Sichuan Hot & Sour Vermicelli (酸辣粉)

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Yields: 2 Servings Difficulty: Easy Prep Time: 10 Mins Cook Time: 15 Mins Total Time: 25 Mins

This is the home-cooking version of  Sichuan hot and sour vermicelli or 酸辣粉 (suan la fen). The restaurant version is much more involved, starting with the creation of a complex red chilli oil mixture called 红油辣子 (hong you la zi). Since we are only serving two people, we will do the shortcut version. But don’t worry, it’s still super tasty!

Not all kinds of vinegar are equal, especially not in China, where vinegar-making has evolved into an art. For this dish, I used 山西老陈醋 (Shanxi Mature Aged Vinegar), but a better alternative is 四川保宁醋 (Sichuan Baoning Vinegar). If you cannot find these vinegar brands where you are, you can substitute for other dark vinegar, but do taste before putting in the whole 5 tbsps.

The very basic of toppings in hot and sour vermicelli is preserved vegetables and roasted peanuts. All the other stuff is optional. You can include blanched green leafy vegetables, blanched bean sprouts, minced vegan meat, shredded mushrooms, shredded tofu, tofu skin, coriander, and more.

As far as Chinese preserved vegetables go, there is a whole variety. The one I used is called 榨菜 (zha cai), which is made from mustard bulbs. You can also use 酸豇豆 (suan jiang dou) or pickled long beans, or 酸菜 (suan cai) or pickled mustard greens. These should all be available at a Chinese grocer. In a pinch, you could even use kimchi.

A very important part of preparing this dish is tasting the chilli beforehand. This recipe is based on my chilli powder and spice tolerance, so it may or may not be too spicy for you. Make sure you taste the spice oil before serving, so you know how much to use! Otherwise, there may be tears and pain.

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Ingredients

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Instructions

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  • Put the spring onion, chilli powder, garlic, ginger, bird's eye chilli, and toasted sesame in a bowl.
  • Heat 3 tbsp of oil in a pan until smoking hot.
  • Pour the smoking hot oil over the spices. Listen to them splutter and freak out. Mix everything.
  • Add the vinegar, soy, sugar, and Sichuan pepper oil to the bowl. Taste to see the level of spice.
  • Prepare the toppings. Blanch the green vegetables. Fry the marinated minced vegan protein. Cut the preserved vegetables into smaller bits.
  • Split the spice oil into two separate serving bowls.
  • Add 1 cup of hot water (I use the water from cooking the noodles) and half the cooked noodles to each bowl.
  • Top with the toppings and serve hot.

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