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June 27, 2014

Foodways Friday: Sichuan Griddle Vegetables

“Griddle” is a traditional Chinese cooking style that originates from Sichuan Province. The taste is spicy, fresh, and tongue-numbing. “Numb” is the main feature of Sichuan’s delicacies; it mainly comes from an ingredient called huajiao, which is translated as Chinese pepper. It’s tingly and slightly piquant, and leaves an explosive tang on the tongue. Griddle dishes have less soup or water compared to Sichuan hotpot, which allows the ingredients to have stronger flavors.

Even though this dish is called “griddle vegetables,” it is not a vegetarian meal. In China, vegetables make up a large part of the daily diet. In order to make them tastier, Chinese people usually add more flavor with protein such as beef, tofu, or pork.

I made some adjustments to the traditional recipe to make it easier to cook. Additionally, I mixed some Thai herbs like lemongrass and basil with traditional ones for my own innovative version (mainly because I went to college in Bangkok). The vegetables and protein I chose are classic ingredients used in griddle dishes, but they are totally replaceable. The pork blood jelly is basically solidified pigs’ blood (fresh blood turns to a solid once it meets salt). It is one of the Chinese delicacies that foreigners frequently don’t understand.

Ingredients

1/2 tsp salt
2 tsp soy sauce
1 tsp sugar
1/2 bag Chinese hotpot sauce (about 7 oz)
2 tsp Chinese cooking wine (or beer)
2 tsp sesame oil
4 tsp vegetable oil
Water

Spice

1 tsp crushed garlic
0.4 oz Chinese pepper, crushed
0.9 oz dried red peppers, whole (any small, hot variety)
0.2 oz five-spice powder
0.4 oz fresh grated ginger
2-4 pieces star anise
0.2 oz cinnamon sticks, chopped
0.9 oz green onion (chop the bulb into half-inch pieces and the rest in 3-4-inch sections)
0.4 oz lemongrass
0.4 oz fresh basil leaves, torn (about one handful)
0.4 oz red pepper flakes
0.2 oz Chinese pepper powder

Protein

3.5 oz pork blood jelly
3.5 oz beef
2 oz tofu

Vegetables

3.5 oz lotus root
3.5 oz cabbage
1 small tomato
3.5 oz mushrooms
3.5 oz celery
1 1/2 jalapeño peppers or 1/2 green bell pepper

Preparation

  • Cut all vegetables and protein into small equal pieces.
  • Pre-heat the pan and pour in 2 teaspoons vegetable oil. Then put garlic, crushed Chinese pepper, dried red pepper, ginger, anise, and cinnamon into oil to fry.
  • Once the smell of garlic and spice is in the air, add green onion and lemongrass and stir-fry them for a few seconds.
  • Add hotpot sauce and heat until the solid sauce pieces are gone.
  • Add beef, tofu, and pork blood jelly. Cook until beef is beginning to brown on the outside but still raw in the center.
  • Add vegetables. Cook until all pieces are covered in sauce.
  • Pour water in until the water it covers the ingredients.
  • Add soy sauce, cooking wine and sugar evenly to water. Close the lid and cook on high heat until the water is almost gone, stirring occasionally.
  • Open the lid and stir-fry all ingredients for a few seconds. Add salt and sesame oil, then pour onto a large dish.
  • Mix the red pepper flakes, Chinese pepper powder and five-spice powders together and sprinkle over vegetable and meat mixture.
  • Pour another 2 teaspoons of vegetable oil into preheated pan and heat it until you can feel the temperature when you put your hand above the oil.
  • Remove from heat; pour the hot oil slowly over the dish. (Make sure you can hear the sound of sizzling; otherwise the oil needs to be hotter.)

Shiyu Wang is a video and documentation volunteer for the Folklife Festival.  She hails from from Kunming in China’s Yunnan Province, and now lives in Arlington, Virginia. More of her video and photography work can be found on her website.

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