If you’re a fan of spicy food, then the “mala” flavour should be the next one to try! If you aren’t familiar with mala, it’s only the hottest flavour to hit Singapore by storm – pun intended. Originating from China, mala is a distinctive element of Sichuan cuisine, especially Chongqing cuisine, and has grown to be one of the most popular ingredients in Chinese cuisine, giving rise to numerous regional variations.
The word “málà,” which refers to the numbed sensation in the mouth after consuming the sauce, is a combination of the Chinese characters for “numbing” (麻) and “spicy (piquant) (辣)”. The Sichuan peppercorn and chilli used to make mala are hot and numbing (Sichuan peppercorn, which contains per cent hydroxy-alpha-sanshool, is what gives the numbing sensation). Typically, mala is simmered in oil with other spices to create a sauce (málàjiàng).
History Of Mala
The dish’s specific origins are unknown, but several sources place its development in Chongqing night markets that catered to pier workers in the 19th and 20th centuries. Intense flavours and a thick layer of oil help preserve food and mask unpleasant odours from cheap foods like beef gut and kidney, solidified blood, and other things that were typically offered to pier workers.
Even while grilled meat has a strong flavour on its own, various dipping sauces are usually given to make the texture smooth and creamy and the flavours more nuanced. Typical sauces include doufu ru, oyster oil, and sesame oil with garlic.
The sauce can be added to stir-fries, stews, soups, hot pots, and as a dipping sauce, among other dishes. Mala powder (麻辣粉; pinyin: málàfen), however, is used on snacks and street meals, including stinky tofu, fried potatoes, and barbecued pork and vegetables in the regions of Sichuan and Yunnan.
Chilli powder, dried chilli peppers, douban paste, Sichuan peppercorns, clove, garlic, star anise, black cardamom, fennel, ginger, cinnamon, salt, and sugar are the main ingredients in mala sauce. Before being put into a jar, these ingredients are heated in a pot with vegetable oil and cow tallow for a very long time. To impart a distinctive flavour, other herbs and spices can be used, such as poppy seeds, sand ginger, and Angelica dahurica.
Traditionally, a restaurant would employ a chef who specialised in producing this sauce, and the chef would keep the recipes to himself. Today, pre-made mala sauce is widely available in stores, and chain restaurants normally make their own sauce on a huge scale, while many other restaurants still make their own sauce from scratch. Like curry, there is ongoing discussion regarding the best mala recipe, and various options are widely available in the market.
Mala Dishes You Can Try In Singapore
Mala sauce is quite versatile and can be used in various dishes. Some of the most popular mala dishes include the mala hot pot, mala tang (vegetable and meat skewers served in a mala soup), mala shao kao (mala-flavoured BBQ) and mala xiang guo (mala-flavoured stir-fry dish). Here at Xiao Mu Deng restaurant, you can enjoy a wide range of authentic mala dishes, from the pork mala tang set and pork mala tang set to mala soup.
If you’re new to mala and not too accustomed to spicy flavours, you can always let us know, and we can customise the spiciness level for you. Contact us today or visit one of our restaurant branches today to enjoy a satisfying taste of mala in Singapore!