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Ma La Xiang Guo - Spice up Your Stir-fry.

Full discloser: This picture is not ours. It belongs to one of my favorite food blogs, The Woks of Life. If you want to see their full recipe, you can see it here. I highly recommend their page if you are interested in Asian cooking. Right below, however, is our picture. And the differences and similarities between the two is what makes Ma La Xiang Guo such a versatile, outstanding dish. They added dried peppers and cilantro for color and some extra kick. We added shrimp and fish for some extra yum. And, no matter what you add to it, you are bound to get a spicy, flavorful dish that won't disappoint.

First Some Background: Mala Xiang Guo (麻辣香锅) is a newer food trend that has taken over the Chinese market. Translated, it simply means "Spicy Fragrant Pot", and no lies here, that is exactly what it is.

Mala (麻辣) is a numb-spicy flavor that is often associated with Szechuan food. It is derived from use of Chinese Peppercorn, a plant that is neither related to red pepper or black pepper. The peppercorns themselves create a tingly numbness, and when mixed together with Szechuan peppers creates that special sensation of salty, spicy, tingly joy the region is known for.

The second half of the name refers to the way to cook this fantastic dish. With a mix of a wide assortment of spices, any pot or wok you use to fry it up will become the container of aromatic bliss.

The Woks of Life recipe includes a wide variety of spices and herbs that you would need to make the dish from scratch. It is worth a look, but at Ruyi Market, we have a simpler solution.

We made our Mala Xiang Guo using WJD Spicy Stir-Fry Sauce. It saves everyone the trouble of having to go out and shop around for hard to find specialty spices. Plus, and most importantly, the flavor is spot on.

3 step instructions make this dish impossible to mess up.

1) Stir Fry about 2 lbs of whatever floats your fancy until it is almost done.

2) Heat up oil - preferably peanut oil - in a second pot (a wok is best if you have one). To make the flavor even more inviting, add some chopped garlic, ginger, and scallions to the oil while it is heating up. Then, pour everything from the first pot into the second, and add half a bag of seasoning sauce.

3) Stir and cook until everything is finished cooking and everything in the pot is evenly covered in sauce. For an extra touch add some cilantro and sesame seeds to the top. Fin. Enjoy.

Myself, the reason I love this dish is the versatility it offers. You can find Mala Xiang Guo with just about anything and everything in it. In fact, many Chinese Restaurants in China offer the dish up to their customers in the same way Mongolian BBQ places here do. These eateries offer huge selections of goodies to add to their Mala Xiang Guo dishes.

Here, we have a lot to choose from as well. In our home, we love to use any combination of this not-all-inclusive list. Fish balls, Cuttlefish Balls, Fried Tofu, Firm Tofu, Whole Shrimp, Beef with Tendon Balls, Pork Balls, Rice Cakes, Fish Tofu, (and so much more) make perfect additions to any Mala Xiang Guo. (Items are linked to in the images).

Because of the similarities between this dish and Hot Pot, anything in our Hot Pot Category list should work wonders as well.

So, if you are ever sitting around home and want to try something new, tantalizingly delicious, and quick, I highly recommend giving Mala Xiang Guo a try. There is a reason why this dish's flavor, spice, and aroma have taken China by storm. Discover why for yourself, with this week's recipe!

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