1. Go Shopping
For the authentic zhen wei, or true taste, of Sichuan cuisine, you must obtain the holy trinity of Sichuan pepper (hua jiao), fava bean hot pepper paste (doubanjiang) made in the city of Pixian, and pickled mustard root (suimi yacai) from the Yangtze River town of Yibin. (See “The Sichuan Tool Kit,” here). Finding this stuff used to be nearly impossible, even in a good Chinatown. But now it’s easy, thanks to online emporiums like the Mala Market (themalamarket.com) and Posharp Store (posharpstore.com). For beginners, the Mala Market’s ingredient kits will painlessly cover all your needs—including the sweet wheat paste that is vital to the twice-cooked pork belly recipe, here.
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