The dish known as Ma la xiang guo can safely be classified as a “more recent” creation. Even though this recipe hasn’t been around for centuries, I can assure you that it will soon become legendary. There are now entire restaurant chains in China dedicated to serving only this meal, such as NaDu and ChuanChengYuan.
Not only do chili peppers contribute greatly to the intense flavor of ma la xiang guo, but there are many other spices present as well. Lots of spices are included, most of which were previously a pleasant mystery to us. We couldn’t get enough of this meal when we were in Beijing; those who enjoy foods with a bit more heat will appreciate it. My vegan friend, who I recently cooked this for raved that it was the nicest meal he had ever had at our house.
There are a lot of vegetables in this dish, but we couldn’t resist sneaking in some fish balls. All the vegetables must be blanched before using. If you’d like to add meats like chicken or beef, marinate them in oil, cornstarch, and soy sauce, then sear them before adding them to the dish. In addition, if you’re like me and end up with random scraps of this and that at the end of the week and are stumped as to what to cook with them, this recipe is perfect. To produce a delicious and exciting new cuisine, just mix all the ingredients together.
- 3 4-6 washed and sliced shiitake mushrooms
- 3 long pieces of drained rehydrated tofu bean threads
- 3 thinly sliced celery stalks
- 2 thinly sliced carrots
- 2 sliced potatoes
- 2 cups of rinsed and drained rehydrated wood-ear mushrooms
- handful of sliced lotus root
- 3 star anise
- 3 bay leaves
- 2 pieces of dried ginger
- 1 black cardamom
- 1 cinnamon stick
- 1 large dried orange peel
- 1 whole nutmeg
- 1/3 cup of oil
- 1/4 cup of dried red chili peppers
- 2 tablespoons of Sichuan peppercorn
- 1 tablespoon of fennel seeds
REST OF THE DISH:
- 200g pack of fish balls
- 8 cloves of smashed garlic
- 6 slices of ginger
- 3 sliced of shallots
- 3 chopped scallions
- 1/4 head cabbage, sliced
- 1 cup of dried red chili peppers
- 2 tablespoons of spicy red bean sauce
- 2 tablespoons of hot pot soup base sauce
- 2 tablespoons of Shaoxing wine
- 1 tablespoon of sugar
- Salt to taste
- chopped cilantro
COOK THE VEGETABLES BY:
- All the veggies should be blanched in boiling water (potatoes and carrots will need a little more time) and then cooled in an ice bath. Completely rinse out and set aside.
FOR MAKING SPICE-INFUSED OIL:
- Slowly brown all the spices by heating the oil in a wok over low heat and adding them all at once. Remove the wok from the heat and remove the spices with a slotted spoon, reserving the oil.
TO ASSEMBLE THE DISH:
- To finish putting the dish together, re-ignite the stovetop on low to medium heat and add the hot bean sauce, hot pot soup base sauce, ginger, garlic, and shallots. Keep an eye on the sauce, so it doesn’t burn, and cook for a few minutes until the oil turns crimson.
- Put in the dried chili peppers, the scallions, and the cabbage. Be sure to give the ingredients a full 2 minutes of stirring and mixing.
- Combine the fish balls, sugar, shaoxing rice wine, and vegetable stock in a large pot and bring to a boil. Allow to cook for two minutes while stirring constantly. So much salt as you like. Place on a serving platter (or eat straight from the wok) and top with chopped cilantro.
- Rice, preferably steamed, should be served in large quantities.