Sunday, November 27, 2011

麻辣火锅 Sichuan Hot Pot

Oh, Sichuan hot pot. One of my favorite foods. Anthony Bourdain tried it in Chengdu (the home of Sichuan Hot Pot) and agreed that it's a painful, but beautiful experience, in fact, perhaps you should hear it in his own words. But here's the thing, going out for hot pot is expensive. However, it is not all that expensive or difficult to make at home as long as you enjoy having lots of leftover fresh ingredients in the house. I just made a huge hotpot today, which makes the above picture look like we were starving, so I figured I'd post my how to.

So, what is Sichuan Hot Pot? It's actually called 麻辣火锅, Mala Huoguo. This literally translates to Numbing Spicy Hot Pot. Mala is a common flavor in sichuanese food and it's very unique. It is a bit of an acquired taste, but it's very addictive. The hot is simple enough, Sichuan likes chilis. The numbing is the weird bit. This comes from a spice called "huajiao" 花椒, sometimes called flower pepper, sichuan peppercorn or Chinese prickly ash.
花椒, Sichuan Peppercorn

It's got a spice smell and an odd numbing effect. When eating, you don't want to crunch down on one of these babies, lest the side of your mouth go numb. However, I do recommend trying it once for giggles! Anyway, the final effect of the mala sensation is food that is truly spicy, yet oddly numbing at the same time. People generally don't like it the first time, and then 2 days later at 3 AM have pregnant-woman-style unbearable cravings for it. I'm a fan.

Anyway, no one makes Sichuan Hot Pot entirely from scratch, so I'm just going to tell you how I make it. A friend of mine, an exchange teacher from China, came over and ate it today and she was shocked at how authentic it was, So, although I make no claims as to my technique being authentic, my flavors are.

What you need:

Since this is like a fondue, you need a hotpot bowl, like in the picture above. You can get these inexpensively at most Chinese grocery stores and expensively at most Japanese grocery stores. If you ask for a huoguo pot, they will know what you want. These generally plug into an outlet and have a heating base. You can get them split and this is very handy so you can make two kinds of broth at once.

You can also use a pot on top of a camping stove, just be careful that it doesn't tip over.

A wide based pot on top of a hotplate works as well.

In a pinch, use a crockpot, but since it doesn't get to a very high temperature, you might need to pre-cook any thicker meats.

If you do not have any of these, just make it on the stove and you won't be elegant.

Vegetable broth or stock (chicken broth will also work)
1 packet of Sichuan Mala hotpot seasoning (it may be called Chongqing hotpot seasoning. Make sure to ask if it's "mala").
Dried red chilis
Huajiao/ Sichuan peppercorns
Dried dates (available in the bag at chinese grocery stores. These are truly dried, not like the snackable dried dates we get in western groceries)
Dried goji berries
Ginger root

Mix one part water to one part vegetable broth. Add hot pot seasoning to taste (start with less, you can always add more and it's VERY potent). Add dried red chilis to taste (same rule! Realize the chilis will get stronger as they boil.) Add around a table spoon of huajiao (more if you really like it) 4-5 dried dates, a small palmful of dried goji berries, a few slices of ginger root, 2 cloves of garlic (whole) and 2 scallions cut into large (1 inch long) peices. When this comes to a boil, it will be your fondue broth. In sichuan, it should have a sheen of blood-red chili oil floating on top. That can be painful for lots of westerners. Use caution.


Hot pot is HOT. You should probably dip anything you pull out in something both for flavor and to prevent mouth scalding. So here are the ingredients for the most traditional sichuanese dipping sauce:

Finely chopped garlic
Finely chopped cilantro
Finely chopped scallions
Sesame Oil

(Optional Ingredients)
Chinese Black Vinegar
Soy Sauce

Mix ingredients in a proportion that you like in a small bowl.

Great Things to Put in Hot Pot
(Just a list of my favorites)

Sliced Beef/Lamb (you can get this from chinese grocery stores, frozen and shaved paper thin, so it cooks up very fast)
Fried Beancurd Puffs
Rice Cakes
Udon Noodles
Fish Balls
Meat Balls
Bok Choy
Chinese Brocolli
Enoki Mushrooms
Shiitake Mushrooms
Lotus Root
Sliced Yam
Sliced Taro Root
Napa Cabbage

But you can basically add whatever you can think of.

The way it all works together:

Get the broth up to a low boil in your pot. Add a bit of everything! People can add what they like. Everyone has their bowl of sauce, probably a bowl of rice and maybe just another general bowl and a pair of chopsticks. The food cooks quite quickly, with the meatballs taking longest because they are often served frozen. The meat will take less than a minute to cook through, but it's best to leave it in for at least a minute. Pull out what you like, dip it in the sauce (I usually let it sit for a few seconds to cool) then yank it out and eat! Enjoy!

Goes Best With:

Beer or soda, especially pepsi and fresh fruit for dessert.


Tums before the meal. Seriously.

Friday, October 28, 2011


Tenthuk, obviously my favorite food. Previously, I've included tenthuk recipes for one. The following is quick tenthuk for the whole family. I made the following for 6, we had a lot left over, but we did finish about 2/3rds with each of us having 2-3 bows. So, this recipe could serve ten. Or, make the whole batch and freeze it in ziploc bags to make easy single servings.

TENTHUK FOR THE MASSES! (With Measurements!)

5 heaping handfuls of flower (Approx 9 cups)

3 inches of ginger root, finely chopped
2/3 bulb of garlic, (around 8 cloves) finely chopped
1 medium-large onion, chopped
3 medium tomatoes, chopped
2 lbs beef or lamb cut into bite sized peices
Baby Bok Choy or other greens, several large handfuls
12 stalks of scallions, roughly chopped
Salt (to taste)
Soy Sauce (to taste)

Mix the flower and water until the dough is no longer sticky. Knead until a smooth ball.
There will be a lot more than this, this was a smaller batch

Wrap this in a plastic bag and let it sit and relax for a while.

Meanwhile, finely chop the ginger and garlic.
You can see the finely chopped ginger in the bowl, but it wasn't enough.

Chop the garlic and put with the ginger. Chop the onions, set aside. Chop the tomatoes, set aside.
My lovely assistant, Karma. Onions make me cry.
Note the massive pot, that's what we're using.

In a large pot, heat up 3-4 TBS of vegetable oil. When the oil is hot, add the ginger and garlic and a pinch of salt and stir until the oil has become fragrant and the garlic has slightly browned.

Add the onions, and a hearty pinch of salt. The onions should reduce and slightly brown.

Add the tomatoes and another hearty pinch of salt. The tomatoes should reduce until you have a sauce-type consistency.

Add the meat and scatter a teaspoon of salt over it all. Stir until the meat has browned and it's started to form liquid.

Pour water over all of this until you have a large pot of broth with meat in it. I think we used around a gallon of water or more.

As the water is coming to a boil, take your dough out of the bag and separate into fist sized balls. Coat these balls with vegetable oil.

When the water has come to a boil taste and adjust salt and soy sauce. Roll a dough ball into a long snake like rope. Flatten between thumb and forefinger to form a long tape. Throw in small pieces of the dough into the boiling water. Stir occasionally to prevent sticking.

When all the dough is in the water, stir in the bok choy or other green vegetable. Stir. Bring to a boil again.
Mmmm, we made so much tenthuk it overflowed and we had to put some in that bowl on the side! lots of tenthuk!

When it's back to a boil add in the scallions. Stir for about a minute. Serve hot with chili sauce!

Wednesday, August 17, 2011

Beef Negimaki for Cheaters

DISCLAIMER #1: This isn't a Tibetan, Central Asian or Chinese dish. It's Japanese.

DISCLAIMER #2: This is a dish that I basically reverse engineered based on flavor. Therefore, it is probably COMPLETELY inaccurate. However, it tastes like the beef negimaki I get in restaurants and so I'm happy. I do not claim that this is an accurate Japanese negimaki recipe.

Aside from sushi, my favorite thing to order at a Japanese restaurant is beef negimaki. Beef scallion rolls. It is my absolute favorite hot dish, followed closely by a good udon soup.

I'm currently in Taiwan, so after Chinese ingredients, Japanese ingredients are the easiest things to find. Japanese food has become a staple in my kitchen. That said, I know nothing about Japanese cooking. Any japanese dishes are reverse engineered. I know the taste, I recreate the taste. They are likely completely inauthentic, but they TASTE GOOD. So there.


Package of udon noodles (ideally not the dried kind)

soy sauce
something sweet (sugar, mirin, or honey)
chopped or shaved ginger root
I added some ponzu sauce because why not? I had it in the cupboard. Give me a break. I just finished work and I was hungry.

finely sliced sheets of beef

First, get a pot of water up to a boil. Throw in the udon noodles. If they are the vacuum packaged kind, not the dry kind, they should boil up really fast. Drain them off and set them aside so that they aren't scalding hot when you eat them.

Next, in a small bowl, mix soy sauce, water, ginger and your sweet substance of choice (I usually use mirin or sugar. I had neither today, so I used honey.) It should taste like a slightly watery teriyaki sauce, but the texture should be very watery. Why water? you're going to boil this, so you want it thinned out.

Lay each sheet of beef on a cutting board. Put 5 or 6 sprigs of scallions, green bits and white bits, in the middle. Roll it tightly until you have a long, thin roll. Skewer or tie with cooking twine. Repeat until all the scallions and beef are gone.

In a frying pan, bring your watery sauce up to a boil. Fry (braise?) the rolls in the liquid. Give enough time for the scallions to turn brilliant green. Pull them out of the pan, but let the liquid continue boiling. As it's boiling, slice the rolls into medallions. Put the medallions on top of the udon. By this point, the sauce should have reduced substantially, although it will still be a rather thin sauce (it always is). Dribble this over the rolls and noodles.


Tuesday, August 9, 2011

My tenthuk

Well, the tenthuk is the one dish I didn't take a photo of. I have bronchitis, so last night I made more tenthuk. I had no greens, so it was the super simple version. Here's a picture. It was delicious.

Monday, July 25, 2011

Quick Tenthuk

So, I'm in Taiwan with a terrible cold right now. As evening rolled around, and I was completely exhausted and coughing, I had the question of did I want to go out and get dinner, which would involve turning myself into a functional, multilingual human being, go outside into the terrible heat, walk at least half a mile to go to a restaurant, or was I going to cook at home. Well, I wanted something for a cold, so I decided to make my go-to comfort food: Tenthuk.

Now, I have already posted the most traditional tenthuk recipe that I know, but that recipe takes a long time to prepare. It's very rare that your average person outside of Tibet takes the long time involved to make that meal. So the following recipe can be made, start to finish, in less than half an hour. Which is roughly the amount of time I was able to remain conscious. There are no photographs because I was having enough trouble figuring out whether I had added soy sauce or chinese black vinegar to the soup. Fortunately, it was soy sauce.

I made this for one (myself), ate two midsized bowls of it and the rest (I'd say about 1/3 of what I made) is in the fridge, so I would say I made the right amount. As a result, the amounts will seem like very little.


2 cups Flour
Vegetable oil
1/4 lb of beef, cut thin, one inch pieces.
half a medium sized tomato, chopped
1/4 of a large white onion (or one half of a small white onion!) chopped
1/4 inch of ginger root, finely minced (I went overboard with the ginger. It was delicious)
1 clove of garlic, crushed and minced
2-3 sprigs of scallions, roughly chopped
handful of greens of your choice (optional. I didn't have any. I recommend baby spinach)
soy sauce to taste
salt to taste
chili powder to taste

First, make your dough. Like a lot of the dough described previously, mix flour and water until you get a stretchy, but not terribly sticky ball of dough. You will need to knead it and experiment with how much flour and water. I never get it right on the first try. When you have this big ball of dough, separate it into small balls, about half the size of a fist. pour a little bit of oil over these and roll them around until they are lightly coated in oil. Cover this. If you haven't chopped your meats and vegetables and stuff, you might as well do it now. The dough does well to wait a bit, but it's not too necessary.

Take a pot and put it on the stove, heat up a bit of oil and start to fry up your meat. Stir this around a bit and add a sprinkling of salt. When the oil has picked up some meaty flavor, dump in the garlic, ginger, onions and tomatos. When I don't feel ready to fall down, I add the garlic and ginger first and fry that a bit before adding the others. Give me a break, I am sick and this is faster.

When the tomatos and onions have reduced, add water until you have about 2/3 your desired soup volume. Now add salt and soy to taste.

While this is boiling up you can add chili, if you like, or any other spices you want. Although my version is pretty traditional, don't hesitate to tweak it to your personal tastes!

When the soup is boiling and flavored as you like it, take a dough ball and roll it into a snake-like coil.

For this next step, you may need to add some oil to your fingertips. Take the dough coil and pinch it between your fingers to make a long tape, around 1 inch wide, and 1/8 of an inch thick or even thinner. Tear pieces off (about 1 inch by 1 inch) into the boiling soup. Stir occasionally. Continue until all the dough is gone, or until you have enough noodles. You can freeze the remaining dough for later.

The dough will need only a couple of minutes to boil. Remember to stir occasionally so the noodles don't stick.

As this is coming to a boil, toss in the scallions and greens. They should take only a minute to cook. When the greens have reduced or the scallions have slightly changed color, your soup is ready to eat! Enjoy!

Monday, July 18, 2011

In Taiwan

So recently I came to Taiwan. I've been home for a while and my cooking has been limited to things like peanut butter cookies and pumpkin cake. Today, however, I am going to the market and I plan on making good food! The blog shall live!

Wednesday, March 23, 2011

Losar Sang! Minyak Pholo

Happy Losar! Yes, I know I'm a few weeks late, but I've been moving. Anyway, I've decided to post a special Losar recipe to celebrate, even though I am late.

A Losar Altar

I spent much of this losar with my friend, Drolma, from Chamdo. She's a great cook.

Drolma with a bowl of Droma Dresil, or sweet rice, to start our Losar

Beef Momos

Anyway, I started to get nostalgic for a food I had during Losar of 2009, in the Minyak region of Kham, Pholo. Pholo is a big, puffy, sweet momo. While I have had some sweet momos in other areas of Tibet, Pholo are my favorite and are very unique. Outside of Minyak, I've never met people who've eaten them. Perhaps a few other areas of Tibet eat Pholo, but I've not encountered them. After talking with Drolma, we decided to make Pholo. We made a bunch and several people, Tibetan and western, helped us eat them. Everyone loved them, so I decided to share the recipe here.

Minyak Pholo
Flour, 1 kg
Baking Powder, 1 handful
Powdered Chura, 1/4 kilo (Tibetan dried cheese)
Sugar, 2 big handfuls
half a kilo of Tsampa (Tibetan barley flour)
Walnuts, 2 handfuls, crushed
Butter, 5-6 sticks, maybe more....

a steamer

Chura is kind of hard to get outside of Tibet. I'm not sure if there is a good replacement for it. I'm just going to have to assume that you have chura. Otherwise, I'm sure it will taste good without.

Chura is rock hard, so take your chura in a bowl and pour about one cup of warm water into it. This should be absorbed immediately. Stir it around so that all of the chura gets wet. The Chura should quickly start to soften.

soaking Chura

At this point, add the sugar to the chura and stir it around. If you are working without chura, you can mix the sugar into the Tsampa instead.
In another bowl, mix your flour and baking powder together. Make sure its well mixed. Then add water until you have a stretchy, flexible dough that looks kind of like this
Wrap this in plastic and ignore it for a while.

Next, mix your chura and tsampa together.

Gather as much butter as you can get on short notice. Melt it ALL.
We found four sticks of wasn't enough.

Mix your butter with your tsampa, chura, sugar and add the crushed walnuts. Knead this into a dough and make little balls out of it.

Take the dough out of the bag. Tear off small peices and make little discs of dough, like so.

Put a tsampa ball in the middle then wrap it up and roll it around in your hands until it forms a perfectly round, smooth, wrapped ball.

Continue until all the balls are wrapped

working hard in our Losar finery

Finally, steam the momos for 20 minutes. Make sure to give them room as they puff up.

Finally, ENJOY!

Now, I bet you're asking "How on earth was 4 sticks of butter not enough?" The answer is in that picture above. The filling is alike a paste, when it should be goopy from the melted butter. It tasted delicious but the filling was slightly too dry. I figure half again as much butter should do the trick.

Happy Losar to you all!

Sunday, January 23, 2011

Experiments with Sichuanese flavors: Garlic Chili Green Beans

So, I met a friend for lunch and we faced the usual issue: I don't like vegetables. I really don't. I make an exception for a few, but by and large, I don't like veggies, unless they are raw. Even then, I'm picky. So when my friends make lunch, I always eat enough to be polite, and avoid the vegetables, but today I found my solution. I volunteered to cook green beans, a personal favorite. Now, most of my Tibetan friends here have never had green beans, so I had to improvise a good recipe. So the following is an experiment with Sichuanese flavors, everyone liked it and polished them off!


Green beans (1 kilo)
Garlic (4 large cloves)
Scallions (one batch, around 6 bunches)
Soy Sauce to taste
Huajiao (sichuan peppercorn)

OR, you can replace the 3 proceeding items with 1 TBS of Chongqing hot pot paste

Cooking oil OR a nice stock or broth

First, for those of you unfamiliar with Chongqing hotpot (huoguo) paste
mmmm, hot pot!

Basically, its a mix of all the spices you would use in a sichuan style hot pot. Chilis, oil, huajiao, ginger, garlic, star anise, everything. It's great in hot pot, and a little bit of it makes a great seasoning on just about anything else. We didn't have ginger or red chilis today, so I just used a table spoon of this.

OK, so start by snapping the ends off your green beans.

Crush and chop the garlic finely. The scallions should be in larger peices.

Now, in a pan or wok, heat up some of your stock or oil. We used about a cup of the broth left over from cooking chicken today. It was delicious. A warning about using oil, you're going to be putting chilis into this, so make sure you do it so that you don't smoke out your house causing everyone's lungs to shut down. I've done it. My parents were very displeased.

When the stock is pretty hot, add the garlic, hot pot spice and some soy sauce. Stir until the hot pot spice is broken up or dissolved. Then throw in your green beans and stir until they are well coated with spices and garlic.

You can pour some soy sauce on top now if you want it a bit saltier.

At this point, throw in half of your scallions, continue stirring.

Make sure there is enough liquid at the bottom. You can add more stock or just plain water, but add soy sauce to adjust the taste if you put in water. Cover and steam until the beans are cooked as you like them. I like my beans crunchy and slightly underdone, but everyone has their own preference.

Alternately, if you are cooking in oil, just continue to stir-fry until they are as done as you like.

Finally, the final product! Salty, spicy, crunch, Sichuan style green beans!