Tar Pau Nation: Mala xiang guo from Ang Mo Kio MRT cooked just right

(Clockwise from top left) Stir-fried egg with tomato, dumpling and dry mala xiang guo. ST PHOTOS: WONG AH YOKE

SINGAPORE - I like the spicy and numbing sensation of mala, the flavour that Sichuan cuisine is famously known for, the result of cooking with copious amounts of tongue-tingling Sichuan peppercorn and fiery chillies.

Whenever I pass a mala xiang guo stall which lets you pick from a variety of ingredients to be cooked with mala sauce, I am tempted - except that I find it hard to order the dish for one person.

Taking my pick from the choices of meat, seafood and vegetables is easy, but I am often taken aback when the stallholder quotes a startlingly high price after counting, or in some cases weighing, my selections.

By then, it is too late to put anything back because the food may have already been cut up.

Very often, I end up with too much food because it is so easy to be tempted by the spread in front of me.

Ordering online and getting the dish delivered from 57° Mala Xiang Guo at the Ang Mo Kio MRT station is less stressful.

Prices are listed on its website and if the total is too high, you can easily remove items to stay within your budget.

There is a choice of dry or soup, followed by the level of spiciness, with four options ranging from non-spicy to fiery spicy. This being the first time I am patronising the stall, I play it safe by picking the second-highest level. It turns out to be too mild. The next time, I will go for maximum heat.

The selection of 55 items comprises mostly commonplace vegetables, mushrooms, meats such as pork and chicken and seafood such as prawns and fish, with prices ranging from $1 to $3.50 each. I pick the crispy intestine ($2.50), which sounds interesting, but it turns out to be a boring pork sausage.

Still, the other items in my order of dry mala xiang guo work well. They are lightly poached and not stir-fried, and ingredients such as cabbage ($1) and king trumpet mushroom ($1.50) are nice and crunchy. The spongy pork skin ($2.50) and pork fillet ($2.50) are cooked just right too.

I also get the Stir-fried Egg With Tomato ($5.80) to give my palate some respite from the mala spice. This simple dish, with its umami-laden tartness from the tomatoes, usually hits the spot for me and, although the egg here is a little overcooked, it still pleases.

Instead of pairing the xiang guo with rice, I get some boiled dumplings ($5.80 for 10) to cut down on carbs. They are good, with a delicious minced pork filling. And although the skin looks thick, it does not taste doughy.

The dumplings oddly do not come with any vinegar or other sauces, so I mix them one at a time into the xiang guo to give them a boost.

Leftovers are kept in the fridge and blanched in boiling water the next day to bring them back to form, then mixed with black vinegar and chilli oil from my larder for breakfast.

57° Mala Xiang Guo

Where: 01-16/17 Ang Mo Kio MRT station, 2450 Ang Mo Kio Avenue 8
To order: Go to foodpanda's website. There is a minimum order of $11, with a small order fee if you do not meet it.
Delivery fee: Calculated at checkout - I pay $2.59. Delivery is available only for certain addresses.
3.5 stars out of 5

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