If you want something more from your mashed potatoes — a comfortable if not overdone American classic — look to China’s northwest. The Shaan-Gan-Ning triangle, an epicenter of Chinese staple cooking, has their own variety, and it might be worth a try. You might even prefer the extra flair of spice.
Yangyujiaotuan, Northwestern Mashed Potatoes, is the product of steamed potatoes, skinned, mashed in a mortal and pestle, and stirred until gelatinous and thick. The chewy mass is “mixed cold” (liangban) with vinegar-chili broth and Chinese chives or doused in a spicy-sour broth of pickled vegetables and oil-kissed chilies (shuiweicheng). The soft, mild-flavored and elastic potatoes pair incredibly well with the mouth-whetting acid/spice bite, leaving you refreshed and satisfied.
Here’s my attempt:
Yangyujiaotuan (Northwestern Mashed Potatoes)*
(yields 2 large jiaotuan)
- 600g skin-on medium russet potatoes
- ½ cup Chinese black vinegar
- ¾ cup water
- 1 star anise (.8g)
- ½ x ½ in chunk cinnamon (.25g)
- 1 small bay leaves (.25g)
- 2 tbsp coarse chili powder, ideally Shaanxi xianjiao pepper or another fragrant but less spicy variety
- 4 tbsp oil
- ¼ cup Chinese chives, cut into 2½ in chunks
- Place chili powders in a small bowl, and spoon over nearly smoking vegetable oil. Allow to sit for a few minutes to allow the oil to absorb flavors.
- Stew the Chinese black vinegar, water, star anise, cinnamon, and bay leaves just below a simmer for 30 minutes, until reduced down to around ¾ cup. Remove the aromatics and set aside.
- Steam potatoes, skin on, for 35–40 minutes until softened and mashable. Skin while hot, then pound in large mortar and pestle until potatos are thick and very sticky. The longer you mash, the better.
- Stir fry Chinese chives in a little vegetable oil until softened slightly, around 10 seconds. Set aside in small bowl.
- To serve, spoon a small mound of jiaotuan into a personal serving bowl, drizzle on seasoned vinegar, chili oil, and garnish with Chinese chives. Enjoy.
- Steaming the potatoes skin on prevents them from absorbing too much moisture and making the jiaotuan too wet. They should weigh the same before and after steaming.
- Traditionally, during the steaming process, potatoes are placed on top of a special variety of leaf （馍馍叶 momoye, from the Bauhinia genus）, which imparts a sweet aroma. Feel free to experiment with fragrant aromatics you have around the home.
- Jiaotuan can also be made with other flours and starches. Popular varieties include buckwheat, corn, and millet. In these preparations, a water/flour paste is cooked and rapidly stirred in boiling water until it thickens and gelatinizes. That mass is left to rest and harden, before being used in much the same way as this potato jiaotuan.
* Recipe adapted from https://haokan.baidu.com/v?vid=14305555278163147853