How To Make Yunnan Pounded Mashed Potato? So if you’re new to Yunnan food, I’m guessing ‘chewy’ might not be the first adjective that springs to mind when you think of the word ‘potato’.
But stay with me here.
See, everyone the world over wants a smooth mashed potato, and this Hani pounded potato definitely fits that bill.
If you’re familiar with the classic Western mash, you probably know how most chefs tend to crack that nut.
And listen, I’m definitely not one of those health food guys, I’m not judging.
But for me personally?
After one bite equal part butter and potato, I’m ready to take a nap, and after a serving, I’m basically good to hibernate the winter.
These Yunnan potatoes approach the problem a bit differently.
The potatoes are pounded until smooth, which simultaneously gives it this chewy/springy texture then loads the thing up with chilis and herbs.
And even if you wind up still preferring a rich buttery mash in the end, what is for certain is that this dish employs some really
a cool technique that can also help us understand the humble potato a bit better.
So right, to get started let’s talk potato.
While there are some exceptions, usually most mashed potato dishes call for something super floury like a Russet or maybe an all-purpose like a Yukon Gold.
This mashed potato is one of those exceptions – you’ll need about three hundred grams of the waxiest potato you can find.
Not only are floury potatoes not good here – they won’t even work, and we’ll go over why in just a minute.
Today we’re using Yunnan small potato they’re quite similar in consistency to Red Bliss, which are also sometimes used.
So wash and remove any sprouts from your potatoes, then toss on a rapidly bubbling steamer. Alternatively,in the oven wrapped with tin foil would also totally work, up to you, but steaming’s more traditional so that’s just the route we went.
Then just let those steam until cooked through for about twenty minutes.
After that time, shut off the heat, take them out and let them cool down to the point where they’re no longer hot to the touch.
Then just grab the potatoes and peel them by hand.
We’re doing this now because if you peeled beforehand, the potato would absorb too much moisture when steaming, making it very difficult to develop the smooth, chewy consistency we’re looking for.
And then with these peeled, now, we can pound.
So. No matter what, you’re gonna need a mortar and pestle for this recipe one that’s big enough to work a potato in.
In an ideal world, we’d be using one of those massive mortars that they pound with in Yunnan and Thailand but this guy work just fine so long as we start by going one potato at a time.
Then just buckle in and get comfortable,because we’ll be pounding this for ten to fifteen minutes.
Now, two minutes in, you can start to see that the potato’s already beginning to break down and become sticky, forming this really
satisfying to pound elastic sort of consistency.
What’s going on here’s really quite interesting.
See, for comparison sake, here’s what happens if we used Yukon Gold instead.
After that same amount of time, two minutes, the potato’s slightly sticky but nothing like our waxy Yunnan potato.
And then if you tried to do the same thing with a floury potato like a Russet?
Get ready for an exercise in futility.
So this kind of bothered me for a bit.
A floury potato like a Russet contains more starch, so you’d think that it’d actually end up being better for this kind of thing.
So it’s not just a matter of percent starch, there’s actually something inherent to the quality of ‘waxiness’ that lets the potato
But then, even though you hear it all the time, what exactly is waxiness?
So. Quick refresher: “starch” is a mix of two polymers; amylose and amylopectin.
Both molecules are chains of glucose the difference is in the structure amylose is basically one long line or spiral, while amylopectin’s highly branched and resembles more of a web.
For most natural sources of starch, you’re usually looking at between 10-30% amylose, but there are some plants that’ve been cultivated to be almost purely amylopectin – these plants are called “waxy”.
There’s a variety of waxy corn, there’s waxy rice a.k.a. sticky rice, and recently they’ve even developed waxy wheat.
So why does pounding the waxy potato work,while a floury one just makes a mash?
Turning to the ever-eminent Harold McGee: pounding or kneading reorganizes the bushy amylopectin into an intermeshed mass that’ll resists changes in its structure.
In other words, it makes it smooth and chewy.
This is the same idea as pounding Mochi in Japan, or how Niangao rice cakes are made elsewhere in China.
So look at what happens if we add a touch of steamed sticky rice to our previously uncooperative floury potato.
It almost immediately starts to get sticky and after ten minutes of pounding, it’s almost indistinguishable from the waxy Yunnan potato after the same amount of time.
But regardless, you’re looking to stop pounding here once the small potato bits are almost all broken down and formed into this silky uniform whole.
Again, this should take about ten minutes, but if your end goal is something a bit more reminiscent of a classic Western mash, feel free to stop and taste after five.
Then, season with a quarter teaspoon salt, a pinch of MSG, and a quarter teaspoon of Sichuan peppercorn powder.
Mix that in, and if you like, you could also add a sprinkle of anise powder, which’s also pretty classic here.
Then for the herbs, you’ve got some choices.
Unfortunately, specifically for these Hani mashed potatoes, probably the most classic addition would be something called piecangen, which’s the root of a type of jiucai Chinese chives.
Another common herb would be some sawtooth coriander aka culantro, which I know can sometimes be another relatively annoying item to source.
So to sub those, for our version here we’re using a mix of 20 grams green garlic, and you could alternatively use jiucai, 20 grams of cilantro to sub the culantro,and of course two cloves of garlic together with one fresh heaven facing chili. and Thai bird’s eye would also work just fine.
So mince the garlic, slice the chili, cut the green garlic, and ditto with the cilantro.
If you can buy cilantro with the stem attached, by the way, be sure to include that too – it’s got a lot of taste.
So now just add in your chopped herbs of choice, give it another brief pound to mix, and out.
And with that, your Yunnan-pounded mashed potatoes are done.
So pounding is a very common cooking method in Yunnan, and there’s a bunch of different styles of pounded potatoes and this is
more of a Hani people’s version of it, they call it “Yangyu Baba”, baba means something that’s soft and chewy.
And there are some other styles that they just like mash things together real quick and that bear more resemblance to the old grandma’s mashed potato style.
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