All About Mala, The Tingly Chinese Seasoning!

by Krystina Quintana

Are you one of those people who prefer spicy foods? If so, you’ll want to add mala to your list of seasonings to try! This delightful mixture is known for adding a fiery, tingly flavor to any dish you add it to.

Its name (mala) translates to numb and spicy, which is pretty accurate if you ask us. It was created in Sichuan Province, so you'll find this spice in many Sichuan dishes. Read on to know more about mala and how you can add it to your next meal.

What Is Mala?

Mala spice comes in a sauce or seasoning mix form that’s typically a dark brownish color because of its ingredients (like Sichuan peppercorns). You can add it to anything from hot pot to stir fry, veggies, and even chips for a fiery flavor. This versatile condiment is an excellent addition to your kitchen, especially if you typically crave a spicier taste in most dishes.

How Is Mala Made?

The mala Sichuan version typically includes Sichuan pepper, bean paste, garlic, ginger, chili oil, cinnamon, star anise, black cardamom, and fennel. These seasonings are ground into a seasoning mix. For the sauce version, they’re also cooked in a pan with oil until the desired consistency is achieved.

As mala has grown in popularity, there are now quite a few versions that include different ingredients. Depending on the region you purchase mala from, you can expect a slightly different flavor.

Why Is Mala So Addictive?

There's something so delicious about a spicy condiment that is numbingly hot. Add the heat to the tingly sensation you get when eating mala, and it's easy to see why this seasoning is so popular. Of course, the option to add mala spice to nearly anything also helps its addictiveness.

What Does Mala Taste Like?

Many people's first descriptive word for mala is "spicy." While it is the dominant flavor you get when you first bite into a dish filled with mala seasoning, it's not the only taste. It has a complex, slightly sweet flavor underneath the heat from the addition of cinnamon and star anise. You'll also find a subtle licorice-like flavor from the fennel.

How Do You Cook With Mala?

Here’s the fun part – cooking with mala at home! It's common to use mala spice like any other seasoning by sprinkling some on your snacks and meals. Use it to add some extra spice to ramen noodles, shake a bit onto deviled eggs, or add it as a finishing touch to steak.

When using it as a sauce, you can mix it with soup broths and combine it with pan-fried noodles. The uses seem to continue forever.

Mala Snack Recommendations

Here are some recommendations of snacks that you can eat with mala including a few Sichuan food options. Grab a bottle of mala and get ready to enjoy it on some of your favorite foods. Some of the below options already include mala seasoning. Of course, you can always add more!

JML Jinmailang Spicy Mala Beef Noodle (5-pack)

Enjoying a traditional dish in Sichuan cooking that typically includes mala seasoning is easy with this JML Jinmailang Spicy Mala Beef Noodle (5-pack). These instant noodles provide the numbingly hot, complex flavor that mala is known-for. Don't forget to add your favorite toppings to a bowl of these noodles – like slices of green onions.

Mom's Dry Noodle: Sichuan Spicy Mala

Here's another easy-to-make noodle dish that includes tasty Sichuan chili pepper and mala seasoning. Each bowl of Mom's Dry Noodle: Sichuan Spicy Mala you make is filled with chewy, delicious noodles. You'll have a tasty mala sauce-covered dish in only a few minutes instead of making homemade Sichuan cuisine.

Guang You Chongqing Xiao Mian Noodles: Mala (4-pack)

If you ever get the chance to visit China, you’ll likely see xiao mian noodles being sold by street vendors. Now, you can make this dish at home using this Guang You Chongqing Xiao Mian Noodles: Mala (4-pack). Each pack comes with vermicelli noodles (non-fried) and an addictive spicy mala sauce.

Dynasty Chinese Stir-Fry Vegetables

These Dynasty Chinese Stir-Fry Vegetables are great as-is, but they're even better with mala spice sprinkled on top. You can eat the vegetables by themselves or mix them with noodles like a typical stir-fry.

Fu Wei Ma Hua Juan Fried Dough Twist: Sesame

These crunchy, savory Fu Wei Ma Hua Juan Fried Dough Twist: Sesame sticks are the perfect vehicle for getting fiery mala sauce into your mouth. These delicious twists are created from fried dough, so they're extra crunchy. Try dipping a few pieces into mala sauce and see what you think!

Bokksu Market has a large array of Chinese grocery items. This online Asian grocery store also carries Korean, Japanese, Taiwanese, and more products, so you'll have plenty to choose from. You can find more snacks, sauces, and seasoning options on Bokksu.

Author Bio

Krystina Quintana is a 29-year-old copywriter living outside of Chicago, IL. Her passion for Asian culture began at a young age as she learned to create Asian-inspired recipes like homemade sushi with her family. This interest in Asian culture continues today with time spent in the kitchen and copywriting pursuits. Krystina has worked with customers ranging from small businesses to food Youtubers with 70,000+ subscribers. With a passion for food and travel, she seeks to help businesses bring traffic to their page by writing blog posts that are engaging, informative, and fun to read.