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Just a small note for the weekend as you’ll need it.  OK, maybe it’s not small.  In fact, it’s a huge… epic… cardinally sinful and despicably addictive note that will forever change your summers, and you’ll probably regret it, hate me for it, really hate yourself for it, while being lost in a summer-long trance somewhere in between nuclear pains and unbearable pleasures.

Did you know, that Chinese loves crayfish?

Yeah, in fact, fanatical, is the more appropriate word.  So much so that in Beijing, they have an entire street called Gui, a whole freaking parade lined by jam-packed and neon-lighted restaurants that dedicates almost solely to the cult of this practice.  Now, do not… and I mean, do not mistake the likings of the southern Louisiana-style boil to this sichuan-style mala (numb and spicy) crayfish bloodbath, which only shares as much similarities as coffee has to a Flaming Lambourgini.  Underestimate these mean little fuckers, and you’ll be punished.  This is a dish that transcends the crayfishes through a condensed and ferocious red bath made by extracting every last bit of flavour molecules from a intense mixture of spice-blend, aromatics and sichuan fermented chili paste into the thick gravy of lava and glisteningly red butter.  Just a couple of bug-crushing and head-sucking into the whole thing, and your every taste-buds and every sensual nerves that link to the pleasure and plain receptors in your brain, will be spanked and whiplashed ecstatically by the unbelievable amount of flavours, happiness really, trafficked to you on high speed with an ill intention. You can’t eat just one.  No one can eat just one.  Even when every pores on your forehead and dripping sweats is begging, howling for you to show mercy.  You just can’t stop.  And after the irreversible damages done, you’ll want to robotically mop up the death-gravy with any carbs lying within an arm’s length.  There’s just no other ways for this to happen.  So think long, and think hard, before taking the plunge.

This summer, are you ready to go down the rabbit hole?


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Serving Size: 2~4 depending

The butter mimics the sichuan mala hot pot base that uses ghee. Relax, you are not drinking the base, just like you won't drink the oil and soup from sichuan hot pot. But if you have butter-phobic, you can substitute with canola oil. If you cannot source live crayfish, you can substitute with shrimps.


  • 53 oz (1500 grams) live crayfish
  • 3 tbsp (20 grams) Korean chili flakes
  • 2 1/2 tbsp (27 grams) white peppercorns
  • 2 1/2 tbsp (13 grams) red sichuan peppercorns
  • 2~3 (3 grams) star anise
  • 4~5 (2 grams) dried bay leaves
  • 1 whole black cardamon
  • 1 1/2 tsp (5 grams) ground cumin
  • 1 tsp (3 grams) ground coriander
  • 1/2 tsp (1 grams) fennel seeds, or ground fennel
  • 1/4 tsp (1 gram) five spice powder
  • 1/4 tsp (1 gram) curry powder
  • 1/4 cup + 1 tbsp (80 grams) sichuan douban paste/chili broad bean paste
  • 1/4 cup (60 grams) Chinese rice wine, or Japanese sake
  • 7 cloves garlic, peeled
  • 2~3 (68 grams) large scallions, cut in chunks
  • 1 1/2 tbsp (27 grams) diced ginger
  • 4 tsp light brown sugar
  • 2 sticks (226 grams) unsalted butter
  • 2 tbsp (27 grams) canola oil
  • 1~2 cups (25~50 grams) whole dried chilis, depending on your heat tolerance
  • 10 cloves garlic, smashed and peeled
  • 1/2 cup (115 grams) Chinese cooking rice wine, or Japanese sake
  • 3 tbsp soy sauce
  • 2 1/2 cups (690 grams) chicken stock
  • 1 tsp granulated chicken bouillon


  1. MAKE THE SICHUAN MALA BUTTER BASE: Preferably, make the base the day before or at least several hours ahead, for the flavours to weld. In a blender or spice-grinder, blend everything under "SPICE BLEND" until finely powderized. Set aside. In the same blender, blend everything under "PASTE BLEND" until finely pureed. Set aside.
  2. In a deep, large pot (enough to hold all the crayfish), melt unsalted butter and canola oil over medium heat. Add the pureed "PASTE BLEND" and whole dried chilis, then turn the heat down to medium-low, stirring frequently to prevent burning and cook for 10 min until all the moisture has evaporated and very fragrant. Now add the "SPICE BLEND", smashed garlic and rice wine, and cook for another 3 mins until the wine has mostly evaporated. Now add the soy sauce and cook for another min, before adding the chicken stock and chicken bouillon. Simmer the mixture for 2 min, then turn off the heat. The mixture would taste salty, as it should be. Let the base sit overnight (room-temperature worked fine with me, but you can leave it in the fridge just in case), or at least for 6 hours before using.
  3. TO PREP THE CRAYFISHES: Crayfishes can be quite dirty, depending on where you source them. I like to hold each crayfish on its back with my thumb and index finger (so its claws cannot reach me), and use a toothbrush to gently brush/clean their chests, underbelly and around the claws to eliminate any impurities. Then, to cook them, you have 3 options. 1) Boil them alive. 2) Freeze them for 40 min to put them into a "coma" before boiling them, which never works and is probably just additional sufferings. 3) Takes a lot more work but in my opinion, the most humane way to go about it, which is to hold each crayfish inverted with a tongs, then insert a shape knife into the chest cavity then press down all the way to the tip of its head (*without splitting its head entirely*). This will kill it instantly, and any movements are just nerve reflexes. Your choice.
  4. TO COOK AND SERVE: Bring the base back to a simmer on medium-high heat, then add the crayfishes. Stir briefly, then put the lid on and cook for 5 min, stirring once again in between. All the crayfishes should have turned red at this point. Then turn the heat off, and let sit with the lid on for 15 ~20 min. This finishes the cooking, as well as letting the crayfishes absorb the flavours from the base. Transfer to a shallow serving dish and serve immediately with cold beers or any fire-extinguishing drinks that you prefer (you'll need it). I like to soak up the sauces with thin pasta (like fedelini), but you can use any rice or breads you have on hand.


Please please do not omit any ingredients. There are many different brands of sichuan douban/chili broad bean paste, but the link included is the exact brand that I used.


  • Heather (Delicious Not Gorgeous)

    July 3, 2015 at 7:28 PM Reply

    this sounds amazing- spicy heat wise but also in all the spices that in there. and that you managed to use 17 cloves of garlic?? my inner garlic fiend is a little scared but mostly swooning.

  • Anne

    July 4, 2015 at 3:47 AM Reply

    This looks cray… I love spicy foods and this will definitely have to make an appearance at my table!!! Too bad every seafood that they ship over here is like a year old :/
    And those pictures those crayfish… Are they alive??? Your pictures are soooo perfect!

  • Bach @ Taste Chronicles

    July 4, 2015 at 7:57 AM Reply

    This looks absolutely delicious!!

  • Ruth

    July 4, 2015 at 11:07 AM Reply

    I ate this sort of thing in Changsha, Hunan. And now I am wailing and trying to think of how I could get those crayfish here! What a stunning recipe!

  • june2

    July 5, 2015 at 2:52 AM Reply

    Oh wow. Your recipes rock.

  • ellie | fit for the soul

    July 6, 2015 at 6:22 AM Reply

    Ohmmyygooshhhh those crayfish are literally crayyyy!!! Sorry, had to pun it. ;))) But seriously look at ’em in that fighting stance. They are so cool and allllmmost kinda cute–and I’m not sure why I’m so amazed by them, maybe it’s because they’re about to attack your lens???! And maybe it’s because I’ve tried something LIKE THIS at a restaurant before and it was heavn’ly. The only downside is that it wasn’t nearly as spicy as you describe these to be. I need this in my life pronto because the older I get (read: older by one day), the more I crave spicy food and I’m afraid I’ll get ulcers in the future (hopefully not) so better enjoy it while I can, teehee~

  • J.S. @ Sun Diego Eats

    July 7, 2015 at 7:58 AM Reply

    Ahh the pictures of the crawfish jumping around!!

    Reminds me of watching the original Japanese Iron Chef late one night on Food Network. They were preparing crawfish and one of the chefs wanted to make an intense crawfish broth and given the time constraints was just bashing these crawfish dead. Like they were running around the cutting board getting smashed and then all the little still wiggling about crawfish pieces were being pushed through a sieve.

    So different from the American Iron Chef that cuts away every time the chef is going to politely dispose of the lobster with a clean cut to the head, Ned Stark style.

    • mandy@ladyandpups

      July 7, 2015 at 12:07 PM Reply

      J.S. hahaha I totally Ned Starked each and every one of them! All 40+ of them I think… mercy kill is tiring.

  • Charlie (Chockywoky)

    July 7, 2015 at 10:51 PM Reply

    I’m crying not just because of the sheer spiciness of crayfish or those crayfish photos, but also my heart breaking that boarding school does not provide a kitchen.

    Oh, and do you reckon that crabs work here too?

  • Erin @ Shanghai Spice

    July 8, 2015 at 5:42 PM Reply

    Absolutely amazing shots of the live crayfish. Is it terrible that I didn’t feel the least bit bad about seeing them swimming in mala butter?

  • Jeffrey liu

    July 10, 2015 at 8:02 PM Reply

    Must have this…

  • Tiffany C.

    July 12, 2015 at 11:31 PM Reply

    This looks really good. I am from Louisiana and we call them crawfish here. My husband loves a traditional crawfish boil but now after seeing this he wants to try it your way.

  • Josh D.

    July 13, 2015 at 12:08 AM Reply

    It’s Lamborghini btw

  • Cheryl

    February 26, 2016 at 11:01 PM Reply

    I SO want to try this recipe! Where can I find the exotic ingredients?

    • mandy@ladyandpups

      February 27, 2016 at 12:38 AM Reply

      Cheryl, if it’s not provided in the links already, most likely you’ll be able to find them online :)

  • Jenn

    March 20, 2016 at 6:34 AM Reply

    Amazing photos! Sounds delicious and will definitely have to try it :)

  • Betty

    June 6, 2016 at 5:19 PM Reply

    I had a 30 pound crawfish boil at my house yesterday and did 10 lbs in this sauce. Everyone loved this sauce over Zatarain’s!! Thank you so much for this!! <3

  • Nilych

    June 25, 2016 at 12:55 PM Reply

    Saving the full recipe for next season, but reduced the quantities down and made a roux first, added leftover tail meat, and turned into a mala etouffee. Outstanding!

  • moa

    September 27, 2019 at 7:57 PM Reply

    looks amazing, do you think it works well with crab swell?

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