This recipe takes its cues from the legendarily spicy cuisine of Chongqing, in China’s Sichuan province. There, the local tolerance for chilli eating is off-the-charts and the theory runs that this has developed to counteract the effects of the regions’ damp climate. There are a few Sichuan-specific ingredients required here (see note) but nothing that you won’t find at any good Chinese grocery store.
The ‘numbing’ part comes from the effects of Sichuan peppercorns, which do indeed, numb your mouth slightly.
- 2 ½ tbsp peanut or vegetable oil
- 300 g pork mince
- 3 cloves garlic, crushed
- 400 g wombok (Chinese cabbage - about a ¼ cabbage), thinly sliced
- 2 ½ tbsp Sichuan chilli bean paste (see Note)
- 80 g (⅓ cup) Sichuan pickled vegetables, coarsely chopped (see Note)
- 1 ½ tbsp soy sauce
- 1 tbsp caster sugar
- 300 g dried sweet potato starch noodles
- 1.25 L (5 cups) pork or chicken stock
- 4 green onions, trimmed and thinly sliced
- 2 cm piece of ginger, cut into fine shreds
- large handful coriander, chopped
- roasted salted broad beans (see Note) or roasted salted peanuts, to serve
Hot-sour chilli sauce
- 1 ½ tbsp Sichuan peppercorns
- 2 tbsp chilli seasoning sauce (see Note)
- 1 tbsp sesame oil
- 2 ½ tbsp black vinegar
- 1 ½ tbsp light soy sauce
- 3 tsp caster sugar
Oven temperatures are for conventional; if using fan-forced (convection), reduce the temperature by 20˚C. | We use Australian tablespoons and cups: 1 teaspoon equals 5 ml; 1 tablespoon equals 20 ml; 1 cup equals 250 ml. | All herbs are fresh (unless specified) and cups are lightly packed. | All vegetables are medium size and peeled, unless specified. | All eggs are 55-60 g, unless specified.
To make the hot-sour chilli sauce, heat a small, heavy based frying pan over medium-low. Add the Sichuan peppercorns and dry fry for 3 minutes or until fragrant - take care not to burn the peppercorns. Cool slightly then transfer to an electric spice grinder or a mortar then grind, or pound with a pestle, until a powder forms. Combine with the remaining ingredients in a small bowl and stir to combine well. Cover the bowl with plastic wrap and set aside.
Heat the oil in a large saucepan, add the pork and garlic and cook, stirring, for about 8 minutes or until meat is cooked and excess liquid has evaporated. Add the cabbage and cook, stirring, for about 5 minutes or until the cabbage has wilted then stir in the chilli paste, pickles, soy sauce and sugar. Cover the pan, reduce the heat to low and keep warm.
Cook the sweet potato starch noodles in a large saucepan of boiling water for 6 minutes or according to packet directions until tender, then drain well. Divide noodles among 4 large bowls. Divide the pork mixture, green onion, ginger and coriander among the bowls then pour over the boiling stock. Scatter each with roasted beans or peanuts to taste and then spoon over the hot-sour chilli oil to taste, serving any remaining oil to the side.
• Sichuan chilli bean paste is made from broad beans and chilli, although the ones you’ll find in Asian food stores tend to be made using cheaper soy beans. This stuff is hot!
• Sichuan preserved vegetables, also called zha cai, are a pungent, fermented mixture of mustard greens, salt and chilli. They are sold in jars or sachets in Asian food stores.
• You’ll find salted broad beans in the snack section of Chinese food stores and they come in either plain or spicy variants.
• Chilli seasoning sauce is a thick, oily slew of chilli oil, sesames and a thick, spicy sediment - look for Fuyun brand with “Xianglawang” on the jar’s labelling. If you can’t find it, just use chilli oil.
Photography by Sharyn Cairns. Styling by Lee Blaylock. Food preparation by Tiffany Page.