Taste Test: Mala-flavoured food
There are plenty of mala food available in Singapore, but just how mala is it actually?
Remember the time when restaurants and eateries were adding salted egg yolk to every food item?
Well, it’s all about mala now.
For the uninitiated, mala is a spicy seasoning made from Sichuan peppercorn and chili pepper. It is commonly made into a sauce by simmering it in oil and other spices. Mala is a dish that is usually shared in groups and you can choose from three different degrees of spiciness (Xiao La, Zhong La & Da La) depending on your spice tolerance.
With mala seemingly popping up everywhere, the question beckons: Are they all of the same standard?
As someone who is indifferent to mala, I thought it would be interesting to see if this mala food trend is really worth the hype.
1. Mala Pizza
When Pizza Hut announced its seasonal mala menu earlier this month, I was most excited to try the Te La Fiery Mala Blossom Pizza, which consists of mala-marinated chicken chunks, cherry tomatoes and mozzarella cheese.
But alas, it failed to deliver what it promised. The pizza tasted more cheesy than spicy, even though I ordered it in 中, or mildly spicy.
While there was the usual numbing mala aftertaste, the cheese serving definitely overpowered the spice. I was left confused with the weird mix of cheese and spice in my mouth.
Priced at S$24.80 for a regular sized pizza, I felt it didn’t represent value for money. While it is marketed as a dish to be shared by two, anyone with a huge appetite can probably finish the pizza on their own.
To sum up, it was nothing great. Maybe you’re better off trying Pizza Hut’s Mala Fries (S$6.90) or Mala Wings (S$8.90 for six pieces, S$12.90 for 10 pieces). The seasonal menu is in stores until Mar 31.
2. Mala Chicken Wings
IKEA’s restaurant also jumped on the mala bandwagon – this time in the form of chicken wings.
While the spiciness level is on par with a normal mala dish, the mala sauce was just dumped top down in the middle of the plate. It was not well spread out, which meant that some wings were well coated in sauce while others had close to none.
Be prepared to get your hands dirty as well. The mala sauce just makes the chicken wing experience a lot more messy.
The wings are priced at S$9.50 for six pieces, so be sure you’re sharing it with friends. Personally, I would not eat more than two pieces at one go.
If you’re adventurous enough, you can also try IKEA’s mala chicken leg with spaghetti (S$9), which is available at IKEA restaurants until Feb 28.
3, Mala Crispy Fish Skin
The Golden Duck Co is well-known for its snacks, such as its Sichuan Mala Hot Pot Fragrance Mix which contains mala-flavoured crispy fish skin, beancurd skin and crunchy mushrooms.
My favourite is the fish skin, as the mala taste overwhelms and leaves an addictive stinging sensation. I found myself stuffing piece after piece into my mouth because it was really that good! However, I felt that it could be more crispy.
As for the mushroom and beancurd skin, it was nothing too fancy but still worth a taste. Just remember to shake well before opening the packet, so as to make the mala effect more apparent.
Priced from S$6.50, you can get this snack from supermarkets and convenience stores, or online. While the taste did not disappoint at all, I did expect the portion to be bigger.
4. Mala Instant Noodle
Of course, speaking of Mala-flavoured food, MYOJO’s Mala Xiang Guo cup noodle flavour will surely come to mind. While it has been around for quite a while now, I thought I’d give it a try as I never actually ate spicy noodles before.
The very moment the cover was ripped open, the mala smell hit me. And gosh, was it strong!
The taste did not flatter to deceive. It was just as strong, so spicy that I had to take a sip of water after nearly every scoop. Yet, it was so flavourful and I enjoyed every mouthful of it.
It really had the ‘mala kick’, but just be careful not to pour too much oil and seasoning in as it can get quite oily..
MYOJO’s Mala cup noodles can be purchased at supermarkets and 7-elevens from S$1.80.
5. Mala Fries
But the most addictive (and popular) mala flavoured food has got to be McDonald’s Mala McShaker Fries.
The fries are tossed in a blend of Szechuan peppercorns, chilli powder and other umami spices, making it more ma than la. But what I liked best was that you can control the amount of spice you want to put in.
The taste of the mala against the fries is quite accurate too. And I guess that’s because potatoes have always been a must-have ingredient in my mala meals.
I finished my packet within 10 minutes because it was just that good. Let’s hope McDonald’s re-introduces this in the near future.
The seasonal Mala McShaker Fries is priced at S$3.50 a la carte and costs S$0.70 as an add-on to any Extra Value Meal.