Welcome! We are Taylor and Fong Chong, and The Mala Market is where we offer premium and hard-to-find Sichuan specialty ingredients and a curated selection of our favorite Chinese pantry essentials. The Market is an offshoot of our blog, The Mala Project, where we write about Cooking Sichuan in America, including recipes, restaurant features and travel articles.
A former journalist (WSJ staffer; NYT freelancer), I started The Mala Project in 2014 as a challenge to myself to move beyond my usual Chinese recipes and cook my way through my prized collection of Sichuan cookbooks—the rare, the out-of-print, and the printed-only-in-China—which are full of food the way it's made in Chengdu, my favorite place to eat.
My goal was to adapt the recipes to America while using made-in-Sichuan ingredients, keeping the dishes as authentic as possible. So the blog was an exploration of whether it’s possible for a home cook to do these recipes justice in the U.S. and of how to lay your hands on the right ingredients to do so.
At its heart, the blog also was about building a Chinese/American family. Its purpose was to spur and document my efforts to learn to cook for Fong Chong, whom my husband and I had recently adopted from China at age 11, and help her feel at home in America. Real Chinese food, her greatest comfort and obsession, was the only thing that worked, the more Sichuan málà—numbing and spicy—the better.
A funny thing happened along the way, however, and I increasingly began to use my newfound knowledge and skills to develop my own recipes, attempting to recreate dishes I’ve eaten over the past decade in great Sichuan restaurants in both Chengdu and around the U.S. An even funnier thing happened when I realized that most of us can’t always find the Sichuan specialty ingredients that make the food taste like it does in Sichuan. We live in Nashville, but even people who live in larger cities have trouble knowing what ingredient or brand to buy and where to buy it.
So in 2016, I decided to source the most essential ingredients myself and make them available here. By that time, Chief Taster and Translator Fong Chong was old enough to join me in that effort, and a mother-daughter company was born. We are proud to offer the highest-quality Sichuan peppercorns and chili peppers to be found in the U.S. and look forward to growing an exclusive product line.
While we focus on Sichuan in our kitchen, we love other regional Chinese cuisines as well, so The Mala Market will be partnering with other cooks and writers to expand our knowledge and offerings. Our launch partner is Maggie Zhu, a Beijing native who recently moved to Austin and blogs at Omnivore's Cookbook. She cooks from every region but is particularly knowledgeable about her native Northern Chinese food and Northwestern Muslim Chinese, including dumplings, buns and noodles.
As James Beard once said, "The three best cuisines in the world are Chinese, Chinese and Chinese." We invite you to explore our store and recipes and discover the real possibility of cooking one or more of these great cuisines in your own kitchen. We all have our obstacles: I'm trying to teach my daughter to cook the food of her heritage and hand down the family Chinese recipes without myself being Chinese and Maggie cooks the food of her homeland in a small kitchen in Texas on an electric stove. So if we can do it, you can do it.
As always, we value your feedback and welcome your questions, suggestions and comments. Just click on the little envelope in the icon bar and drop us a line.
Thanks for visiting!Taylor & Fong Chong