|do you like spicy?
||[Mar. 24th, 2007|06:29 pm]
I'm biased when it comes to Sichuan cuisine- the absolute best, I used to say, was only to be obtained (short of going to China) at Little Sichuan, which is located in San Mateo and there is a branch Little Sichuan Express in Fremont. If you're brave and are willing to endure unspeakable pain, the flavors you get there are amazing. It's sometimes a matter of knowing what to order, too, because this place has most of the menu in Chinese, with cursory descriptions of what is being ordered.
I say, "used to say", because there's a new contender.
We had lunch today at Classic Sichuan in Millbrae. I had the dry-cooked chicken wings, which among the lunch crowd that I used to go with in Fremont were known as "administrative chicken"- a delicious flavor but because the wings are split into inch-sized pieces they have the tiny bones to stab the unwary.
There are two dishes I consider landmarks of Sichuan cuisine and by which I tend to judge the quality of any Chinese restaurant. The first is Ma-Po tofu, which is tofu and pork in a fiery chili oil sauce. The second is dry cooked entrees. Dry cooked string beans are a classic vegetarian option- the beans lose much of their moisture but none of the crunch, have a fiery but sweet flavor, and I can eat them by the bushel. My other favorites in this genre, in addition to the dry-cooked chicken wings, is dry-cooked shrimp and either dry-cooked or "twice cooked" pork. This cooking technique seems nearly impossible to master- it needs the hot temperatures you only get off of a commercial wok. This is classic five-spice flavor at its best, and while these could be done less spicy, I feel that it loses some of the flavor when it isn't. Of course, if it's too spicy to eat, the whole love of this food remains unappreciated.
The spice in our entrees was a bit much, I think, for lapis_lazuli, but we had the hot and sour soup (an excellent buy, for ~$7 you get a huge bowl for two) which was much more moderate on the spice, and mild scallion pancakes, which were also above-average. There is plenty on the menu here for the non-adventurous, too, which makes it a better option in some ways than Little Sichuan, which can be scary to the non-chinese. The menu is much clearer to the english-only-handicapped, like myself.