Episode 36: MáLà Project + Sichuan Dry Pot
Photo credit: MáLà Project
We all know what hot pot is, but what is Sichuan dry pot? Founder of MáLà Project, Amelie Kang, and co-owner, Meng Ai, joined Lynda in the studio to help us learn more about this super flavorful and aromatic communal dish, and chat about the supportive restaurant network in their community.
Lynda starts the show by sharing the best food she ate this week—a burger at Strange Flavor Burger Shack. Amelie enjoyed Shanghainese stir-fried noodles at Little Alley, while Meng tried a new hot pot concept in Chinatown.
Amelie and Meng tell us about the small city they grew up in outside of Beijing, how they ended up in the States, and how they came to open MáLà Project together. They opened a dry pot concept, not only because it's a fairly easy operation, but also to satisfy their own cravings and the flavors they missed from home.
"Má means numbing, pretty much talking about the numbing sensation from Sichuan peppercorn [...]. And Là means spicy, in Mandarin. So, málà together is a signature flavor in Sichuan cuisine, which is a signature cuisine in Chinese cuisine." - Amelie Kang explains the málà flavor.
Compared to the long history of Chinese cuisine, dry pot is actually a fairly new concept. Amelie explains that it's a hot pot riff with a shorter cooking time which started becoming popularized in the 1990's. She also walks us through the MáLà Project experience, for those who have never tried Sichuan dry pot. The girls then list their favorite dry pot ingredients. They also discuss the infamous "Rooster's XXX", which you'll find on the menu. You'll have to listen to the episode to find out what this secret ingredient is...and yes, it is x-rated indeed!
Amelie then tells us what the most important part of Sichuan dry pot is: the sauces. The dry pot sauce, in particular, is not hot but there are 24 different spices that go into it and give the dry pot its essence—an addictive aroma without the use of MSG.
Lynda then asks Amelie and Meng about the budding specialty Chinese restaurant community in their particular area of the East Village. They discuss the growing number of these restaurants that value both great food and dining experience, and how it's great to have other restaurateurs in the community who are going through similar experiences. Finally, the girls tell us about their hopes for MáLà Project and the Chinese food scene in America.
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