|sichuan peppercorns and dried chillies.|
I love my food hot, I love it spicy. But I've never attempted to cook Sichuan food. I immediately turned to an impulse purchase I made several months ago - a cookbook by Iron Chef Chen Kenichi, titled Iron Chef Chen's Knockout Chinese. I rarely use cookbooks, and I've never used this one, but who better to take as a guide other than Iron Chef Chen, the sage of Sichuan cuisine?
|iron chef chen's knockout chinese!|
Iron Chef Chen's Knockout Chinese doesn't actually feature many traditional Sichuan dishes. However, I did find one for dan-dan noodles. I tweaked a few of the ingredients, swapped noodles for rice, and came up with... an Iron-Chef-inspired dan-dan congee.
|zha cai (chinese preserved vegetables)|
sichuan-inspired, iron-chef-adapted: vegan dan-dan congee (serves 2)
for the congee:
3/4 cup rice
6 cups water
Wash, rinse and drain rice a few times. Bring rice and water to boil in a pot, then simmer, partly covered, for about 45 minutes or until it reaches your ideal texture and consistency. During this time, stir regularly and add more water if necessary.
for the sichuan-style dan-dan congee topping*:
2 tablespoons peanut oil, or other vegetable oil
1 teaspoon Sichuan peppercorns
1 teaspoon finely chopped dried chilli, or chilli flakes
1 teaspoon finely grated ginger
2 tablespoons Chinese sesame paste
2 tablespoons soy sauce (I used a mix of light and dark)
1/2 tablespoon rice vinegar
1 tablespoon finely chopped zha cai (Chinese preserved vegetables) + more to garnish
1 tablespoon finely chopped spring onions (aka scallions) + more to garnish
Heat up peanut oil in a pan, then throw in Sichuan peppercorns, dried chilli and ginger. Let it cook gently for 2 minutes or until ingredients are starting to turn brown and the oil takes on colour and flavour.
Strain the oil, and whisk with the rest of the ingredients until well-combined.
Drizzle onto congee and scatter with more spring onions and preserved vegetables.
*You should be able to find all these ingredients in a comprehensive Asian grocery store. I've never bought zha cai before but I picked up a brand called Yuquan, which comes in a green packet, and I think it worked nicely. If you can't find Chinese sesame paste, you can try mixing 3 parts tahini or peanut butter with 1 part Chinese sesame oil.
I was pleased with the dan-dan sauce - full of sass and flavour, it was a perfect pairing to plain congee. The fragrant Sichuan peppercorns and dried chillies imparted a gently numbing heat; the zha cai was salty and pungent. The nuttiness of the sesame paste was lightly offset by the acidity of the rice vinegar. Everything worked together, and they worked with the congee to create a humble, warmly inviting dish that added a little perk to my day. A satisfying success!
|my sichuan-inspired dan-dan congee.|
go get your spice on!