Mala Xiang Guo.
Since 2019, Mala dishes have become the new “it” food in Korea.
Mala is the short name for Chinese Spicy Hot Pot. The name comes from the Chinese character 麻辣for numbing (ma) and spicy (la).
When you first taste Mala, you’ll be pleasantly surprised (panicked?) that your tongue feels numb after 10 minutes into your first bite.
This numbing, tingling sensation comes from Sichuan Peppercorns – which are actually not spicy by themselves.
The magic happens when they are fried in oil with spicy chili peppers. That’s when numbing means spicy.
Throw in other aromatic spices like star anise, ginger and garlic into the party.
And the result is a unique spice that makes just about anything taste good. Vegetables, meat, fishcakes, noodles, rice, etc.
Did I mention that this sauce is also very addictive… you’ll find yourself craving this mala spice quite often.
It’s no wonder that mala dishes has exploded in Korea.
Since late 2018, mala shops have opened in virtually every major shopping district in Korea.
The two most popular types of dishes is Mala Hot Pot (image below) and Mala Xiang Guo (Stirfry).
Both taste very nice – but we find ourselves ordering Mala Xiang Guo most of the time.
When you walk into the shops in Seoul, you’ll be given a large metal bowl. Then you pick out the vegetables and meat that you like.
Then you’ll pay for the weight and then they’ll stir-fry it for you in the back.
For two people, the Mala Xiang Guo version (which is more expensive) comes to around $25-30.
Today, we walk through our favorite Chinese ingredients and show you to how stir-fry it at home. It’s much cheaper to do so – and that restaurant flavor can be replicated!
That’s because we’ll use a famous mala stir-fry sauce called Hai Di Lao Stirfry Sauce.
Hai Di Lao is China’s largest hot pot chain – over 160+ million customers served! Needless to say, their Mala Sauces tastes great! And the packets are sold in just about every major Chinese market or store.
So plan a trip to your local Chinese market…
(Note: You can make the sauce from scratch, but it will require that you procure a fair number of Chinese spices and seeds. It’s it your first time, just go with the packaged sauce)
Hai Di Lao offers three versions of their mala sauce. Select the Stirfry Version for Mala Xiang Guo.
Start with ½ of the sauce packet and add more if you like. In the video, we used the whole packet as we enjoy this spicy mala flavor very much!
Feel free to add-in any vegetables that you like – it’s really up to you!
Make sure to prepare and eat some rice on the side – it’ll help you cool down.
You will end up sweating as you eat this dish – enjoy it! As you sweat, you’ll feel your heartbeat rise and your endorphins run. Feel that stress exiting your body… heh!
Enjoy neighbors and tag us on IG if you try it out at home.
-Daniel out 🕺
Fresh & Dried Vegetables
- Handful of Dried Bean Curd sticks (Tofu Skin Sticks)
- Handful of Chinese Glass Noodles
- Handful of Wood Ear Mushrooms
- Handful of Lotus Root
- 3-4 Whole Shiitake Mushrooms (Or use any mushroom of choice)
- Handful of Chopped Green Cabbage
- Handful of Bok Choy (Or Spinach)
- Small amount of Cilantro (Optional)
- Handful of Shrimp
- Handful of Thinly Sliced Pork or Beef (Shabu Shabu Cuts)
- 1 Packet Hai Di Lao Mala Stirfry Sauce
- 3 Cloves Garlic
- 1 teaspoon Minced Ginger
- Dried Bean Curd Sticks - Use a pair of scissors to cut the dried bean curd sticks into finger-length pieces. Soak in cold water for at least 30 minutes or until soft.
- Chinese Glass Noodles - Soak in cold water for at least 30 or until soft.
- Dried Wood Ear Mushrooms - Soak the mushrooms in cold water for at least 30 minutes. Then use a pair of scissors to trim off the hard stem (reference video).
- Lotus Root - Peel the skin with a peeler and cut the root into thin pieces. Then fill a bowl with cold water and place in 3 small dashes of vinegar. This vinegar will help eliminate the astringent taste found in the roots. Let the pieces soak for 30 minutes.
- Shiitake Mushrooms - Dice into thin pieces.
- Green Cabbage - Roughly chop into small squares .
- Bok Choy (Or Spinach) - Chop the Bok Choy into smaller pieces.
- Garlic and Ginger (For Stir-Fry Sauce) - Carefully cut 3 cloves of garlic into thin slices. And mince a small piece of ginger - measure out 1 teaspoon.
- Place some Vegetable Oil into a wok. Place on medium heat at first. Once its hot, add in the sliced garlic and minced ginger. Stir-fry it around in the oil until it gets fragrant (careful not to let it burn). Then immediately add in the thinly sliced pork (or beef) slices and shrimp. Stir-fry it around for 10-15 seconds.
- Raise the heat to a medium-high heat. Now add in all of the other vegetables (except for the spinach or bok choy - we'll add that in at the very end)! Then add-in the noodles at the very end as well.
- Now, add in the Hai Di Lao Mala Stir-Fry Sauce Packet. Start by using 1/2 the packet - or use the whole packet if you're familiar with the spice!
- Stir fry everything until the hard vegetables are cooked through.
- When it looks almost done, add in the bokchoy (or spinach) and give it 1 additional minute of stir-frying.
- Turn off the heat. Plate and garnish the dish with chopped cilantro (optional)
- Enjoy your beautiful plate of Mala Xiang Guo with a bowl of fresh rice (and a cold beer!)
- Bon Appetit Ya'll!