Meal Prep Sunday: Ma La Xiang Guo Recipe

I had been meaning to get into Meal Prep Sunday for a while now. Having freezer meals stocked at home keeps us from being tempted by takeout - which can be a giant money saver.

In fact, I did the math, and learning to cook can make you a million dollars compared to someone who is dependent on takeout!

But something had been stopping me. I just couldn't be temped by ordinary, everyday food. I wanted my spicy, numbing, craveable dried hot pot, not some sandwich or lame chicken over rice!

I've been obsessed with Ma La Xiang Guo or "Dried Hot Pot" after they opened up a spot over on 108th street. It's a food craze that's sweeping China and, by extension, Chinatown. After I spent a fortune on hot pots in a single week (it was all I wanted to eat!), I realized that something had to give. The food is packed with healthy veggies and protein, so I wanted to keep eating it... I just didn't want to keep paying an arm and a leg.

This is not a simple recipe. There's a lot of effort involved in this. So, if you're looking for the most painless and easy meal prep Sunday, you might want to pass on this recipe. However, if you're looking for culinary adventure, give this a try!

The ingredients are much cheaper at a Chinese grocery store than they are off Amazon; however, not everyone has access to a Chinese grocery store, so I included some Amazon links if you need them.

I based my version off of this recipe and this recipe.

You can use whatever veggies you want, or just toss in whatever's left in the fridge from your other cooking adventures. I used:

1 Bag Bean Curd Skins (these are $3 at the Asian market)
5 Chinese Eggplants
1 Large Bag Bok Choi
1 Bag of Enoki Mushrooms
The remains of the leftover veggies in my fridge: bits and bobs of broccoli, celery, etc

I am obsessed with bean curd skins so I used the whole bag. It turned out to be very bean curd skin heavy as the veggies cooked down while the skins expanded. I was very happy about this.

Next time I do this, I'm also adding fish balls or fish tofu. You can add whatever you want. The varieties of hot pot goodies are endless, from tofu puffs to black fungus to seaweed knots to cocktail hotdogs.

Step One: Chop and Blanche Vegetables.

This means boiling them for 1-2 minutes then transferring them to an ice bath. This process keeps them crispy and beautiful even though they are cooked.

Meanwhile, I soaked the bean curd skins in a large bowl of cold water. It takes the bean curd skins about 15 minutes to soften.

Step Two: Cook the Meat

In a separate pan, I cooked up a pack of some thinly sliced hot pot beef which I picked up at the Asian supermarket. I then set it aside.

Step Three: Infuse the Oil

For the whole thing, I used 3/4 cups of sesame oil and 1/4 cup of corn oil. Then I added:

12 Star Anise Seeds
1 tsp Sichuan Peppercorn Powder
1 tsp cinnamon
Peel of 1 orange
10 Slices of Fresh Ginger

I let the whole thing cook on low heat for 20 minutes, stirring occasionally. Then, I sifted out the ginger, orange peels and anise stars.

It made the house smell amazing.

Then, I poured the entire oil into a separate bowl and set aside.

Step Four: Ready Onion and Garlic

I chopped up one onion and four cloves of garlic, and set aside. If you are too lazy to chop your own garlic you can get the Polaner chopped garlic.

Step Five: Cook with Soup Base and Broad Bean Chili Paste

My pan was only big enough to cook this 1/4 at a time. After all, I was making a huge amount.

I ladled 1/4 of the oil into the pan, and added 1-2 tbsp. of hot pot soup base and 1-2 tbsp. of broad bean chili paste. I stirred it around as the oil got red (that craveable lava!!), added 1/4 of the onion and 1/4 of the garlic, and let that simmer for about a minute or so.

Then I added 1/4 of the meat and 1/4 of the blanched vegetable mix, added some dried red chilis, and let it cook.

As it cooked, I added to each batch:

1/4 cup soy sauce
1 tbsp. sugar

I repeated this process three more times. On another burner, I cooked a big pot of fluffy white rice. I had a bunch of plastic containers washed out and waiting, and I filled them as each batch finished.

Total Shopping List:

  • 1 Bag Bean Curd Skins ( These are $3 at the Asian market)
  • 5 Chinese Eggplants
  • 1 Large Bag Bok Choi
  • 1 Bag of Enoki Mushrooms
  • The remains of the leftover veggies in my fridge: bits and bobs of broccoli, celery, etc
  • Hot Pot Sliced Meat

And of course, lots of fluffy rice!

Time and Money Costs

I spent about 60 dollars on all of the ingredients at my local Asian grocery. Many of those items, like the star anise, rice wine, and chili peppers, will last me for many more batches.

This recipe yielded over 12 meals, which, if I had bought them at the restaurant, would have come to $240. I saved over $180.

The total time I spent cooking this- chopping, blanching, braising and cleaning up- was 2.5 hours. That's kind of intense! But by freezing the meals, they will last a couple months and I can grab one and pop it in the microwave when I come home from work during the week. Divide that by 12 meals and each meal becomes a 15-minute dinner, including the time it spends spinning in the microwave. Not bad!

Do you have a favorite Meal Prep Sunday recipe? Share it in the comments!

1 comment:

  1. I'm HUGE on hot pot. I've tried dry hot pot only once though and it was amazing. I really enjoy anything that's soupy, so I'll probably stick with the usual hot pot. My favorite is spicy Taiwanese style hot pots.