In the grand tradition of Rick and Morty, we must ask a truly existential question about the universe: What exactly is Szechuan sauce and how is it traditionally used?
It's a pressing question these days, especially in light of The Great McDonald's Szechuan Sauce Shortage of 2017. Well, to answer that, we must travel to the Szechuan (or Sichuan) province in southwest China, a place whose cuisine is characterized by its spicy floralness through a heavy use of peppercorns, chilis, and garlic.
In the service of ravenous readers everywhere — and to placate miffed fans who might have missed out on nabbing some prized sauce of their own — we did the next best thing: We tried to track down a celebrated chef in order to find out how to make an authentic version of the sauce that would please even the palate of Rick Sanchez himself.
As it turns out, we heard back from one of the most acclaimed restaurateurs in New York City, Ed Schoenfeld, the man behind hot spots RedFarm and Decoy — the former being Zagat guide's highest-rated Chinese restaurant. Together, these joints serve up some of the best dim sum and Peking duck in Manhattan.
Schoenfeld also played a major role at several other Asian-inspired restaurants around the city, developing menus and concepts for Chinatown Brasserie, Shanghai Tea Garden, City Eatery, and Ping’s, as well as eateries in Chicago, Japan, and Puerto Rico.
Hungry already? Here's how to make Schoenfeld's delectable Szechuan Sauce.
Ed Schoenfeld's Szechuan Sauce (use as a dip or stir-fry sauce)
2 1/2 T all-purpose soy sauce (such as Kikkoman)
4t rice vinegar (may substitute cider vinegar)
1t chili paste with garlic (more or less according to taste) or other hot sauce; Lan Chi brand is a good choice
1/4 - 1/2t Szechuan peppercorn powder (optional — see below)
1t finely minced garlic
2t finely minced fresh ginger
2 scallions, finely chopped
1/2 t toasted sesame oil (Kadoya is a suggested brand)
To make the Szechuan peppercorn powder: Toast 1T Szechuan peppercorns in a hot dry pan over high heat until they start to smoke, just 10 to 15 seconds, and are fragrant. Cool briefly, then grind to a powder using a blender or mortar and pestle. Strain out and discard the larger pieces and use the remaining powder for the recipe.
Of course, you can't keep a good fan base down, especially one made of Rick and Morty watchers. After the McDonald's Szechuan Sauce brouhaha, diligent aficionados of the Adult Swim cartoon took it upon themselves to offer up their own DIY takes on the much-sought-after condiment, which has caused great strife among the show's fans and creators (Dan Harmon and Justin Roiland) alike. Those unfazed by the debacle just picked up a 10-piece meal (or simply made their own nuggets, too), whipped up their own rendition of the now-controversial dipping mixture, and called it a day:
And don't worry, the official sauce will be returning to McDonald's very soon.