New York University's independent student newspaper, established in 1973.

Washington Square News

New York University's independent student newspaper, established in 1973.

Washington Square News

New York University's independent student newspaper, established in 1973.

Washington Square News

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MáLà Project’s menu is a delight for spice lovers

In a city full of hotpot restaurants, MáLà Project brings a different take on Sichuanese cuisine with its bold and brash use of spices.
Exterior+shot+of+a+red+colored+restaurant+with+a+neon+green%2C+red+and+white+sign+on+the+window.
Krish Dev
(Krish Dev for WSN)

It was the lingering sensation of spice at the back of my throat that instantly caught my attention. I found myself continuously taking one more bite and becoming drawn to a soft texture that oddly reminded me of mashed potatoes — I said this out loud, eliciting laughter from those around me. The satisfying feeling of my teeth effortlessly clashing together with each crunch of the vegetables added to the overall experience. If you haven’t had the opportunity to try the dry pot at MáLà Project in the East Village, I highly recommend making a reservation. 

Until Feb. 12, all visitors of MáLà Project will have the chance to try Lunar New Year-inspired drinks in collaboration with Tsingtao, a century-old brewery based in China. If you are looking for a place to celebrate the Year of the Dragon, consider the Chino Barrio and Dragon Dance cocktails on the $18 limited-time menu.

Two orange colored drinks with black straws. One of them has a grapefruit slice and rosemary on the rim.
Dragon Dance and Chino Barrio (Krish Dev for WSN)

I visited the spot at around noon, a time when only a few other diners were trying the restaurant’s comforting neo-Sichuanese dishes. MáLà Project specializes in dry pot, a traditional Sichuanese dish that includes meat and vegetables coated in a light málà broth of 24 different spices. I tried the Gone Fishing dry pot with fish fillet, broccoli, wood ear mushrooms and bean curd sheets. You can also customize the dish with options like squid, lamb and pork belly — each with a different price based on the protein you choose. You’re also able to choose a spice level — I personally opted for “Little Spicy” since I often find it difficult to enjoy my food with tears pouring down my face. 

Served in a large wooden bowl with an equally sizable wooden spoon, the dish truly felt like a fish escaping water and unintentionally landing in a garden composed of broccoli, mushrooms, cilantro and tofu skin. Then, with every bite, I found myself instinctively closing my eyes, savoring the delightful sensation of all the textures merging, along with the peppercorn burning the back of my throat in the best way possible. By closing my eyes, I decided to preserve this dream of the flavors one last time, allowing me to store it in my memory before awakening from it for good. Truly, it was a dream.

A wooden bowl containing fish fillet, broccoli, mushrooms and bean curd sheet.
Gone Fishing dry pot (Krish Dev for WSN)

While I might not easily forgive you if you decide not to try the dry pot, you can certainly make it up by exploring the side dishes and other entrees. I tried the LiángFěn of Happy Tears, essentially a bowl of starch jelly mixed with mung bean, pistachios, cucumber and chili oil. Overall, the dish didn’t boast a particularly noteworthy flavor profile, but the texture of the LiángFěn, the cloudy-white jelly, was quite pleasant. Although MáLà Project considers the dish to be an appetizer, I found it enjoyable to eat after the dry pot, as the lingering spice from the peppercorns added a subtle kick to the LiángFěn. Although lacking in a dominant flavor, the dish exuded an earthy yet cool quality, and it was fun to bounce the pieces of jelly around in my mouth. The only downside was the challenge of picking up the jelly pieces with chopsticks. The items on the appetizer menu are all around $15 each, with the “Crispy Duck Salad” being the exception at $26.

LiángFěn of Happy Tears (Krish Dev for WSN)

I also tried MáLà Project’s House Fried Noodles with shrimp. If you’ve ever had a noodle dish before, envision that with an intensified layer of flavor. The taste of the egg pieces mixed in with a pleasantly slimy texture, courtesy of the soy sauce, created an interesting contrast. The dish is around $18, which I find to be reasonable for a satisfying plate of noodles.

A plate of noodles with shrimp, egg, bok choy and mushrooms in it.
House Fried Noodles (Krish Dev for WSN)

I’m already looking forward to the next time I return to MáLà Project to reunite with its spicy and herbaceous flavor masterpieces. To summarize, if you didn’t read anything I wrote in this article, just try the fish. Trust me, it’s worth it.

Contact Adrianna Nehme at [email protected].

About the Contributors
Adrianna Nehme, News Editor
Adrianna Nehme is a sophomore still trying to decide what to major in. Originally from a small town in Indiana, she moved to Chicago, Illinois for high school — where she was also the news editor for the school paper! She loves experiencing music live at concerts, seeking restaurants to try in the city and reading fiction novels — her all-time favorite is "The Cider House Rules" by John Irving. Check out her latest adventures on Instagram @adrianna.nehme.
Krish Dev, Multimedia Editor
Krish is a first-year planning to major in Computer Science and Linguistics at CAS. In his free time, he enjoys posting photos on @krish_dev.creations, obsessing over geography, watching new films with the other Multimedia Editors, taking public transport to new places and letting Arsenal make or break his week.
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