Tag Archives: Sichuan

Sichuan Pork With Asparagus

Sichuan pork with asparagus

Sichuan pork with asparagus

Sunny days in February are often not what they seem.

From the comfort of your living room, all may appear splendid outside, with the sun sitting majestically in a clear, perfect, cloudless, azure sky, but the truth is that in the world beyond the double glazing, it’s still freezing.

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Hot and sour soup revisited

Hot and sour soup

Hot and sour soup

It occurred to me the other afternoon when I was planning my evening meal that I hadn’t had a bowl of my hot and sour soup for some time.

Determined to right this terrible wrong, I quickly hopped on to my trusty cycle, and pedaled off into town.

My destination was Möllevångstorg, a square in the city centre that has next to or somewhere near it a store catering to (**badoom tish**) just about every type of national or regional cuisine you could shake a wooden spoon at.

After visiting the 3 Asian/Chinese/Thai/Far-East stores I had in mind, I had the Tianjin preserved vegetable, Sichaun pepper, and 5 spice powder I was after.

None of them, however, had the “facing heaven” dried chilli peppers I needed, but playing a hunch I cycled on a bit further to “Indo-Pak”, another of my favourite stores, who, as the name suggests, specialise in Indian / Pakistani produce, but also cater to a lesser extent to the wider Asian and even African markets.

As luck would have it, they did indeed have some dried chillies in stock that even if they were not true “facing heaven” chillies, were a very close relative to them.

While I was there, I also took the opportunity to stock up on some Indian bits and pieces that I needed, such as dried fenugreek leaves, as I planned to cook up a batch of curry sauce later on in the week.

The soup I ultimately made had closed cap mushrooms, sliced white cabbage, and broccoli as it’s principle ingredients, and very nice it was, too.

I enjoyed my soup by candlelight* with a pot of green tea, Chinese folk music playing in the background, and the smell of lavender incense filling the room. Perfect.


Just in case you missed it earlier, my recipe for hot and sour soup can be found here.

*Hence the less than brilliant photograph above. My camera is not exactly brilliant, and I do not count anything even vaguely approaching competence as a photographer amongst my skill-set.

Sichuan-style hot and sour soup

Sichuan-style hot and sour soup

Sichuan-style hot and sour soup

I love the cuisine of Sichuan – all those intense flavours, and yet also packing a warhead of such serious chilli mega-tonnage that even a sometimes jaded, tongue-blistered, chilli-head as I can still get a real belt from it.

From a Paleo perspective, though, a more traditional Sichuan hot and sour soup has several pitfalls, namely the use or potential use of – Spicy bean paste, soy sauce, corn flour, rice wine, rice vinegar, and sugar.

I think my version gets around these limitations quite well. The lemon slices and lemon juice give that hint of sourness this dish needs, and the fish sauce, while not ideal, goes some way to replacing the soy sauce. I have been reading a great deal about coconut aminos as a drop-in replacement for soy sauce, but it seems as though it’s going to be a real task to track it down.

Most of the speciality ingredients here should be available from any good Chinese supermarket, but at a pinch, you can just about get away with using garlic and ginger powder in place of the fresh versions, and likewise if you are stuck you can use ordinary black peppercorns and chilli powder in place of the Sichuan pepper and the “facing heaven peppers”. At the time of writing I can’t quite think of a Paleo friendly alternative to Tianjin preserved vegetable if you are having trouble locating it, but I’m always open to suggestions.

This recipe, then, gives you a soup base to build upon. Re-heat or cook the ingredients of your choice in it – anything goes, more or less. Here I opted for a vegetable soup – yellow sweet pepper, golden mushrooms, Chinese pickled cabbage, and water chestnuts.


To serve

  • Fish sauce and lemon juice to taste
  • Sesame seed oil
  • Green parts of the spring onions (see above), to garnish


  • Place the ingredients for the soup base in a 2 litre pan. Half fill the pan with water. Stir well.
  • Bring up to a gentle simmer. Continue to simmer for about 15 minutes or so.
  • Add your main ingredients. Re-heat or cook them in the soup base as appropriate, adjusting the water level as required – you want plenty of soup to slurp!
  • Ladle the finished soup into a bowl. Dress with lemon juice, fish sauce, and sesame oil to taste. Scatter over the sliced spring onion greens. Enjoy with a nice cup of green tea on the side.


If you’ve never eaten anything with Sichuan pepper in it before, you may be in for a bit of a surprise. The numbing, tingling sensation is quite unlike anything else in the culinary world, but does take quite a while to kick in. Trust me, you’ll know when it does….