a major flaw: Having sat on the shelves for many months or years, the solids and oils have completely separated, making it very hard to stir the paste into a runny consistency and "whole" taste. 

That's why we have been searching for some time for a pure, fresh, Chinese sesame paste that we could import ourselves. We finally found one, and not only is it made by grinding the seeds between two large stones in the traditional manner that makes for the best texture and taste, but it is also one whose production process is so clean that it is certified USDA organic, which is almost unheard of in Chinese products. 

Final words: Tahini is not a substitute for Chinese sesame paste, as it is made from different varieties of sesame seed, is processed differently and does not taste the same. So get yourself some Chinese sesame paste for Chinese food, and then just try not to eat it straight from the jar or mixed with honey and put on all kinds of things both savory and sweet.
 

Sichuan Sesame Noodles

Strange Flavor Sesame Noodles

The first thing you should make with your toasty, nutty, creamy sesame paste is these easy Sichuan sesame noodles with a "strange flavor" sauce. The only thing truly strange about this beloved Sichuan sauce is how strangely delicious it is. 
 

Wok-Fried Fish in Chile Bean Sauce

Fish in Chile Bean Sauce

I've created a new recipe for the classic Sichuan dish of wok-fried fish smothered in a sauce of Pixian doubanjiang. Only this time, I did as Sichuan chefs sometimes do and used two kinds of chile bean paste: 3-year-old douban for a depth of flavor and our new red-oil douban for the color. 

But you can use just one douban if you prefer, because the real point of this post is to convince you that both wok cooking and fish cooking are easy if you stick with them. Fish never sticks in a well-seasoned wok. I promise! 
 

Wok Therapist Grace Young
If you don't think your wok is up to a fish fry, then perhaps you need a Wok Therapist. Grace Young diagnoses and treats wok woes in this totally entertaining video




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