My name is Amanda, and I am a recent American college grad living in China. I love animals, mountains, thrift stores, and linguistics. I love drinking tea and exploring new places.

I also really really love to eat. As you shall see.

So what is malatang?

má 麻=numbing; là 辣=spicy; tàng 烫=scalding hot

Malatang: Noun, a cheap and ubiquitous street food in China. Customers choose their ingredients, which the cook prepares in a spicy soup.

 I was warned, before I spent a semester abroad in Hangzhou my junior year, that Chinese food in China is nothing like Chinese food in the United States. At first, I disagreed. Sure, the dishes and ingredients varied, but the basic tastes were still familiar—salty soy sauce, sour vinegar, spicy chili peppers.

Then I tried malatang.

Má 麻, for those of you who don’t know, is the numbing-spicy sensation one gets from consuming Sichuan pepper (huājiāo花椒), a spice in the citrus family commonly found in Sichuanese cuisine. The Chongqing-style malatang I ate in Hangzhou was loaded with this stuff. It tingled weirdly but not unpleasantly on the tongue, like a strange combination of peppercorn, lime zest, jalapeños, and peppermint.

It was a revelation. For the first time in my memory, I had tasted something completely and utterly new.

I am now travelling to China for a second time, in search of more newness.

I created this blog both as a record of the interesting and delectable foods I encounter, and as a collection of thoughts and stories as I flounder around on the other side of the world.