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Pictorial: Ma Po Tofu

Chinese Vegetarian

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#61 Sony

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Posted 21 August 2007 - 07:46 AM

Thanks Dejah! If I do make it to Penzey's I'll have to do a side-by-side comparison :wink: . And if not, I'm glad to know it still turns out well without it! :biggrin:

#62 hzrt8w

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Posted 23 August 2007 - 05:55 PM

Hi all....since Szechuan peppercorns aren't available in my neck of the woods, is it worth trying to make the dish without them? Anything that can possibly substitute in?

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You can certainly make "Ma Po Tofu" without the Sichuan peppercorns. I often do. It would be pointed out that it is not authentic Sichuan style. More like a Cantonese rendition of it. :smile: You will not get the numbing sensation.
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#63 DylanK

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Posted 27 August 2007 - 10:02 AM

Posted Image

The crucial ingredient here. Brick red hua jiao. Floral, numbing, perfect. This hua jiao from Ngoa Hoy in Regina, as good as any hua jiao in a Chinese raw market. I'm glad I didn't go to the potential trouble of smuggling a bag from home.

Posted Image

Second most important ingredient. Fresh tofu. Firm enough to stand up to the pan and soft enough to soak up flavor and break down just a bit.

Then, you want: pork (not too fatty, not too lean), dried red chilis (chopped up), ginger (chopped to a paste), green onion (sliced up), a bit of fresh green chili (mashed right up, just a little bit). Throw it all in a pan that's full of oil and as hot as you can possibly get it. Stir in some cong ban jiang (no proper bean sauce, since we've only been in Canada a week, but it's salty and pungent enough). Get that mixture as hot as the sun, then tip in your chopped up tofu. Add some liquid, let it cook.

Hua jiao, ground, gets dumped on top as it comes off the heat.

Posted Image

There it is. Swimming in deep red oil. Beautiful. Tastes exactly like the last plate of mapo doufu I ate in China (except: too spicy and lacking fermented black beans). It's salty and hot and pungent and has a great floral smell and the tofu is just soft enough.

Posted Image

On rice.

#64 dmreed

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Posted 19 February 2008 - 11:16 AM

[quote name='hzrt8w' date='Nov 12 2005, 12:14 AM']
Ma Po Tofu (麻婆豆腐)

Ma Po Tofu is a Sichuan specialty. There are many versions of the Ma Po Tofu recipe. This pictorial is my interpretation of it.

Dedicated to SuzySushi.

======================================
what chili peppers are equivalent to Sichuan chili peppers?
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#65 dmreed

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Posted 19 February 2008 - 11:21 AM

Hi all....since Szechuan peppercorns aren't available in my neck of the woods, is it worth trying to make the dish without them? Anything that can possibly substitute in?

My block of tofu eagerly awaits your response  :smile: .

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Sichuan peppercorns are available on the internet....for a while they were not available in the USA but they are now available.
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#66 Jennifer Brizzi

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Posted 20 February 2008 - 07:59 AM

Here's where I get mine, worth every penny and every minute of waiting.

Szechuan Peppercorns from Penzeys
Jennifer Brizzi

Author of "Ravenous," a food column for Ulster Publishing (Woodstock Times, Kingston Times, Dutchess Beat etc.) and the food blog "Tripe Soup"

#67 DylanK

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Posted 20 February 2008 - 10:04 AM

I still find most hua jiao you can find in North America has a great, peppery floral aroma but the numbing part just isn't there. I've been able to find a bag or two but it's a lot of work.

#68 dmreed

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Posted 28 July 2008 - 06:12 AM

I was happy to see fermented black beans added to the mapo dofu recipe(s). I am very partial to fermented black beans and I ignore the instructions to rinse the them. I also frequently double the amount called for in the recipes and mash half of them and leave the other half whole.

Additionally, I prefer mapo dofu over noodles rather than the traditional rice and, when I do not have Chinese noodles on hand, I use regular spaghetti (al dente) with great results!

Just a note, when my Puerto Rican wife first smelled raw fermented black beans and tasted one, she said she did not like them and would not eat anything with them in it! However, I have added fermented black beans to several non-Chinese dishes and she loved them and she loves my version of mapo dofu which I make very less spicy than I prefer (I add home-made chili oil to my servings!)...on a scale of 1-10 at most Chinese restaurants, I order dishes as spicy 15 :wub: !

The latest non-Chinese dish in which I have used them is homemade baked beans...adds a great new accent.

Edited by dmreed, 28 July 2008 - 10:40 AM.

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#69 liuzhou

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Posted 28 July 2008 - 08:56 AM

I ignore the instructions to rinse the them


Why?

Have you seen the conditions in which they are produced? The advice to rinse them is to get rid of the dust and dirt. You're not going to damage the beans or taste. It is simple food hygiene.

#70 dmreed

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Posted 28 July 2008 - 10:38 AM

I ignore the instructions to rinse the them


Why?

Have you seen the conditions in which they are produced? The advice to rinse them is to get rid of the dust and dirt. You're not going to damage the beans or taste. It is simple food hygiene.

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Hummmmmm...thanks for the comment. No, I have not seen them made...have you some details?

In the many cookbooks I have read, probably 50-60% suggest rinsing and mashing the beans but none of them said anything about dust and dirt?

The only reason I have seen to rinse them is to get rid of extra salt and to make the taste milder. Have you actually seen dust and dirt in the rinse water? I am not sure that hygiene is an issue, they are not generally eaten raw so any germs would be killed by cooking.

This does pose an interesting question: when eating dried shrimp or other dried snacks directly out of the package for a snack, the shrimp are not washed and I am pretty sure that most shrimp and other snacks are sun dried out in the open. Is hygiene an issue for dried food snacks in general?

Again, thanks for your comments and concerns. Does anyone else have anything to add regarding rinsing the beans?

Edited by dmreed, 28 July 2008 - 11:02 AM.

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#71 hzrt8w

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Posted 28 July 2008 - 01:41 PM

This does pose an interesting question: when eating dried shrimp or other dried snacks directly out of the package for a snack, the shrimp are not washed and I am pretty sure that most shrimp and other snacks are sun dried out in the open. Is hygiene an issue for dried food snacks in general?

Again, thanks for your comments and concerns. Does anyone else have anything to add regarding rinsing the beans?

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Rinsing the fermented black beans is a traditional, hand-me-down method. It serves several purposes:
1) As liuzhou mentioned, to rinse off dust or what not.
2) To moisten the black beans a little bit. Depending on the quality of the fermented black beans you get... some of the poorer quality ones (the one that my family could afford back in the old days) are quite dry. The beans should be moisten a little bit, and smashed a little bit to release their full flavor.
3) The most important reason, I think (why they used to do it in the old days)... I don't know about others, when I grew up the fermented black beans bought from the market were full of small rocks. Putting some water into the bowl containing some fermented black beans helps in picking out those small rocks, which were detrimental to children's teeth. And in this day and age you probably don't need to worry about that...

Eating dried shrimp? No I don't water it and just eat as is. If moisten, the flavor would be diluted, which is very different from preparing fermented black beans for cooking.
W.K. Leung ("Ah Leung") aka "hzrt8w"

#72 dmreed

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Posted 31 July 2008 - 06:09 AM

This does pose an interesting question: when eating dried shrimp or other dried snacks directly out of the package for a snack, the shrimp are not washed and I am pretty sure that most shrimp and other snacks are sun dried out in the open. Is hygiene an issue for dried food snacks in general?

Again, thanks for your comments and concerns. Does anyone else have anything to add regarding rinsing the beans?

View Post

Rinsing the fermented black beans is a traditional, hand-me-down method. It serves several purposes:
1) As liuzhou mentioned, to rinse off dust or what not.
2) To moisten the black beans a little bit. Depending on the quality of the fermented black beans you get... some of the poorer quality ones (the one that my family could afford back in the old days) are quite dry. The beans should be moisten a little bit, and smashed a little bit to release their full flavor.
3) The most important reason, I think (why they used to do it in the old days)... I don't know about others, when I grew up the fermented black beans bought from the market were full of small rocks. Putting some water into the bowl containing some fermented black beans helps in picking out those small rocks, which were detrimental to children's teeth. And in this day and age you probably don't need to worry about that...

Eating dried shrimp? No I don't water it and just eat as is. If moisten, the flavor would be diluted, which is very different from preparing fermented black beans for cooking.

View Post


Thanks. As usual, you have a great perspective. Apparently tradition still seems to govern much of what and how we eat (thanks goodness for tradition!). I have not found any small rocks in the brand I use (Yang Jiang Preserved Beans) and I measure them by dumping some out of the storage jar into the palm of my hand. I do use a bit of moisture when mashing them.
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#73 TheSwede

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Posted 09 February 2009 - 01:02 PM

Made Ma Po Tofu for the first time tonight. A wonderful dish, perfect for sub-zero (C not F) Stockholm!

I used Fuchsia Dunlops recipe in Sichuan Cookery. It is much simpler than most recipes described here, but still comes out very flavourful and complex.

No marination of the meat. Only dried red chillies, red chilli bean paste and some black fermented beans as seasoning, then adjusting the final taste with a little sugar, light soy sauce and szechuan pepper.

That was the way she was taught in the state cookery school in Sichuan, so it is probably quite authentic.

I think I lucked out on the chilli bean paste. I bought a new brand (FU CHI, made in Taiwan) which was less salty and much more flavourful than my old (LEE KUM KEE, made in mainland China).

Edited by TheSwede, 09 February 2009 - 01:20 PM.


#74 Dejah

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Posted 09 February 2009 - 09:46 PM

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Not sure how I missed this post back in July, :shock: but that package of tofu is made by my cousin James Chan in Winnipeg!
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#75 Ce'nedra

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Posted 19 February 2009 - 04:06 AM

Seeing as the Japanese are also familiar with this dish, how do they make it differently to the Chinese?
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#76 prasantrin

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Posted 19 February 2009 - 05:42 AM

Seeing as the Japanese are also familiar with this dish, how do they make it differently to the Chinese?

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In my experience, it's much less spicy and much more gloopier. I prefer the Chinese version, but once in a great while, I like a bit of the Japanese version, too. They also do mabonasu, using eggplant rather than tofu.

#77 hummingbirdkiss

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Posted 19 February 2009 - 07:18 AM

I just want to say

I am going to make this for tomrrow's dinner so please insert very sincere yet very silly happy dance here!

It always happens ..I am sitting here thinking to myself "hmmmmm...what should I make today? I want something really good! " and this board is like The Magic 8 ball, close my eyes make a wish for some inspiration ....turn it over and there is the answer!

I have not made Ma Pu tofu in ages! This is such suck your thumb twirl your hair good comfort food I think! Certainly rolling through this thread again has me so stoked i want to make it for breakfast and it is not even light out!

thank you! :smile:

eta change of menu!

Edited by hummingbirdkiss, 19 February 2009 - 06:20 PM.


#78 dmreed

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Posted 03 May 2009 - 06:25 AM

3 questions/comments:

1) I don't recall getting an answer as to what Sichuan chili peppers are or what an equivalent pepper available in the USA might be.

2) For those who like "heat", have you tried the Ghost Chili (Bhut Jolokia) from India? Four times hotter than the Habanero pepper (over a million Scoville units!!!). I like HOT but a piece about the size of a common pin head just sitting on my tongue for a about 10-15 seconds required spitting it out! if I can get some to grow I will make some chili oil using the Ghost Chili and Sichuan peppercorns.

3) I seem to recall seeing a recipe for Mapo Dofu which used a bit of "stinky tofu" in addition to the usual ingredients. Can someone point me to such a recipe?
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#79 nakji

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Posted 03 May 2009 - 06:32 AM

1) I don't recall getting an answer as to what Sichuan chili peppers are or what an equivalent pepper available in the USA might be.


Sichuan chili peppers aren't chilis at all - they don't produce so much heat in the mouth; rather they numb your tongue a little. I don't particularly care for the sensation myself, but I find it wholly different from the heat generated from chilis. I'm not sure if it's the same plant or not, but Japanese sansho produces the same feeling - you should be able to find little green bottles of the powder in an Asian market.

#80 prasantrin

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Posted 03 May 2009 - 07:26 AM

3 questions/comments:

1) I don't recall getting an answer as to what Sichuan chili peppers are or what an equivalent pepper available in the USA might be.


Are you referring to this question you asked earlier?

what chili peppers are equivalent to Sichuan chili peppers?


It's a little difficult to answer your questions without a context--what recipe did you see them in? I don't recall seeing them in any mabodofu recipe here (though I have not looked at all of them).

Regardless, perhaps http://www.penzeys.c...ystientsin.html will suit your needs?

#81 Alcuin

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Posted 03 May 2009 - 09:22 AM

3 questions/comments:

1) I don't recall getting an answer as to what Sichuan chili peppers are or what an equivalent pepper available in the USA might be.

2) For those who like "heat", have you tried the Ghost Chili (Bhut Jolokia) from India? Four times hotter than the Habanero pepper (over a million Scoville units!!!). I like HOT but a piece about the size of a common pin head just sitting on my tongue for a about 10-15 seconds required spitting it out! if I can get some to grow I will make some chili oil using the Ghost Chili and Sichuan peppercorns.

3) I seem to recall seeing a recipe for Mapo Dofu which used a bit of "stinky tofu" in addition to the usual ingredients. Can someone point me to such a recipe?

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I assume you're talking about the kinds of peppers here, not the peppercorns which produce a numbing sensation in the mouth and are not hot. I think the peppers you're looking for are facing heaven chilis which are native to Sichuan province. As for substitutions, I'm not sure, but I think I've heard that things like dried chiles de arbol or even dried New Mexico chiles would work. I often use a couple of dried thai peppers. In the final product, you can't really tell that much.
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#82 prasantrin

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Posted 03 May 2009 - 02:22 PM

I think the peppers you're looking for are facing heaven chilis which are native to Sichuan province.

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In that wiki, there is this:

Because of its attractive appearance, the dried chili is often added to dishes whole (whereas Sichuan chilies are more likely to be broken up or crushed).


implying that facing heaven chiles are different from Sichuan chiles. Of course, that doesn't mean they can't be used interchangeably, but they're not the same.

#83 Alcuin

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Posted 03 May 2009 - 02:32 PM

I think the peppers you're looking for are facing heaven chilis which are native to Sichuan province.

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In that wiki, there is this:

Because of its attractive appearance, the dried chili is often added to dishes whole (whereas Sichuan chilies are more likely to be broken up or crushed).


implying that facing heaven chiles are different from Sichuan chiles. Of course, that doesn't mean they can't be used interchangeably, but they're not the same.

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Since facing heaven chilis are native to Sichuan province and are a chili associated with that region and its cookery, I think I'd say it's a "sichuan chili." Those other chilis you linked to through Penzey's look like a kind of Sichuan chili too, but I've never heard of them. They're probably much easier to find too.

Facing heaven chilis are what I've seen referenced the most though when it comes to Sichuan chilis--perhaps because they cut such a nice figure. I think that the writer of that wikipedia article just meant that other chilis are usually ground up in Sichuan cooking whereas these are usually not, not that they are not Sichuan chilis.
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#84 dmreed

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Posted 03 May 2009 - 03:47 PM

1) I don't recall getting an answer as to what Sichuan chili peppers are or what an equivalent pepper available in the USA might be.


Sichuan chili peppers aren't chilis at all - they don't produce so much heat in the mouth; rather they numb your tongue a little. I don't particularly care for the sensation myself, but I find it wholly different from the heat generated from chilis. I'm not sure if it's the same plant or not, but Japanese sansho produces the same feeling - you should be able to find little green bottles of the powder in an Asian market.

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I am asking about Sichuan Chili peppers not Sichuan peppercorns which I use quite frequently! the peppers might be the chilis called Tien Tsin peppers. See the recipe at http://www.thespiceh...n-shrimp-recipe where both are used.

Thai/Heaven Facing Chili apparently is not the same as the Sichuan chili. I just found a reference to the Tien Tsin chili which says the Fresno chili is a decent replacement.

I am still looking for an answer to question 3) and I am curious about question 2).

Edited by dmreed, 03 May 2009 - 04:11 PM.

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#85 Alcuin

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Posted 03 May 2009 - 06:00 PM

Thai/Heaven Facing Chili apparently is not the same as the Sichuan chili. I just found a reference to the Tien Tsin chili which says the Fresno chili is a decent replacement.

I am still looking for an answer to question 3) and I am curious about question 2).

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Facing Heaven Chilis are not Thai chilis and they're from the Sichuan region. The Tien Tsin chilis are what prsantrin linked to though, so they'd probably satisfy.

That Ghost chili oil sounds dangerous--I imagine you'd only need a little bit. Regular chili oil is plenty hot for me. I think the goal for ma po tofu is a good balance of pretty intense heat and numbness from the peppercorns.

As for using stinky tofu, I've never seen it, but I'm no authority anyway. I like regular ma po tofu so much though, that I don't think I'd want to mess with success.
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#86 dmreed

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Posted 04 May 2009 - 02:18 AM


Thai/Heaven Facing Chili apparently is not the same as the Sichuan chili. I just found a reference to the Tien Tsin chili which says the Fresno chili is a decent replacement.

I am still looking for an answer to question 3) and I am curious about question 2).

View Post


Facing Heaven Chilis are not Thai chilis and they're from the Sichuan region. The Tien Tsin chilis are what prsantrin linked to though, so they'd probably satisfy.

That Ghost chili oil sounds dangerous--I imagine you'd only need a little bit. Regular chili oil is plenty hot for me. I think the goal for ma po tofu is a good balance of pretty intense heat and numbness from the peppercorns.

As for using stinky tofu, I've never seen it, but I'm no authority anyway. I like regular ma po tofu so much though, that I don't think I'd want to mess with success.

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hummm...I grow what were labelled Thai chilis and they definitely grow "heaven facing"!! but perhaps they are not what are generally known as Thai chilis??? I will buy some Thai chilis or seeds to see how they taste and compare to the heaven facing chilis I now am growing.

regarding stinky tofu in mapo dofu, I am only talking about using just a small amount for added depth of flavor...but I am not sure how much to use...maybe I should just add a tiny bit and see how it tastes, then add a bit more and check that, etc., etc.
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#87 Alcuin

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Posted 04 May 2009 - 06:47 AM


Thai/Heaven Facing Chili apparently is not the same as the Sichuan chili. I just found a reference to the Tien Tsin chili which says the Fresno chili is a decent replacement.

I am still looking for an answer to question 3) and I am curious about question 2).

View Post


Facing Heaven Chilis are not Thai chilis and they're from the Sichuan region. The Tien Tsin chilis are what prsantrin linked to though, so they'd probably satisfy.

That Ghost chili oil sounds dangerous--I imagine you'd only need a little bit. Regular chili oil is plenty hot for me. I think the goal for ma po tofu is a good balance of pretty intense heat and numbness from the peppercorns.

As for using stinky tofu, I've never seen it, but I'm no authority anyway. I like regular ma po tofu so much though, that I don't think I'd want to mess with success.

View Post


hummm...I grow what were labelled Thai chilis and they definitely grow "heaven facing"!! but perhaps they are not what are generally known as Thai chilis??? I will buy some Thai chilis or seeds to see how they taste and compare to the heaven facing chilis I now am growing.

regarding stinky tofu in mapo dofu, I am only talking about using just a small amount for added depth of flavor...but I am not sure how much to use...maybe I should just add a tiny bit and see how it tastes, then add a bit more and check that, etc., etc.

View Post


Interesting. If you google "facing heaven chilis," every reference to them that I've seen is to their origin in Sichuan and their use in the food there. It may be that you're chilis were imported as Thai chilis, but if they're the real deal, then they're the ones for Sichuan cooking.

As for the stinky tofu, why not just try it and see what happens. If it's not a good combo, it won't be that bad if you only use a little.
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#88 prasantrin

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Posted 04 May 2009 - 07:08 AM

Thailand has similar chiles. They may in fact be the same, but I don't know enough about either of them to say.

From http://www.thaitable...hili_pepper.htm

'Prig chee fah', is not very hot and often used for its color and spice. The name literally means pointing toward sky chili. It is about3-5 inches in length. It comes in green and red.


Also, from another topic in eG, Fuchsia Dunlop writes:

Re facing heaven chillies
Actually the chillies are much less of a problem than the Sichuan pepper, for which there is no real substitute (although all the dishes will work and taste good without it, they will just lack that zingy Sichuan pepper feeling). Although the facing heaven are the most common chilli used in Chengdu cooking, other chillies are used in the region, eg smaller, thinner pointy chillies which are popular in Chongqing. The main thing is to choose a type which will give a good red colour and yield a heat you find palatable. Just experiment with whatever is available in your local spice shops. No need to be too dogmatic about this one.

Incidentally, these days I am mostly using a ground Korean chilli to make my chilli oil (I buy it in London). It is quite mild and gives a spectacular ruby colour to the oil, so you can use the oil in generous quantities without blowing anyones head off. It is more like the Sichuanese two golden strips chilli than the facing heaven, i.e. milder, redder.

best wishes
Fuchsia Dunlop


Edited by prasantrin, 04 May 2009 - 07:18 AM.


#89 dmreed

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Posted 04 May 2009 - 01:33 PM

Thailand has similar chiles.  They may in fact be the same, but I don't know enough about either of them to say.

From http://www.thaitable...hili_pepper.htm

'Prig chee fah', is not very hot and often used for its color and spice. The name literally means pointing toward sky chili. It is about3-5 inches in length. It comes in green and red.


I just bought some seeds for the following:

Prik Chi Faa (Capsicum annuum)

This chilli is one of the major chillies used in authentic Thai cooking. The meaning of this popular Thai chilli is “pointing to the sky.” Prik Chi Faa chillies are about 3"-4" in length.
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#90 v. gautam

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Posted 05 May 2009 - 01:48 PM

There are literally hundreds, if not thousands, of LANDRACES + CULTIVARS + F1 hybrids of Capsicum annuum, C. baccatum and perhaps several other other species that have erect [as opposed to pendulant or downward facing] fruit. These are found in ALL regions that grow chiles.

To claim X is NOT Y merely because X is heaven facing is not quite relevant because thousands of types ARE heaven facing. No region has any monopoly over erect fruiting types. X may be an erect type or landrace with particular qualities, taste etc. selected for in region X, or brought out fully only in terroir X, therefore different from Y. That might be a more meaningful statement.

Thai chilies, be they chee faa, or khee nuu, or their many variants, will vary dramatically with soil & climate. The same chili grown in Thailand or Bengal tastes very different from one grown in a pot or garden in a more temperate climate: heatwise it may be almost the same, but the full flavor bouquet developed under the tropical sun and particular soils is often absent in the fresh chili. Same with cilantro!!

Edited by v. gautam, 05 May 2009 - 01:50 PM.






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