The Secret Menu: Jiayang Fan of The New Yorker spices up your potato

Welcome to the first of two pilot episodes of The Secret Menu, our new cooking show, where we show you real Chinese recipes that real Chinese people eat!

In each episode, a guest will demonstrate how he or she prefers to make a personal favorite home-style Chinese dish. We’re delighted to have Jiayang Fan 樊嘉扬 as the chef in charge of our maiden show — you might know her as a New Yorker staff writer who has recently produced excellent reads about Xi Jinping and Chinatown ghost scams. Fan is also a Chongqing native and an occasional food critic who knows her way around spices.

Chongqing is a megalopolis with provincial status that was carved out of the province of Sichuan in 1997. The city’s cuisine and its native people are known for their creative use of peppers, in particular the Sichuan peppercorn (even though peppercorns — known for their numbing spice — aren’t technically peppers, but the fruit of the Chinese prickly ash tree). Fittingly, Fan’s choice of dish in this episode is a homestyle favorite, spicy and sour shredded potatoes.



  • 1 potato
  • 1 garlic clove (optional)
  • peanut oil (enough to cover the base of the wok)
  • chili peppers (a handful)
  • Sichuan peppercorns (a handful; a mix of coriander seeds and black pepper can be used as an alternative)
  • 2 teaspoons Chinese vinegar
  • a pinch of salt


  • Peel the potato, cut it into thin shreds, and soak it.
  • Peel the garlic clove, then chop and smash it.
  • Pour the oil into a wok and heat it to the max but don’t let it smoke.
  • Put the garlic, chili peppers, and peppercorns into the heated oil.
  • Dump the potato shreds in and stir-fry them until fragrant.
  • Mix in the vinegar and salt.
  • Serve.

Check out more episodes of The Secret Menu here