It's Lunar New Year and it's time to celebrate with 'Mala', the Sichuan spice that'll heat things up

It's Lunar New Year and it's time to celebrate with 'Mala', the Sichuan spice that'll heat things up
Courtesy of Mekhala Living

Even your ice cream can enjoy the heat.

This year, there will be more than just dragons that are breathing fire to celebrate the Lunar New Year, which starts on February 1 and continues for a whole month filled with celebrations for the Year of the Tiger.

The la spicy movement and the mala movement remain popular all across the country, with hot spots like Szechuan Gourmet, the pioneer of the la spicy movement, and Sichuan Impression, the mainstay of the mala movement, continuing to lead the movement in both cities. Money is so 10 years ago. It's bad over everything now.

As a result, even things that are cold are becoming hot and numb to the point where even the cold feels hot.

Taiwanese-American co-founders Alice Cherng and Belinda Wei, the co-founders of Dear Bella Creamery, known for its plant-based ice cream, offer a Chinese New Year kit that includes Fly By Jing chili crisps and dan dan ice cream. In collaboration with Los Angeles entrepreneur Jing Gao, Fly By Jing's ice cream is nicely balanced, flavorful, slightly sweet, spicy, and numbing. It is available at Target stores nationwide. Cherng and Wei added soy sauce, vinegar, gluten-free hoisin, aromatics and chili crisp to their peanut butter base to make umami-rich dan dan ice cream.

Courtesy of The Mala Market

When you experience mala for the first time, you will be in awe of what you do. As legendary New York food critic Robert Sietsema once eloquently described mala to me while we were eating noodles in Flushing, Queens, it feels like your mouth is on LSD. There is something intoxicating and euphoric about feeling numb on your face but yet somehow your senses and taste buds are heightened. You feel nothing but everything at the same time. Tingle and ready to mingle is how I like to describe this euphoric and intoxicating feeling feels.

A Sichuan food expert known as Fuchsia Dunlop has endorsed Zhao's product line, which includes both red pepper oil and green pepper oil. For those of you who have consumed Sichuan dishes such as mapo tofu and kung pao chicken, the red oil is a familiar flavor, but the strikingly fragrant green oil is a revelation.

A few years ago, Zhao, a Chongqing native, had his aha moment when he returned to China for Lunar New Year after spending four years in the United States.

One night, Zhao was preparing dinner for some American friends, and he had some "run-of-the-mill Sichuan pepper oil" that he had brought back from China.

Rather than using highly processed canola oils, Zhao's Sichuan pepper oils, which are processed with rapeseed oil, can be used as a condiment. Zhao recommends using his green Sichuan pepper oil with seafood and salads, while the red is great on pizza, noodles and other carb-heavy dishes.

He was part of the 50Hertz movement in 2020 that saw amped-up Asian flavors become mainstream in America following a praising of his Sichuan pepper oil products in The New York Times. He launched 50Hertz in 2020 and says he sold 20,000 bottles of his Sichuan pepper oil overnight. For example, LA chef Tony Nguyen's Drip sauce combines southwestern and Calabrian chilies with some organic honey and California heirloom garlic to create a concoction that is delicious over eggs, rice and spaghetti with meatballs.

There is a line of chili crunch from David Chang's Momofuku, including a hot option that will melt your face. There are also versions of the chili-packed condiments made by both Nguyen and Chang that have truffles in them. Fly By Jing has recently extended its product line to include dumplings as well as hot-pot bases. Zhao sells both dried peppers along with his oil, as well as 50Hertz snacking peanuts, which he plans to release very soon.

Vervet sparkling craft cocktails are a perfect match for your Lunar New Year celebrations if you would like to cool your palate while you enjoy all of this new hotness, and they are available for shipping to 39 states in addition to being served at a number of buzzworthy AAPI-owned LA restaurants such as Yangban Society, Chifa, Saikai Ramen Bar, Pine & Crane, Joy on York, and the Brothers Sushi.

As the co-founder and CEO of Vervet, Tuan Lee, who is Vietnamese and Korean, has a variety of roots in Vietnamese and Korean culture, and the Vervet canned cocktails are inspired by the diversity of Los Angeles, particularly the Filipino bartenders, tiki culture, and, of course, the city's many farmers markets. In collaboration with Sawtelle Sake, Vervet has just released a refreshing new cocktail called the Toyo sake cocktail, which features yuzu, kumquat and holy basil that have bright and complex flavors. However, if you want a little more spice, Vervet's Pale Mary with habanero peppers might make you feel like you are living in the world of a taco-lover dragon in no time.

Cherng, Wei, Zhao and Lee's goal is to celebrate their heritage, to embrace being Asian and American, and to show consumers that you can achieve wonderful things when you respect the past while simultaneously innovating. Dear Bella also offers black sesame cake and Taiwanese pineapple cake flavors for the Lunar New Year.

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