Mala Stir-Fried Paneer

Mildly hot chiles enhance the spicy-tingly punch of the Szechuan and sansho peppercorns used to season paneer in this flavor-packed stir-fry.

Mala Stir Fried Paneer

Jennifer Causey / Food Styling by Chelsea Zimmer / Prop Styling by Christine Keely

Active Time:
20 mins
Total Time:
50 mins
4 servings

Tender and mildly flavored, paneer is the perfect neutral canvas to showcase the intricacies of mala spice in this Mala Stir-Fried Paneer from Jonathan Kung. His mala spice blend combines Szechuan er jing tiao chiles, Szechuan peppercorns, and sansho peppercorns for a tingling, numbing sensation that’s layered with smoky flavor and bright, citrusy notes. Szechuan er jing tiao chiles bring a mild heat to the mix. If you can’t find them, you can substitute any other Szechuan chile, but pay attention to the heat level.

Lapsang souchong tea bags form the foundation of flavor for the simple marinade, helping to infuse the tender paneer with flavor.


  • 4 cups boiling water

  • 1  (12-ounce) block paneer, cut into 3/4-inch cubes (about 3 cups)

  • 8 (0.1-ounce) bags lapsang souchong black tea (see Note)

  • 1/4 cup peanut oil or avocado oil, divided, plus more to coat wok

  • 3 dried Szechuan er jing tiao chiles (see Note)

  • 1 1/2 teaspoons Szechuan peppercorns (see Note)

  • 1/2 teaspoon sansho peppercorns (see Note)

  • 2 teaspoons ground cumin

  • 1 tablespoon finely chopped garlic (about 3 garlic cloves)

  • 2 teaspoons finely chopped peeled fresh ginger (from 1 [1-inch] piece)

  • 1 tablespoon Shaoxing wine

  • 1 1/2 tablespoons light soy sauce (such as Pearl River Bridge)

  • 1 teaspoon granulated sugar

  • 2 tablespoons fried shallots (such as Maesri)

  • 1 teaspoon thinly sliced fresh Thai chile

  • Thinly sliced scallions and fresh cilantro leaves, for garnish


  1. Place 4 cups boiling water, paneer, and tea bags in a large bowl; let stand, uncovered, at room temperature until paneer softens, about 30 minutes. Discard tea bags, and set aside paneer in tea water.

  2. Heat a large wok or cast-iron skillet over medium. Using tongs, swipe wok with a lightly oil-soaked paper towel to coat. Add 2 tablespoons oil, dried er jing tiao chiles, and Szechuan and sansho peppercorns; cook, stirring constantly, until toasted and fragrant, about 1 minute. Remove from heat; transfer chiles and peppercorns to a cutting board using a slotted spoon, and finely chop.

  3. Wipe wok clean with oil-soaked paper towel. Add remaining 2 tablespoons oil, and return to heat over medium. Add cumin, garlic, and ginger; cook, stirring constantly, until fragrant, about 15 seconds. Using a slotted spoon, transfer paneer to wok. Add chopped er jing tiao chiles and peppercorns, and cook, stirring constantly, until paneer is fully coated, about 15 seconds. Stir in wine; cook, stirring constantly, until liquid is absorbed, about 15 seconds. Add soy sauce and sugar; stir until paneer is just coated. Top evenly with fried shallots and sliced Thai chile; garnish with scallions and cilantro.

Suggested Pairing

Crisp, lightly bitter pilsner: Firestone Walker Pivo Pils


Find lapsang souchong black tea at most Asian grocery stores or online at Find Szechuan peppercorns and er jing tiao chiles at most Asian grocery stores or at Find sansho peppercorns at most Japanese grocery stores or online at

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