Sichuan peppercorn is a highly unique and versatile culinary spice found in dishes like hotpot, mapo tofu, and mala xiang guo.
How to Make Your Own Mala Soup From Home
Mala, a popular spice mostly used in Asian cuisine, is made from Sichuan peppercorn and chili pepper and is often ...
Mala, a popular spice mostly used in Asian cuisine, is made from Sichuan peppercorn and chili pepper and is often prepared as a sauce by boiling it in oil with additional spices. Mala is a tasty and spicy ingredient that can be used in a variety of stews, stir-fries, and hot pots.
It's not so challenging to make your own mala hot pot to entertain your friends and family. There are two key elements that you should know before you get started.
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First, you're going to need a lot of ingredients to make the spicy version of this Sichuan delicacy. You can also make the non-spicy version for those who don't have the same spice tolerance.
Secondly, you'll need a portable burner or electric hot pot so that you can keep the mala soup hot on the table. Once you gather your ingredients to make the broth base, the cooking process is easy and a great time lies ahead.
Let's get started!
What You'll Need
Mala hot pot soup combines numerous chilis, doubanjiang, Sichuan peppers¹, and many other spices that you cook down into a base by using oil. You will mix that base with pork, beef, or chicken broth.
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In Chongqing and Chengdu, they use beef fat (tallow) as the oil, which adds a level of deep flavor. Feel free to use other neutral oils if you like, but be aware that the flavor won't be as savory.
Since mala soup is a two broth dish, it's best to get a divided pot. One side is for the mild broth, and the other side is for the spicy broth².
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The spicy broth is mostly flavored from chili peppers, while the mild broth has mushrooms, meat, and other Chinese herbs to flavor it.
Sitting at the Table
There are numerous ingredients that you can cook into your mala³ hot pot. Here are a few suggestions:
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- Thin slices of pork, beef, chicken, or lamb
- Seafood such as scallops, shrimp, or Asian fish balls
- Dried tofu skin
- Chicken gizzards or chicken hearts
- Spinach, bok choy, zucchini, or other green vegetables
- Potato, turnips, or other root vegetables
Udon noodles or pre-packaged ramen noodles⁴
Mala Hot Pot
This recipe will make close to eight cups, or two liters, of mala hot pot spicy broth and the same amount of the mild broth. You can also purchase a hot pot base⁵ if you don't have these ingredients readily available.
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Spicy Broth Ingredients
- Two to three cups of dried Sichuan chilis (ask for recommendations at the market)
- Two tablespoons of red Sichuan peppercorns
- Two tablespoons of green Sichuan peppercorns
- One handful of Chinese spices (whole) like fennel seed, star anise, cassia bark, bay leaf, clove, and so on
- One cup of beef tallow (you can also choose a neutral oil)
- One cup of Chinese peanut oil or rapeseed oil (roasted)
- Three inches of peeled ginger; chop roughly
- Five scallions that you have cut in half
- Two and a half ounces of chili bean paste (doubanjiang) (Use a fork to mash it roughly for a coarse paste texture)
- Four to six garlic cloves garlic; chop roughly
- Four tablespoons black soybeans (douchi) (Use a fork to mash it roughly for a coarse paste texture)
- Two quarts of boxed or homemade stock (pork, beef, or chicken⁶)
- Two tablespoons of sugar
- Four ounces of Shaoxing wine
- Two Chinese black cardamoms (optional)
- One teaspoon of mushroom powder (optional)
- One teaspoon of MSG (optional)
- Two tablespoons of green Sichuan peppercorns (whole)
- Three whole dried chilis
Mild Broth Ingredients
- Two quarts of boxed or homemade stock (pork, beef, or chicken)
- Two ounces of Shaoxing wine
- Three scallions cut into segments
- One tomato cut into quarters
- One handful of jujubes (Chinese dried paste) (optional)
Dipping Sauces Ingredients
Mix canola oil with toasted sesame seed oil and add a little minced garlic is the most popular. Here are other choices that you can select as well:
- Black vinegar
- Soy sauce
- Sesame paste
- Oyster sauce
Cooking Instructions: Broths
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- Take some dried chilis, add them to a saucepan, and cover them with water. Heat the water until it starts boiling. Allow it to simmer for five minutes.
- Remove the chilis from the heat and let them soak for at least 30 minutes. After they get softer, remove the caps from the chilis and chop them as finely as you can. The finished product should be like a paste.
- Grind two tablespoons of red Sichuan pepper and two tablespoons of green Sichuan pepper.
- Grind these together along with spices in a spice grinder until they are ground coarsely.
- Transport the contents to a bowl and cover it with water to soak for approximately 15 minutes.
- While heating it over a medium flame, add peanut oil or roasted rapeseed oil to a soup pot or a dutch oven.
- Throw in some scallions and brown them over a medium flame and then remove them.
- Next, add some beef tallow, garlic, and ginger. Keep cooking the contents over medium heat until it's aromatic. Make sure they don't turn brown.
- Now, add the minced chili paste that you prepared earlier. Also, add fermented black beans, ground chilis, and chili bean paste; let it cook for a few minutes.
- Pour in two quarts of your chosen stock and bring to a boil. Add the spices that you prepared in step two with the water as well.
- Additionally, add Chinese black cardamom, wine, MSG, sugar, and mushrooms if you choose to have them.
- At this moment, you should reduce the heat and allow the soup to simmer at a very low boil for ten minutes.
- Shut the heat off and give the soup time to steep as you prepare the remaining hot pot ingredients. Do this for at least half an hour.
*To make the mild soup, simply pour the ingredients into the cold pot on one side; pour wine, two quarts of stock, tomato, and scallions.
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Tabletop Presentation And Dipping Ingredients
- Slice the ingredients thinly and situate them beautifully on separate plates. Leave the meatballs, shrimp, fish balls, scallops, and so on, whole.
- Next, collect all of the condiments needed for your dipping sauces. Gather the scallions, then mince the garlic and cilantro. If you're using sesame paste, be sure to mix it with water to achieve a runny condiment.
- Now, take the spicy broth you prepared, and use a spoon or a strainer to remove the sediment.
- Add the spicy broth to its side of the pot and top it with some whole chilis and two tablespoons of whole green Sichuan peppercorns until it tastes the way you like it.
- Next, ignite your portable gas burner or plug in your electric hot pot and turn it on high. It should take five to ten minutes for the two soups to reach a gentle boil. This is the perfect time for you to mix your dipping sauces.
- Now, lower the heat to a low boil and begin adding your ingredients to the pot. Be mindful that the seafood and steak will not take much time to cook. Cooking these ingredients in a special pot strainer is a good idea to keep the integrity of the protein intact.
- As the broths continue to simmer away, top them off with a bit of hot water.
A mala hot pot is an occasion for a celebration no matter where you eat it. The dish itself is somehow inherently festive. Gathering around a huge pot of delectable foods and sauces with your friends and family guarantees a good meal and a good time!