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Ma La Xiang Guo (Hot and Numbing Fragrant Pot, or Dry Hot Pot)


jamesglu
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During my time in China, a dish became very popular in Beijing called 麻辣香锅 or "Ma La Xiang Guo", which I translate as "hot and numbing fragrant pot". It's basically a dry version of Sichuan hot pot, in which the diner generally picks out an array of meats, vegetables, fungi, etc that they want to have in their pot, along with the degree of spiciness they can tolerate, and then the kitchen puts it all together and serves it in a big wok on the table. The flavour is incredible, and if you put together an interesting combination of ingredients to go in the pot, it can be a fantastic dish. I would love to prepare it now that I'm no longer living in China; does anyone know how to make it? Searches on the internet have been rather unhelpful, I've found.

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  • 3 years later...

I assume you mean the condiments, because one of the key features of Ma La Xiang Guo seems to be that you can choose pretty much any meat, veges, dried tofu products, etc, that you like.

Everyone will have their own preferences, and of course, you'll also need salt and oil.  But the following are the ingredients that give it it's unique flavour (in the versions I've seen in Beijing, at least). 

Main (include all these, but how much of each depends on taste)
* dried red chilli peppers
* garlic
* ginger
* star anise
* cassia bark
* bay leaves
* scallions (green/spring onion)

Secondary (all optional):
* prickly ash (aka. Chinese pepper)
* fennel
* Chinese style bean paste (there are all different kinds though, some which will be too salty or too spicy - so trial carefully)

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  • 7 months later...

ō

On 8/2/2015 at 1:49 AM, patrickamory said:

It seems like the prickly ash (Sichuan peppercorns) can't be optional, or the dish is not ma.

Precisely. '麻 - má' in this context always implies Sichuan peppercorns - 花椒

There are any number of 'dry' hotpots. '麻辣香锅 má là xiāng guō' is a very general term which could mean many different dishes. My local restaurant, run by a lovely couple from Sichuan, does an excellent dry duck hotpot - 干锅鸭 - gān guō yā.

Edited by liuzhou (log)

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  • 6 years later...
On 8/1/2015 at 8:21 PM, liuzhou said:

Precisely. '麻 - má' in this context always implies Sichuan peppercorns - 花椒

There are any number of 'dry' hotpots. '麻辣香锅 má là xiāng gu' is a very general term which could mean many different dishes. My local restaurant, run by a lovely couple from Sichuan, does am excellent dry duck hotpot - 干锅鸭 - gān guō yā.

I have a local restaurant that does an awesome dry pot...  But, as is usual for NYC, it's expensive and I have to imagine that I could do it myself at home for a LOT less.  Their dry pot sauce is so addictive - do you have a starting point as to the mix of spices in there?  They're also using what looks like fresh green sichuan peppercorns - maybe they're brined - I'd have to check about it, but they're definitely green and numbing when bit into.  When people make the standard hot pot at home, do they typically use  a premade spice mix or do people make their own?

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2 hours ago, KennethT said:

When people make the standard hot pot at home, do they typically use  a premade spice mix or do people make their own?

 

Most hot pots are actually eaten in restaurants as a communal celebration. However, when made at home, typically at Spring Festival, most people I know make their own bases. That said, all the supermarkets carry pre-made mixes, so some people must be using them. The few pre-made bases I've tried have been rather over greasy (they are sold more as pastes than just spice mixes) and unpleasant tasting.

 

I'll dig out some of my Chinese language cookbooks and give the basics later. Watch this space!

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53 minutes ago, liuzhou said:

 

Most hot pots are actually eaten in restaurants as a communal celebration. However, when made at home, typically at Spring Festival, most people I know make their own bases. That said, all the supermarkets carry pre-made mixes, so some people must be using them. The few pre-made bases I've tried have been rather over greasy (they are sold more as pastes than just spice mixes) and unpleasant tasting.

I assumed as much.

 

53 minutes ago, liuzhou said:

I'll dig out some of my Chinese language cookbooks and give the basics later. Watch this space!

Thank you - I really appreciate it!

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On 3/21/2022 at 9:11 AM, KennethT said:

I'll dig out some of my Chinese language cookbooks and give the basics later. Watch this space!

 

Well, I did so and I'm not really surprised that only one gives a recipe for a hotpot base, but it's not a good one! As, I said, most hot pot are left to the restaurant's devices. My Chinese language Sichuan cook book (家常川菜 - jiā cháng chuān cài or Family Style Sichuan Food) doesn't even mention hot pot. I guess the Sichuanese are born with the recipe hard-wired into their DNA!

 

I think probably your best bet is the recipe in Fuchsia Dunlop's The Food of Sichuan (eG-friendly Amazon.com link). It's on page 407 of my edition. She does tone it down a bit, but it's easy to tone back up!

 

Unusually, I do rather like this video on YouTube, too.

 

 

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Later yesterday, I visited the supermarket and decided to have a look at the prepacked bases. There were about 20 different brands, none of which are based in Sichuan or Chongqing. The people there don't need them!

 

This one, from way up north in Hebei province beside Beijing, seems to be the most popular. The main ingredient is beef tallow at a huge 28.7%. They also contain a load of preservatives etc. They do describe it as for Sichuan style hot pot.

 

1886778813_hotpotbase.thumb.jpg.940c19a5b5ef3dcb35176747b6717252.jpg

 

Here is a short video of a factory making the stuff. It is in Chinese, but the beef fat is the first ingredient you see . If that doesn't put you off, little ever will!
 

 

Edited by liuzhou (log)
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@liuzhouThanks for the effort - I appreciate it.  I've seen that woman's videos on YouTube before - I'll definitely check it out.  And I most certainly will not be using beef tallow my cholesterol is high enough already!

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18 minutes ago, KennethT said:

@liuzhouThanks for the effort - I appreciate it.  I've seen that woman's videos on YouTube before - I'll definitely check it out.  And I most certainly will not be using beef tallow my cholesterol is high enough already!

 

Most recipes, including Dunlop's use beef tallow, but nowhere near 30%.

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21 minutes ago, liuzhou said:

 

Most recipes, including Dunlop's use beef tallow, but nowhere near 30%.

The fact that most recipes use beef tallos is not surprising - and I'm sure that if I omit it and use rice bran oil or something like it it won't be the same, but I'd like to put this into a regular rotation of dishes I make, so I don't want to have that much saturated fat on a regular basis.  I make quite a few dishes that don't use the animal fat that would normally be used but I've found ways to make them still very tasty, if not completely authentic.

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On 3/20/2022 at 5:10 PM, KennethT said:

I have a local restaurant that does an awesome dry pot...  But, as is usual for NYC, it's expensive

 

Which restaurant is it? Málà Project was on my short list during a recent visit, but unfortunately I never made it there.

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Gene Weingarten, writing in the Washington Post about online news stories and the accompanying readers' comments: "I basically like 'comments,' though they can seem a little jarring: spit-flecked rants that are appended to a product that at least tries for a measure of objectivity and dignity. It's as though when you order a sirloin steak, it comes with a side of maggots."

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18 minutes ago, Alex said:

 

Which restaurant is it? Málà Project was on my short list during a recent visit, but unfortunately I never made it there.

Yes, Mala Project.  And as @weinoo says, nowadays, there are tons of hot pot places in NYC, a large amount of them right in my neighborhood.  Within a few blocks of me, I can think of at least 3-4 Chinese hot pot places, a few Japanese, and some Korean.  Mala Project is the only one I know of that does a dry pot, which is basically a hot pot flavored stir fry.  One day I have to make it to HaiDiLao in Queens so that I can compare it to what we experienced in Beijing.

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18 hours ago, liuzhou said:

Later yesterday, I visited the supermarket and decided to have a look at the prepacked bases. There were about 20 different brands, none of which are based in Sichuan or Chongqing. The people there don't need them!

 

This one, from way up north in Hebei province beside Beijing, seems to be the most popular. The main ingredient is beef tallow at a huge 28.7%. They also contain a load of preservatives etc. They do describe it as for Sichuan style hot pot.

 

1886778813_hotpotbase.thumb.jpg.940c19a5b5ef3dcb35176747b6717252.jpg

 

Here is a short video of a factory making the stuff. It is in Chinese, but the beef fat is the first ingredient you see . If that doesn't put you off, little ever will!
 

 

Just had a chance to watch this video. Fantastic.  I recognize most of the dried spices - a few I may have to pause and magnify a bit to try to identify.  But the music... so grand!!!!

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13 hours ago, KennethT said:

The fact that most recipes use beef tallos is not surprising - and I'm sure that if I omit it and use rice bran oil or something like it it won't be the same, but I'd like to put this into a regular rotation of dishes I make, so I don't want to have that much saturated fat on a regular basis.  I make quite a few dishes that don't use the animal fat that would normally be used but I've found ways to make them still very tasty, if not completely authentic.

 

Sure. I'd guess most home cooks here don't use tallow, not so much for health reasons, but because it just isn't that easy to find. They probably use home rendered pig fat (lard) when they want animal fat.

Or they just use vegetable oil. Round here that is nearly always peanut oil. I, too, use rice bran oil when I want vegetable oil for Asian cooking.

 

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Does anyone know the reason why, in the examples above, hot oil is poured onto the dried spices rather than the spices being fried in the oil?  I don't know if my question is clear.  For some dishes using a lot of spices, the oil is heated in a pan/wok, aromatics (garlic/ginger/etc) stir fried and then the spices added and are stir fried until fragrant.  But the examples above heat the oil and pour onto a pile of spices and let sit.  Is there a reason for the 2 techniques or are they more of a matter of convenience?

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I always considered that as a self-containing process in term of temperature when using dried spices. You heat the oil to a peak temperature and add to the spices that steep in a quickly decreasing oil temperature; chances of burning are minimal. Whereas in a frying process you have significantly more heat exposure on the dried spices, so burning could occur more easily.

 

No reference for that, just my thoughts ...

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1 hour ago, KennethT said:

Does anyone know the reason why, in the examples above, hot oil is poured onto the dried spices rather than the spices being fried in the oil? 

 

It is a classic Sichuan technique and I think for the reasons @Duvelgives. Same technique as used in making chili oil.

 

The shock of the oil brings out the flavours, but then it cools down rapidly preventing scorching

Edited by liuzhou (log)
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