I tried my hand a MaLa Dry Pot over the summer, when chilis were plentiful, and it turned out pretty well. I didn't get a chance to write about it until now, but honestly, this dish is pretty fun to make no matter what season we're in. It's numbing (Ma) and spicy (La), and it's a blast to eat making you sweat in the summer and warm during the winter. Let's get down to it!

Now, I must say this was my first attempt at the dish, and there's still some tinkering to do to get the spice mix better. That said, feel free to play around with the proportions since the cooking methods will be the same.

This dish has three primary aspects: a spice infused oil, a chili paste, and the stir-fried ingredients. I went with a vegetarian set of ingredients since I liked the lighter feel, but feel free to add chicken, beef, or lamb (recommended) as you like. Today, we'll talk about all three aspects.

Ingredients List:

  1. Spice infused oil -
    • 2 Bay leaves
    • 2 Star anise
    • 3 tbsp of SiChuan peppercorn
    • 2 tbsp of cumin
    • 1 tbsp of coriander
    • 1 tbsp of cloves
    • 2 cups of oil
  2. Chili Spice Paste
    • 6 Cloves of garlic
    • 2 Green onions
    • 1 Shallot
    • 1/4 lb of Thai chili peppers (2 handfuls?)
  3. Cooking Ingredients -
    • 1 Green bell pepper
    • 1 Can of bamboo shoots
    • 1/2 lb of lotus root (I used one small section)
    • 1/4 lb of shiitake mushrooms
    • 2 king oyster mushrooms

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For the spice mix, the goal is to have a balance of a numbing taste from the Sichuan pepper corns and an umami warmness coming from the cumin, coriander, and cloves. I chose to add 3 tbsp of Sichaun Peppercorn because I didn't want to go overboard, but feel free to add more depending on your spice tolerance. I'd say 3-5 tbsp is good.

Infusing the oil with the spice mix

Once you have the spice mix ready, take a small pot, and put in 1-2 cups of oil. Heat the oil on high until it starts to bubble. Then, add in the spice mix, and you should see the spices start to bloom. Turn the heat down to medium/low to let the oil bubble. Put a lid on the pot and let it sit. Now, it's time to prepare the other ingredients.

Making use of a good old pestle & mortar

For making the chili paste, take the chilis, garlic, green onions, and shallots, and start dicing them into very small portions. If you have a food processor, that'll make this process even easier. Since I didn't have that, I decided to grind the ingredients into a paste in my pestle and mortar. The chili paste provides the spiciness for the dish, so add in garlic/thai chilis as you see fit to adjust the taste.

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Once you have the paste ready, it's time for the stir-fry portion. Take your meats and vegetables and cut them finely. The thinner the better since it'll be easier to singe them a bit with the heat. I also used diagonal slices where possible to allow more surface area for the sauce.

Once you finish cutting, the spice oil and the chili paste should be ready. Take 2-3 tbsp of the spice oil and put it into a wok. Strain the rest into a different holding container. Turn on the heat for the wok and start stir-frying your ingredients. I suggest stir-frying in small batches to get the best result. Put the small batches on a nearby plate.

Once you've finished the stir-fry, it's time to combine the three parts. Pour the oil, the chili paste, and the stir-fried ingredients into the pot and stir. Add salt and ground Sichuan Pepper to taste.

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