Ri Ri Sheng Mala Pot
I had my first taste of real Sichuan Mala spiciness when I visit Beijing in 2004, it was just after a humanitarian trip to help some Mongolians build their own shelter under a scheme to eradicate global homelessness with a non-government organisation. We had initially spent about 6 days in Mongolia building and working alongside home owners-to-be, gleaning off their life experiences and learning from them their culture, food and language. We ate, laughed, perspired and ached with the Mongolian volunteers as we laid brick by brick towards their dream home. There was such a sense of community there and we all had simple expectations of each other.
Beijing was a sort of R&R for the team of volunteers who contributed both financially as well as physically towards the building of the two homes. We only managed to complete part way of the homes, only laying the foundations of the two plots of land in the middle of nowhere near Erdenet City. I have never been to Beijing, so it was a real treat when I had my first taste of Mala Sichuan peppers renown for their insane levels of spiciness and ability to turn every hard man into a puddle of tears. My friends and I randomly selected a Chinese restaurant and ordered all the foods that we wanted to try. Mala Spicy Fish was one of the dishes that left an indelible memory for me.
When the dish came to our table, there was no fish in sight as it was all swimming under a graveyard of chilli oil and Sichuan red peppers. Just peering over the bowl and staring at the contents inside the bowl caused us to break out with great droplets of sweat intermingled with blood (joking). But you could imagine the fine capillaries around our faces bursting at the thought of consuming such fiery foods. To put it in local slang, it was spicy beyond belief. We almost had to jerk back violently so as to protect our corneas from tearing as the sizzling fumes of the chilli peppers could very well cause much damage to our vision.
We waffled for a moment as to who should be the one to try it first and then we decided that we would all eat it at the same time. The fish was hidden beneath a glass coffin of chilli oils and peppers. The fish was superbly prepared and it was both fragrant and delicious when we ate it. It was so good that we forgotten how spicy it was for a moment and gobbled down the entire dish in a matter of minutes. Either we were too hungry or we were not thinking straight. I reckon it was the latter. However, what subsequently followed was sheer pain mottled all over every pore on my embattled tongue. We were pleased that we conquered Sichuan cuisine on our virgin attempt, but our lips had by now become bloated and swollen. Those earlier years of belachan and chilli padi training allowed my tastebuds to gear up with what we had just experienced in our mouths. But clearly it was way over my ability to handle spiciness. Both my cheeks had began to flow great beads of sweat that became like tributaries converging at the lowest point of my chin. I was literally melting into a puddle.
So when I saw these Mala stores popping up all over the island, I thought and remembered my Beijing encounter and those bittersweet memories of that Mala Fish began to flare up the synapses in my brain. I had to try it. I also realised at the same time that it was the most expensive thing to eat in the world. These Mala stalls usually charge each ingredient category according to the weight of the items. And everyone knows that if you weigh certain vegetables eg. bamboo shoots, you are likely to pay quite a bit for just one item. I felt the pricing system was a tad unfair.
Then I came across Ri Ri Sheng Mala Pot and it was by far one of the best places to go for Mala Hot Pot. The reason was because the items are counted individually and by portion as opposed to being measured by the weight of the ingredients. That is unreal considering that almost every other shop was going by the weight of the ingredients. You can find Ri Ri Sheng Mala Pot at Chinatown, and also there is a sister shop of the same name located at Blk 823 Tampines.
If you’re around Tampines area and don’t know what you would like to eat, then you should really consider Mala Pot. It is as close to Chinese cuisine as you can get.