We announced our wish to meet families in the Sichuan region to learn homestyle recipes and the enthusiastic and talented Jiǎng Yì responded immediately. Passionate about cooking, Jiǎng Yì opened a restaurant Háo Xiā Zhuàn (豪虾传), literally meaning ‘ambitious legendary crayfish’. Jiǎng Yì earned his online fame in China from exposing the profitable hogwash oil industry in China. Sadly, there's money to be made in collecting refuse from restaurants and extracting the oil to refine and sell back to both high- and low-end restaurants. Jiǎng Yì also introduced me to Xiao Ayi and Wang Ayi, two other wonderful hosts who taught me their family recipes.
Jiǎng Yì’s specialty is málà lóngxiā (麻辣龙虾, numbing-spicy crayfish). His restaurant serves this specialty he's perfected after over a decade.
His sister Jiǎng Lì leads me to a styrofoam box and plucks out a little more than a kilo of crayfish. She drops them into the sink and scrubs their abdomens then snips off their antennae and heads with cooking shears. That's 30 beheadings!
Jiǎng Yì boils the crayfish in a rich stock he has used to boil over 50 kilograms of crayfish. The stock has a depth of flavor from many boils and many crayfish. With each use he only adds more crayfish, seasoning, and water.
As the crayfish are added to the pot of boiling stock, the kitchen fills with a knockout aroma of chillies, numbing green Sichuan peppercorns, and the essence of over 50 kilos of crayfish.
Tiáo Pí Huíguō (苕皮回锅, Twice-Cooked Pork Haunch)
As Jiǎng Yì cooks all his favorite recipes, I notice each dish isn’t so simple. His passion for cooking is evident through the nine recipes he teaches me. Even this huíguōròu goes through the process of first scorching the pork skin on the surface of a wok, further blistering the skin over open flame, parboiling the chunk whole, then stir-frying it in slices.
A lot of work reaps a delicious reward. Who doesn’t like a little roasted pork skin flavor? There’s huíguōròu and then there is Jiǎng Yì's special tiáo pí huíguō, which he claims is hard to find in many restaurants today.
Feeling up to the challenge? Get out your cast-iron wok and turn up the burner, and try this not-so easy recipe.