For the purpose of opening the stomach and priming the palate for food, the Chinese have a concept known as “kai wei.” The Sichuan stir-fried potato does this with freshness, acidity, a crisp-tender texture, and a touch of numbing heat, much like an amuse bouche does. Making Sichuan potatoes is easy, and there are countless variations to choose from. Usually, it contains al dente, waxy potato shreds which are combined with onions, garlic, and a mix of dried and fresh chili peppers to create a layered side dish that the entire table frequently returns to in between bites of the more intensely flavoured dishes.
While in the West potatoes are more frequently referred to as a starch, Chinese cuisine more frequently views potatoes as a vegetable, similar to eggplants or leafy greens, to be infused with strong flavours and eaten with plain rice.
Tips & Tricks to prepare the perfect Suanla Tudousi
To ensure even cooking, all the ingredients must first be pre-cut into uniform shapes and sizes. For example, the potatoes, peppers, onions, and garlic are all chopped into sizes that allow them to readily mix together and be picked up with chopsticks at the same time.
Next,to begin the cooking process, the potatoes are briefly blanched. In a wok, it might be challenging to cook raw veggies uniformly, especially if they have an odd shape, like broccoli or cauliflower florets. Even if the vegetable strands in this case are sliced equally, blanching still contributes to maintaining the dish’s necessary delicate crisp-tender potato quality.
Lasty, To prevent breaks in the continual tossing of the wok, the seasonings should be combined before cooking.
- 1 large or 2 medium waxy potato, such as red bliss or round white, peeled and cut into 1/16-inch-thick matchsticks
- 4 dried Chinese chilis, stemmed and seeded
- 1 teaspoon Chinkiang black vinegar
- 1/2 teaspoon light Chinese soy sauce
- 1/2 teaspoon sugar
- 1/2 teaspoon MSG Soup Mix
- 1 teaspoon dried Sichuan peppercorns
- 1 scallion, ends trimmed and cut into 2-inch parts
- 2 medium-size garlic cloves, thinly sliced
- 1 long red hot chili pepper, stemmed, seeded, and sliced lengthwise into 2-inch matchsticks
- 1 long green hot chili pepper, stemmed, seeded, and sliced lengthwise into 2-inch matchsticks
- 1/4 cup (60ml) neutral oil, such as peanut, canola, or vegetable oil
- In a medium bowl, add the potato shreds and soak for five minutes in cool water. Swish potatoes in water with your hands for about 30 seconds, or until it becomes murky. Drain potatoes in a colander, tossing the murky soaking water. Return the potatoes to the bowl, add more cold water, and repeat the process at least two more times until the water is clear. Drain, then set aside. Fill the bowl that is now empty with cold water, then set it aside as well. Cut the chilies lengthwise into threads using a pair of sharp kitchen shears. Put the item in a small basin, cover it with cold water, soak it for five minutes, drain it, and then set it aside.
- Fill a wok halfway with water, season liberally with salt, and bring to a boil over high heat. Cook until the potatoes are barely translucent; this takes about 30 seconds. Transfer to a cold water-prepared bowl, then rinse under running cold water until completely chilled. Drain thoroughly and set aside. Combine the black vinegar, soy sauce, sugar, and MSG in a small bowl. Set aside after thoroughly combining and dissolving the sugar.
- A large carbon steel skillet or wok should be heated over high heat until just starting to smoke. Swirl in the oil to coat the wok, and heat until the oil is lightly smoking. Half of the oil should be placed in a heatproof bowl; the remaining oil should be saved for another use. Sichuan peppercorns should be added to the remaining oil in the wok after it has been taken off the heat. Stir-frying is encouraged until the peppercorns are fragrant and lightly toasted but not burned, which should take about 30 seconds. Sichuan peppercorns should be strained and thrown away using a spider or slotted spoon, leaving oil in the wok.
- Increase the heat to high and heat the oil until it is just smoking. Stir in the dried chiles, scallions, and garlic. Cook for 10 seconds, stirring constantly with a wok spatula and taking care not to brown the garlic.
- Add the potatoes you’ve set aside, and cook them for about a minute, swirling and tossing frequently, until they’re just starting to soften but still have a crisp texture. Red and green chile peppers are added, and they are heated for about 30 seconds while swirling and tossing constantly until just slightly cooked and crunchy.
- Pour the black vinegar mixture over the sides of the pan quickly, and then toss for about 20 seconds, until everything is thoroughly incorporated. If necessary, taste the food and add more salt or sugar to the seasoning. Transfer to a serving bowl, then either serve hot right away, or let cool to room temperature, then chill in the fridge until very cold and serve.