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Suan La Tu Dou Si (酸辣土豆丝)

March 31, 2011

Spicy and Sour Shredded Potatoes
Potatoes and peppers have a long history together. Both were originally from the New World, botanical crops that grew and, in the case of the potato, supported the empires of South America. With the arrival of the Spanish and their conquest of these empires, the potato was spread to the far reaches of the Spanish Empire, even to her colonies in the Philippines in the late 16th century. From there it was a short jump on to the Asian landmass, where it is thought that this “earth bean(土豆)” first entered China in the 17th century, with peppers moving in around the same time.
The potato found the dry weather and cold winters of Northern China especially comforting and it has become a staple of the cuisines of the North ever since. Applying the rich culinary techniques of Chinese cuisine to the potato was not difficult, and pairing it with its traveling companion made sense. If they traveled all that way together they must taste good together. Matching the duo with the local vinegars, a regular at every table and in every kitchen, was another no-brainer.
This dish is very simple, and will be a good starting point for those wishing to begin a Chinese culinary adventure. There are just five (or six) ingredients and the preparation is simple, if not time consuming. Using a mandolin (the kitchen tool not the instrument) or a v-slicer will make much quicker work of the potatoes, but you should try it free hand at least once. If you are feeling lazy, you can find this dish in most sit-down Chinese restaurants, with prices ranging from 6 RMB to 18RMB, depending on the restaurant.

2 – Large Potatoes
3-4 – Dried Red Chilies
1+ tsp. – Salt
2 tbsp. – White Vinegar
2 – large cloves garlic
1/2 – Red or Green Bell Pepper, julienned (Optional)
1. Peel and slice the potatoes lengthwise into pieces like large potato chip(crisps), as thin as possible, 1-2mm thick.
2. Stack the slices on top of each other and slice lengthwise again, again as thin as possible, creating thin strips of potato. (If they’re not perfect it’s ok, but try to get them as even as possible for even cooking
3. Place the strips in a strainer and rinse them lightly with water.
4. Peel and slice the garlic.
5. Put the oil in a wok or large frying pan over medium-high to high heat
6. Add the chilies and the garlic, and cook until garlic begins to brown, 1-2min.
7. Add the potatoes and bell pepper and toss in the oil. (be careful! the water in the potatoes will pop when it hits the oil)
8. Add the salt and cook for several minutes, continuously turning the potatoes for even cooking. If your potatoes begin to stick, add a small amount of water and scrape the bottom of the wok.
9. Add the vinegar to the potatoes, continuing to scrape and stir.
10. Cook until the potatoes are soft and no longer have a raw taste. Add salt to your preference and enjoy.

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