Sichuan and the meaning of ‘ma la’

Posted on May 19, 2014

Few dishes could better represent the famously fiery cuisine of Sichuan, one of the five regions to feature on our ‘Double Fifth’ menu earlier this year, than our Ma la chilli prawns. ‘Ma la’ comes from two Chinese characters meaning, respectively, ‘numbing’ 麻 and ‘spicy (hot)’ 辣 and describes the sensation in the mouth the dish creates.

Sichuan cuisine is revered worldwide for its precise, powerful blending of Sichuan pepper with chillis and other spices to create a sensation which, while not for the faint-hearted, is appreciated by diners for being exhilarating rather than uncomfortable. Sichuan pepper is not in itself hot, but causes a tingling sensation in the lips and mouth which, when combined with the heat of chilli, becomes ma la.

Our Ma la chilli prawns are large, shelled prawns, stir-fried with chilli, Chinese celery and chives, red and green peppers, and all-importantly ma la sauce, made with oil, Sichuan pepper, dried chilli and Chinese five-spice. A word of caution – the dried chillis from the cooking are included for presentation purposes, but we do not recommend eating them!

Discover our Ma la chilli prawns and other exciting Sichuan specialities – book your table at Hutong today!

Are you a fan of the fiery cuisine of Sichuan? Or do you perhaps prefer the subtler flavours of Shandong? Let us know in the Comments.