Monday, November 19, 2007

More Ma, La La La

In the future, home cooking posts like these will include photos, but we have still not located the digital camera so sorry for the omission.

After our sample MaLa research, I ordered some Sichuan Peppercorns, and decided to try it out last night at home. Made a dry Sichuan Chicken with green onions, and man was it gooooooood.

The Sichuan peppercorns were pretty easy to work with. I roasted then in a cast iron pan and then ground them up in a mortar (picking out the black seeds which are supposed to be very bitter). To prepare the dish, I diced some chicken breast and thighs, dredged in corn starch and flour, added some dry red pepper and salt and then lightly fried and drained the chicken. Once done frying, I heated some oil and added the ground Sichuan pepper (about 1 tablespoon for 1 1/2 lbs of chicken) and some crushed red pepper (same amount) into the oil (3 tablespoons), and added the fried chicken. DO NOT BREATH IN THE FUMES. The oil quickly turned red and coated the chicken , and was whole mixture was very pungent. Green onions added afterwards and then pulled out. Served with rice and stir fried bokchoy.

At first I was worried the chicken was too bland. It had a hint of salt, but no real heat. Then it started to build slowly. The mixture of Ma (numbness) and La (heat) worked out pretty well. The Ma has a cumulative effect, and by the end of the dish my mouth was just tingling and kept me wanting more even when I was full. I'd probably add a bit more La (30% more) and a tad more Ma (20% more), but overall was really pleased with the outcome.

The bottom line is that you have to experiment with the Sichuan pepper to get it right, starting with much less than you think you will need and the building from there. Starting small. better to have a bland meal the first time then blow out our taste buds.