Welcome to our blog, “Mala with a Fork!”
This is a place where Phil and I hope to keep you, our family and friends, updated on our expat living in the great city of Chengdu, in Sichuan, China. We also hope that our weekly updates will serve as a personal reminder for us to avoid expat complacency and to keep exploring the new, exciting, unknown and just plain head scratching-ly confusing aspects of our lives in Western China. We plan on writing about food, work, culture, travels, and probably a lot of things that our parents and grandparents only really care to know. So watch this space!
Oh, and, mala with a fork? If you know anything about me and Phil, you know that we like to eat. We tend to travel with our stomachs and food, both made by others and us, is an important part of our lives. So you should probably expect a lot of what we write to be centered around what we eat.
So first off, mala. Here in Sichuan we eat a lot of “mala,” which is the how one would describe the characteristically complementary ma, or “numbing,” and la, or “hot (spicy),” of Sichuan food. This sweat causing, eye watering, sinus clearing, style of cuisine calls on two main elements for its flavor in most dishes: la jiao, a type of Sichuan chili pepper (rated 30,000-50,000 on the spicy Scoville scale – which is hotter than Jalapenos and Serrano chilies) and hua jiao, a type of Sichuan spice, literally “flower pepper,” that looks like an unassuming peppercorn, then bitingly numbs your mouth of all feeling. You’ll surely read more about these later.
And the fork? While we’re adept with chopsticks and find ourselves going for days without touching a Western utensil we acknowledge that they were not our first tool for devouring in our personal development as eaters. As much as we try to understand and assimilate into any local culture that we may find ourselves in, we still look through it with the lens of a foreigner. So while we can take the spice, we sometimes still need our fork.