"This is surely one of the most recognisable dishes in China and is known everywhere in the West. This classic probably had its roots in Beijing, though it is claimed by Sichuan and Hunan as well. It originally called for chicken's or duck's blood but I must confess that I'm quite happy to do without. The heat of the soup relies not so much on chilli but black pepper instead" - Tony Tan
Note Sichuan preserved vegetable (called zhacai in Mandarin or ja choy in Cantonese) is often sold in cans or plastic bags or in refrigerated counters in Chinese grocers. Made from the stems of a variety of mustard green, it is brined, then pickled in chilli powder. It is best to rinse off the excess chilli and salt before use. Chinkiang vinegar is a fragrant black vinegar made from glutinous rice, water and salt, from Jiangsu Province. Gold Plum Chinkiang vinegar is one of the best. Lily buds (golden needles) are dried unopened flowers of yellow and orange day lilies. The Chinese call them 'golden needles' because they are thin and yellow in colour. They are sold in plastic packets.