Tuesday, 12 May 2009

Sesame-Stuffed Chillies

In famously spicy Sichuan food, chillies are everywhere, and appear in one's meals in many different forms - from fresh to dried, pickled to fermented. These sesame-stuffed chillies though, until I picked them up in the supermarket last week, I'd never seen before, although I had heard of them. On the website of my friend Taylor's company, Lotus Culinary Travel, there is a photograph of a beef dish that uses homemade ones, and recently my friend Fran raved about a Ganbian Sijiedou (Four Seasons Green Beans) she'd eaten that had also used them.

Though many years ago I once witnessed a chili eating competition between two friends (inevitably culminating in a fight for the tap), eating the chillies themselves is actually not really done in China - their presence in a dish is usually just for flavour. These though, can be eaten - on the packet it says 'hao chi bu shang huo' (好吃不上火), roughly translated as 'delicious and won't start a fire in your mouth'!

The packaging also, oddly, features both English and Russian ingredients lists - do Russians like to eat chillies I wonder?...

Anyway, I first used them the other night in a dish I actually created myself – deep-fried, battered aubergine pieces, served with stir-fried red and green peppers, red onions, Sichuan pepper and dried chillies. This time, I just replaced the dried chillies for these ones – they gave the dish pretty much the same kick as the ordinary chillies, but also added a nice crunchy element too. Nonetheless, as Cam pointed out, they're really more of snack than a cooking ingredient – though certainly not a snack for the faint hearted...

P.S. I just did a little Googling to find out if the plural of chilli is spelt -is or -ies (I'm still not sure), and came across this lovely quotation from William Makepeace Thackeray (work not specified):

'A chilli,' said Rebecca, gasping, 'Oh, yes!' She thought a chilli was something cool, as it's name imported, and was served with some. 'How fresh and green they look,' she said, and put one into her mouth. It was hotter than the curry; flesh and blood could bear it no longer. She laid down her fork. 'Water, for Heaven's sake, water!' she cried.

3 comments:

  1. Phew, I can't imagine just munching on those chillies like they were snackfood - the package certainly makes them look like sweeties...

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  2. Hello!
    Like your blog!
    I discovered it by searching online for these snacks! Can't find them anywhere in London and was introduced to them by friends of mine who work in the BBC's China section.
    What are you doing in China? Working or studying?

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  3. Hello anonymous!
    thanks for your comment!
    but i'm afraid you're right - i've actually been in britain for 5 weeks now, going into every chinese supermarket that i come across and i haven't found any:( they're actually quite a recent thing in china itself.
    and in answer to your questions, i live in china teaching english to earn money but live to eat and write about delicious food! please do go to the new website of this blog - www.jessieandthegiantplate.com (no blogspot) for more recent photos and stories - i don't update this one anymore
    thanks again,
    jessie

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