Photo: @thegoldenduck.sg/ Instagram
Mala fever is totally ON in Singapore! Burger King is the latest to hop onto the mind- and tongue-numbing bandwagon with its Mala Stacker Burgers, with patties covered in tongue-numbing mala sauce. Available in chicken or beef, adventurous diners can add $2.80 for an extra patty (which comes with more mala sauce and sliced cucumber).
What’s mala actually? It’s a super spicy sauce from China which consists of Sichuan peppercorn, chili pepper and various spices simmered in oil. Regarded as a regional ingredient for Chongqing and Sichuan cuisines, it has now become one of the most popular sauces not only in China but the world.
In Singapore, its popularity has spawned a slew of variations, aside from the well-loved mala xiang guo (stir-fried ingredients in mala sauce) and mala huo guo (steamboat with mala broth). This includes a variety of snacks in easy-to-eat portions.
So, here are some choice mala snacks to feed that craving 24-7:
1. Ooh’s Mala Cassava Chips
Touted as the “first and only homemade and handmade” mala cassava chips in Singapore, this is made with an interesting blend of spices. Besides chilli and peppercorn, it includes ginger, fennel and yeast extract, a common food flavouring that adds an umami dimension. For purists who prefer the original spuds – the potato – the brand also has a Mala Potato Chips offering.
$7 per 115g pack. Visit ooh.sg
2. Mala Mala Mushroom Chips
For something less carb-heavy, try the mushroom chips in three levels of spiciness – Mild Spicy, Super Spicy and Crazy Spicy – from Mala Mala. Thinly sliced shiitake mushrooms are vacuum fried and coated with a blend of flavouring that includes dehydrated Sichuan chillies, peppercorns and star anise. It comes in a large resealeable pack that opens to reveal four smaller packets. This feature is great for keeping the snacks fresh. Besides the mushroom chips, mala potato wedge chips are available too.
$9 per pack (mushroom chips), $8 per pack (potato wedge chips) Visit malamala.com.sg
3. Crusty’s Mala with Salted Egg Fried Fish Skin
Perhaps a no-brainer, Crusty’s has combined two of the most well-loved and enduring flavours among Singaporeans – salted egg yolk and mala – in their fried fish skin snack. Salty, spicy and numbing, this wake-me-up snack is said to be 100 per cent free from preservatives. Prepared in a local factory in Singapore, it is also available in a wide range of outlets including local supermarket chain NTUC Fairprice and at most petrol stations.
$7.50 per 100g pack, visit crustyssg.com
4. Koh Kae Mala Peanuts
The famous Thai brand, Koh Kae, is everyone’s go-to when it comes to flavoured peanuts (with many locals bringing back cartons of it when they travel to Thailand). They too have introduced a mala flavour. Coated with a mix that has, besides chilli and Sichuan peppercorn, clove, garlic, star anise, black cardamom, fennel and ginger, it’s set to be an addictive hit.
$1.65 per 80g pack, visit coldstorage.com.sg
5. King of Melon Seeds Sichuan Ma-La Hotpot
Local snack purveyor, The King of Melon Seeds, is known for its huge selection of snacks in a variety of flavours. And of course, it doesn’t want to be left out when it comes to the mala snack game. Its offering? The mala snack mix of broad beans, peanuts and spicy noodle chips. The snack, in the brand’s bestseller list, is said to be addictively salty, and suitably hot and numbing.
$12 per 280g pack, visit kingofmelonseeds.com.sg
6. Magi Planet Sizzling Mala Popcorn
Forget the limited salty or sweet options at the cinema; popcorn has gotten trendier these days. One brand that’s leading the way is surely Taiwanese label Magi Planet, with its offerings in a plethora of flavours including – no surprise here – the ever popular mala. The brand’s distinctive round popcorn is slathered with a familiar tongue-numbing spice mix (from Sichuan, it says) that promises to “heighten your taste adventure to a new level”.
$9.20 per 110g pack, visit sgplanetpop.com
7. The Golden Duck Co Sichuan Mala Hot Pot Fragrant Mix
Taking the trend of mala hotpot almost literally, this snack is a mix of crispy fish skin, three kinds of fried mushrooms and fried bean curd skin all tossed in a mind-numbing mala spice mix. The Golden Duck, famous for its Gourmet Salted Egg Yolk Potato Crisps and Salted Egg Fish Skin Crunchy Crisps, rates this snack to have a spice level of 6 and a numbing level of 4. The team supposedly spent half a year visiting several cities in China to study Sichuan cuisine and the origins of mala in order to perfect this new snack – so, you know it’s going to be spicy!
$7 per 108g pack, visit thegoldenduck.sg