While I can’t call myself a spicy food enthusiast, I enjoy Mala Xiang Guo for its fiery aroma and mouth-numbing taste, and the best part is you can have many ingredients in that fragrant stir-fry dish. Most of the Mala Xiang Guo stalls in Singapore let you choose your ingredients depending on your appetite.
For the uninitiated, Mala Xiang Guo is a classic homestyle dish hailing from Chongqing in central China – a region famous for its love of spicy and numbing peppercorns. The key to Mala Xiang Guo is the Mala Sauce, which is a blend of Sichuan peppercorns simmered in oil with chilli peppers and other spices.
Although there are many regional varieties, the Mala sauce is considered one of the most popular in Chinese gastronomy. The spiciness of this sauce is indicated in its name, with the word “ma” literally means numbing in Chinese and “la” for spicy.
In my opinion, this sauce should be savoured with hotpot, stir-fries and stews, and not be bastardised into fast food. Spicy Mala Pizza sounds dubious to me.
Reinventing Mala Xiang Guo
Anyway, the dish I’m recently addicted to is a new-age Mala Xiang Guo from Shanghai. Do you mean it is cooked in a crystal pot? No crystal pot but essentially the ingredients are boiled in a pot of Mala broth a.k.a Mala Tang first. Thereafter, the dish is doused with speciality sauces such as secret spicy sauce or creamy sesame sauce, sprinkle with chilli flakes, crispy peanuts, spring onions, and serve. I’m surprised by the combination as it tastes less oily and salty compared to the ones serve in our local food court. Aptly named Red Lips, it does colour your lips red! However, I find that the portions of the ingredients can be inconsistent. Something to improve on, I guess?
Inquiring minds would want to know what’s the secret of Red Lips Mala sauce, isn’t it supposed to be Sichuan peppercorns, chilli oil and a handful of spices? Red Lips decided that their mala base has to be more fragrant than other brands in the market hence they have invested extensively in research and development efforts. The peppercorns are harvested in carefully-selected farming regions; they then undergo a boiling process that extracts the fragrance. Finally, the peppercorns are paired with a secret blend of over 20 ingredients and spices, giving them an aromatic, full-bodied and delicious flavour.
Red Lips is Shanghai’s largest Mala hotpot-in-a-bowl chain. The brand has become a hit especially with office ladies in China, lauded for its addictively delicious sauces, quick service, affordability and customizable offerings with healthy ingredients and low-carb options. Located at Jewel Changi Airport, Red Lips Singapore is the first overseas outlet beyond China.
Personally, I like the variety of ingredients (up to 45 items) available to choose from, including seafood, meat, vegetables, noodles and other speciality offerings, and the price starts from SGD$0.90. If you’re craving for Mala hotpot but don’t wish to spend hours dining in a hotpot restaurant, then you need to drop by Red Lips!
Where: Jewel Changi Airport, 78 Airport Boulevard #B2-263 Singapore 819666
Sun – Thurs: 7:00AM – 12:00AM
Fri, Sat and Eve of PH: 7:00AM – 1:00AM