Spicy Szechuan beef soup (Mala Xiao Mian)

This is one of my all-time favourite dishes. I am excited just writing those lines.

Around 10 years ago, I did not know much about Asian cuisine. I was finishing a finance internship in Paris, and we were looking for a cheap, student-friendly place to eat. A foodie friend took us to this new little restaurant called Trois fois plus de piment, specialized in Szechuan cuisine. I ordered a ravioli soup, thought, meh, this is spicy and pungent, not sure I like it.

Fast-forward 2 years, I went to South Korea as an exchange student and discovered the beauty of their spicy, fiery cuisine. It was an eye-opener for me, and the starting point of my journey towards Asian cooking, which, itself, is how I begun to cook so much and develop a passion for it.

I returned to France with a trained new palate, educated in all things spicy. I went back to Trois fois plus because I was craving some real heat, ordered the right dish this time : their best-seller Spicy Szechuan beef soup. Dang. It was love at first bite.

My boyfriend and I kept coming back for it. Soon I started trying to find a recipe for it, but they all seemed off to me.

I kept on researching, hoping that one day, I’d be able to make a Trois fois plus copycat. I am so grateful for authentic cooking blogs that developed over the past few years, coming from as far as China, allowing some random French people to discover wonderful foreign cooking secrets.

A few months ago, after some long-term research and trial-and-error, my boyfriend tried my latest recipe. I asked, “is it almost as good as Trois fois plus de piment ?”. He answered : “No. It is better.”

I couldn’t believe it. Then I tasted myself. And I had rarely been this happy and proud.

Mission accomplished.

Spicy Szechuan beef soup – Recipe

I know, this is a long list of ingredients. But you mostly stir everything together, wait for it to cook, and assemble !

Ingredients – Advice & where to find them

Although I thing this dish is worth every effort, I recommend trying it if you are interested in Chinese cooking enough to make a few different national dishes. Indeed, it requires you to a buy a small list of specific pantry items.

  • If you’re in Paris :
    • you can go to Tang Frères in the 13th (they have other stores in Paris but be careful, some are small, this one is large) or Paris Store in the 10th ;
    • ever since I moved to the 18th, I’ve been going to XP 16 or Chen Market, but those shops are slightly smaller, especially XP16, and you might not find everything you need. 
  • If you’re in France :
  • For my foreign friends : I bet you can easily find some Asian shops around you or online, but if you can’t, message me with your location and I will try to find it for you !

Ingredients – What the hell are those

  • Suì mǐ yá cài, or yá cài : pickled mustard greens with a salty and pungent flavour. It uses the upper, thinner part of mustard leaf stems.”Suì mǐ” (“crushed rice”) refers to the appearence of the pickle, with a vegetable that is thinly minced. “Yá cài” refers to the vegetable name.

I couldn’t find it in the store, so I used Zha Cai, which is the lower part of the mustard stem. You can use it as a replacement. You’ll have to mince this one. But don’t skip it ! It is essential to reach the soup’s umami-deep flavour.

  • Doubanjiang, or Toban Jan : spicy, salty paste made from fermented beans and soybeans, salt, rice and various spices.
  • Shaoxing rice wine : one of the essentials of your Chinese pantry ! This one is darker than your classic rice cooking wine, and has a more complex taste
  • Chankiang vinegar (Chinese black vinegar) : another essential if you’re cooking Chinese food, or even if you only want to dump your chinese dumplings into the classic soy sauce and chinese vinegar mix. It is made out of glutinous rice, and has a malty, slightly sweet flavour.

Now let’s turn your kitchen upside down !

Difficulty: Beginner Prep Time 25 min Cook Time 180 min Total Time 3 hrs 25 mins
Servings: 7
Best Season: Winter


If you can take a bit of heat and have never tried Mala Xiao Mian or any Szechuan soup, you are missing out ! This addictive noodle soup is spicy, mouth-numbing and just an overall flavour bomb thanks to the myriad of spices that goes in it.

Ingredients - Soup broth

Ingredients - Bowl assembly


  1. Chunky chunk

    Slice your leek, your garlic and your ginger. You can just chop them roughly since the broth will be strained.  

    If you didn't ask your butcher to, chop your beef into medium-large chunks. Then pat dry with a towel.

    That's it for your broth prep ! See ? Easy ! 

    To pat dry helps getting a nice sizzle.
  2. Onto the stove

    Heat up a dutch-oven, on any large heavy-bottomed pot, onto medium-high heat.

    Once hot, sear your beef on all sides for around 10 minutes (vérifier temps) until golden brown. 

    Pour your water in. Add all the remaining ingredients under "Ingredients - Soup broth". 

    Bring to a boil, then lower the temperature until it only just bubbles gently. Cover and let it simmer for about 2,5 hours at least (check). 

    By the end of the cooking time, turn off the heat, sieve your broth and set aside.

    You can use a classic large pot if you don't own a heavy-bottomed pot. Brown your beef in several batches if it doesn't all fit into your pot.
  3. Prep your bowls and assemble

    Bring a pot of salted water to a boil. 

    Meanwhile, divide between each bowl your Suì mi yá cài, light soy sauce, chili oil, Chankiang black rice vinegar, sesame oil, msg and ground Szechuan pepper. 

    Put your noodles and your baby pak choi in the boiling water, around 2 minutes.

    Chop your cilantro and your green onion.

    Add your broth with 2-3 pieces of beef to your bowls' mixtures and stir. Add your noodles, your pak choi, then sprinkle with your cilantro and green onion. 

    Et voilà ! You're done !!

    Make sure to salt your boiling water appropriately, but not too much, since the broth is quite salty (5g/liter).
Keywords: home made, comforting, mexican, tacos, to share,

Leave A Comment

Your email address will not be published. Required fields are marked *