Go to Dim Sum Go Go

Enjoying dim sum is one of my favorite dining activities. Usually because I love those little carts.

But this time…at a small, modern, clean, cartless place that is perfect for gringos who need pictorial menus to choose what they want…I came for the food.

And it is worth it.

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Dim Sum Go Go isn’t too crowded on a weekday for lunch, but I hear that it gets hopping on the weekends, so you might want to get there early. They serve dim sum every day of the week from 10 AM and though you do miss the carts (I certainly did), what they lack in atmosphere they make up in quality of food.

IMG_20131018_122500_314Har gow

I’m not even a fan of shrimp dumplings.  I often find them muddy and iodine-y with weird-looking, ill cleaned shrimp. These blew my mind. So fresh and thin skinned filled with sweet, vaguely briny whole shrimp that pop in the mouth with  a pleasing “snap.” I took a peek (never a good thing to do in a dim sum restaurant) and the innards are pristinely clean. Dipped in some of the tableside xo sauce and leek-horseradish relish, it is savory, salty, and delicious. If you like har gow, you are going to love these – I surely did!IMG_20131018_122057_922 Bbq pork puffs

Like char siu bao wrapped in croissants. That’s right – sweet and sticky bbq pork inside flaky, buttery croissants. If you don’t like that, why are we even friends?IMG_20131018_123317_379Eggplant casserole

Not on the dim sum menu, but totally worth ordering. Tiny chinese eggplants are peeled then steamed inside an earthen dish that is basically as hot as the surface of the sun. It emerges velvety and soft, slicked with an insanely garlicky, somewhat spicy sauce. It doesn’t taste too garlicky at the time, but trust me…its stays with you. and you don’t even care. Because it’s so tasty.  And – bonus! – vegetarian!
IMG_20131018_122048_218Vegetable rice rolls

Always my favorite dim sum dish. Thick, chewy rice noodles wrapped around savory beef or – in this case – soft, ginger scented, peppery vegetables. It’s like an eggroll inside a warm, comforting, noodle-y blanket. Enjoy it with the sharp black vinegar that cuts through heavy, fatty tastes.
IMG_20131018_122504_389Duck dumplings

Juicy, sweet duck scented with cinnamon and cumin inside gossamer thin wrappers. Not just sweet but savory, too. Tiny pockets of ducky goodness – the duck flavor is very pronounced, so don’t order this expecting a standard chicken dumpling. Order it expecting something much better.

This isn’t even all the food we ordered, and we couldn’t spend more than $20 a person. Really, it was so much food for so little money. ANd it was GREAT! More than that, it was easy to order. Even a dim sum newbie can look at the pictures and see what looks good. It’s clean, it’s easy to order, and it’s so tasty.

It’s called Dim Sum Go Go because you really must go go there.

Dim Sum Go Go on Urbanspoon

Cantonese Tomato Beef

It’s not sophisticated. It’s not nouveau.  It’s way more Fritos than foie gras.  But here goes:

  I LOVE American-Cantonese style Chinese food.

Sticky, sweet, and comforting. These are the flavors that many of us non-Chinese people probably grew up with, in shabby, dark restaurants with stale wontons served aside a plate of viscous, sweet sauce on the table.  Or in fluorescent lit shops, where we ordered beef with broccoli and extra egg rolls from a pimply teenager working behind the counter.  Whatever the venue, chances are, we have all eaten and still enjoy Cantonese food. And so I bring you my totally inauthentic yet truly delicious version of one of my favorite Cantonese dishes:

Cantonese Tomato Beef 

2010-09-29 tomato beefIngredients:

1 lb. London broil

3 onions, quartered

1 bunch celery, roughy chopped

10 ripe tomatoes, cored and cut into wedges

1 box chicken stock

1/2 cup ketchup

1/4 cup soy sauce

2 tbsp. sugar

cornstarch to coat (about 1 tbsp.)

dash of hot sesame oil

tomato beef 020

1. Cut your meat into very thin slices by cutting against the grain. If it helps to put it in the freezer for 10 minutes before you slice it, go for it. I find that a sharp knife is really the best trick here.

tomato beef 025

2. Put the meat into a plastic bag with the ketchup, soy, sugar, and sesame oil. Knock it around so the marinade really gets everywhere, then pop it in the fridge while you prepare the rest of the dish.

tomato beef 0193. Set the tomatoes, celery, and onions in a large stock pot with a bit of veggie oil. Sautee over medium high heat for about 5 minutes, or until they start to turn translucent.

tomato beef 022

4. Now, add the chicken stock and let the whole mixture boil on high for about 30 minutes, until the vegetables are all quite soft.  

tomato beef 029 tomato beef 0313. Add the cornstarch to the bag with the meat, toss it around, then throw the meat in the pot. In about 3 minutes, the meat should be cooked, and the dish will be done. 

tomato beef 0354. Taste for seasonings and serve over hot rice. 

tomato beef 038

A fried egg would not be amiss here, either.  And, of course, I always add a healthy dose of sriracha.

 

This is just so delicious.  Sweet, salty, and beefy, with sweet onions and tender celery.   It is not overly spicy or filled with exotic vegetables.  It is just comforting, Asian-American goodness.  It makes me smile and fills me up on a fall night.  It is so distinctly from the Chinese food memories of my youth.  

And THAT is pretty damn sweet indeed.

Spicy Soba Lo Mein

Instead of venturing out for Chinese food this Christmas, I decided to make it. I love Chinese food – the spice, the salt, the complex flavors – but I occasionally get CFB:

Chinese Food Bloat

Quite frankly, it makes me hold my jeans together with a rubber band. One cup of hot and sour soup and my ankles are the size of an Olsen twin’s thigh.

Anyway, this Chinese inspired lo mein is tasty without being insanely heavy and salty. It’s really less Chinese than faux-Asian, but hey…it’s NYC. Home to the pastrami egg roll.

We embrace the inauthentic.

Spicy Soba Lo Mein

Ingredients:

1 package soba noodles, cooked

1 package cleaned mushroom slices

1 head napa cabbage

1 onion, sliced into rings

1 clove garlic, diced

1 tbsp. veggie oil

1/3 lb. ground pork

1/2 lb. snow peas

1 tbsp. sambal olek

1/3 cup hoisin sauce

1/2 cup bulgogi or teriyaki sauce

dash of sesame oil

2 tbsp. Chinese 5 spice

scallions, to garnish

1. Sautee the onions, 5 spice, and garlic in a large sautee pan until the veggies are translucent.

2. Add the sambal olek, mushrooms, and the pork. Cook until the pork is totally cooked through. Some charring is okay.

3. Now, add the pea pods and the cabbage. The cabbage is going to fill the pan very high, but don’t worry. It all wilts down to almost nothing. Also don’t’ worry if this doesn’t look/smell too Asian yet. That comes in the dressing.

4. In about 10 minutes, the mushrooms should be soft and juicy and the cabbage should have wilted own far. Now, add the noodles…

and marinade (made of the teriyaki sauce, sesame oil, and hoisin sauce)…

5. And serve, topped with scallions if desired.

This is not the same as restaurant lo mein, but it’s a damn good substitute. Soba noodles are springy with a good bite, and absorb the nutty, sweet flavors of the marinade well. The juicy pork, crunchy snap peas, and hit of aromatic Chinese 5 spice make this complex and hearty enough for a main course, especially if paired with a cucumber salad and/or some flank steak.

Or some take out hot and sour soup.

Just get out your fat pants – the bloat won’t escape you if you go the delivery route.

Reuben Egg Rolls

Imitation is the sincerest form of flattery.

At least, that’s how I hope the folks at Red Farm take it.

Though I haven’t yet eaten at the highly acclaimed Chinese restaurant, I have heard much about their acclaimed pastrami egg rolls. That’s right, egg rolls filled with luscious Katz’s pastrami, fresh vegetables, and sauerkraut.

This is the perfect Hanukkah food, right?  Fried AND pastrami!

Well, it is almost perfect. It needs some cheese and a little Russian dressing to really make it the ultimate Chewish Hanukkah food.  Be aware that this recipe take forever to make – it’s a lot of prepping, rolling, and frying. It takes a few hours from start to finish, but it isn’t complicated, just time-consuming. That’s why you see my sister’s fingers in all the pictures – this is a recipe that should really be made in tandem.

Reuben Egg Rolls (inspired by An Immovable Feast)

Ingredients:

1/2 lb. wiss cheese, shredded

1/2 lb. sauerkraut, squeezed in a towel to drain it of all moisture

1/2 lb. pastrami, thin cut and finely shredded

2 -3 cups oil in which to fry

bowl of water for sealing egg rolls.

Russian dressing to serve alongside

1. Make sure that when you are wrapping, you cover the wonton wrappers with a damp paper towel, or they will dry out and rip when you start to roll them. Trust me, this is an all important step.

2. Now, it’s time to roll. Take your time and while keeping the rolling tight, try not to make any tears or holes. If you do, it’s ok – just keep frying them. Put a teaspoon sized combo of meat, cheese, and kraut, in the corner of your wrapper facing you. Then…

start to roll, until you roll up to the next 2 corners.

Like this!

3. Then, squeeze your filling into the middle, and fold in each corner of the wrapper to make a little packet.

4. Now, continue to roll, until you almost reach the end of the wrapper, and then…

ta da! Simply moisten along the “envelope flap” with water until the edges are sealed and you are good to go! Now, this is gonna take you a good, long time. Just grab your child, your younger sister (some young person who can’t run away) to do these with you, then you can even store them overnight in plastic containers. That’s what we did, with wet paper towels in between each layer, and they turned out perfectly crisp.

5. Now, in a large and heavy stockpot or Dutch oven, heat the oil to at least 350F (you know it is good to go when you drop a piece of bread in and it instantly fries). Then fry the egg rolls for about 5 minutes, until they are deeply golden brown on both sides.  Don’t put more than 5 egg rolls or so in the pot at a time, to ensure that they don’t lower the temperature of the oil.

Make sure that you keep the pile of egg rolls under a damp paper towel while you fry. If there are a few little tears that develop, don’t worry about it. Just keep frying and it will all work out.

Pastrami tends to soothe all wounds.

When you have a pile of gorgeous, crispy crunchy egg rolls, you are done!

6. Dip in russian dressing and serve.

THIS is how you make a pastrami egg roll. You fill it with fatty, peppery pastrami and load it with tangy sauerkraut. you throw in some tangy swiss cheese that melts and oozes with each bite through warm, crispy wrapper. You dip it in savory Russian dressing and you feel oddly that you are both at dim sum and the deli.

And you also kick the ass of everyone else’s same old, same old latkes and donuts Hanukkah party.

I might have started out imitating Red Farm, but the truth is…the chefs there might want to take a page from my book.

I won’t be mad. After all, imitation is the sincerest form of flattery.

Grand Sichuan UWS Delivers on Flavor, Fails on Spice

Another day, another reason to barrage my tastebuds with foods so spicy that I grand start to see double. 
Grand Sichuan is one of the most famous Sichuan restaurant chains in the city, the other being Szechuan Gorumet. Being a HUGE fan of Szechuan Gourmet, I figured I would hit up the competition and see what they had to offer. 
We headed to the Upper West side location of the restaurant. Be forewarned: You don’t need to wear a tie here. You might not even need to wear shoes here. Not dingy or dirty at all, just totally casual and appropriate for families.

Cucumber with Garlic

We wanted to order the Cold Cucumber with Scallion Sauce that I had read so much about. But, it was nowhere to be seen. Even when I described it to our incredibly helpful and efficient server, he didn’t seem to have ever heard of it. So we went with this, and it was excellent. Crisp cucumber was liberally sprinkled with deep, nutty sesame oil and the garlic was a faint bite in the background instead of an overpowering flavor. It was refreshing and whet the appetite, although I was quite disappointed not to try the original cucumber dish.

 Shrimp and Pork Crab Dumplings

Oh yes. These were not perfect, but they were excellent. The skin on the dumpling was rather thick, but the filling was outstanding – sweet, salty, meaty, fresh, and perfectly moist and soft within. They arrive at the table piping hot and you bite off the top of the dumpling dough, then fill the cavity with some of the vinegar-ginger sauce. Then, you pop the whole thing in your mouth, letting the pork and crab broth and meat fill your mouth and invade your nostrils. There can be no better way to commit two Kosher dietary sins at once.

 MaPo Tofu

One of my favorite dishes at any Szechuan restaurant is the MaPo Tofu. Spicy, garlicky, salty sauce with Szechuan peppercorns, chili oil, ground pork and cubes of silky tofu. Usually MaPo tofu is hot enough to make my nose run but this time…it was barely spicy enough to remind me I was alive. Really. This did allow me to focus on the slightly sour taste of the fermented black beans, the pungent taste of the garlic and the buzzy, lip biting taste of the chili oil. But…sorry…I want some pain when I order my MaPo Tofu!

Gui Zhou Spicy Chicken

Highly recommended by our server, I had high hopes that this would compete with the Wok Tossed Chicken with chiles from Szechuan Gourmet. It was delicious in its own right, but it lacked that lip tingling, tongue numbing, ear buzzing spice that I crave out of that dish. The chicken was tender, in fried nuggets interspersed with slivers of caramelized garlic and crunchy dried red chiles that certainly brought the heat but…I don’t know. It lacked the nuances I crave in Szechuan food. 
That was the overlying theme of Grand Sichuan. It was good. It was flavorful. It was certainly a great value for the money, but it was not nuanced or layered the way that I expect Szechuan food to be prepared. I would go back for the soup dumplings, and if I were in the neighborhood I would absolutely eat there, but I wouldn’t dine here over other Szechuan restaurants in NYC.
After all, I like to feel a little pain.
Grand Sichuan 74 on Urbanspoon

Pork and Chicken Shumai

Because woman does not live on shrimp toast alone, we figured we might as well try our hand at shumai, as well! Using Yan Can Cook, and the blog Tasty Eating as rough guides, we hit the ground running and set in for a long, long time of folding and stuffing.

INGREDIENTS:
1 lb. ground chicken
1 lb. ground pork
1 package wonton wrappers
1 onion, diced
3 cloves garlic, made into a paste
1/2 Tbsp. minced or grated ginger
2 cups cleaned cilantro leaves
1 bunch scallions, white parts only, sliced into thin rounds
2 tsp. Chinese 5 spice
2 Tbsp. each of sesame oil and soy sauce
Enough lettuce or cabbage to cover the bottom of your steamer
PLUS vegetable oil for sauteing and steaming  -about 1/2 cup total

1)Place onions and garlic on the stove to sautee until they turn lightly golden, about 10 minutes.

2)In the meantime, grate your peeled ginger on a microplane,

chop the white part of the scallions

and add them and the 5 spice to the pan.

3)Add soy

and sesame oil.

4)Add a small piece of pork or chicken and fry it with the veggies to taste for seasoning. Thank you, Tasty Eating! This would NEVER have occurred to me, and may well be the most important step of the cooking process. Brilliant.

5)Add the meat and cilantro and mix well

6)Add the sauteed vegetables

7)Mix well

8)Assemble your steamer (Or one of those collapsible veggie steamers), fill the bottom with water

and line it with lettuce.

9)Now take a wonton wrapper and place it over your hand, where you have made a very loose fist, with air in the middle.

10)Poke the airspace, forming a wonton cup

11)Fill the wrapper with about a teaspoon of filling – it can be mounded up over the top, but you don’t want it to be bursting at the seams.

12)Form creases around the outside of the meat so all the edges are touching the meat.

TA DA!!! Your shumai!

13)Repeat steps 9 – 12 until all meat and wrappers are used up. It will take a long time. This is a GREAT time to start using children or the elderly as forced labor.

By now, the lettuce will look translucent and wilted from the steam.

14)Add the dumplings to the steamer. They can touch on the sides, but they can’t overlap

15)Now put the lid on the steamer

and in about 20 minutes (Or when you cut into a dumpling and the pork is no longer pink)

16)Serve. These dumplings may be the best you have ever tasted. None of that greasy, bland saltiness that comes from so many sub-par dumpling places in the city. Fresh, fragrant cilantro mixing with pungent garlic, sweet sauteed onions, and the strange but wonderful Chinese 5 spice that makes ANYTHING taste Chinese. The pork adds fat and texture and the chicken absorbs all of the seasonings flavors.

Dipped in some Sriracha and soy, I couldn’t imagine a better meal. Unless you threw some shrimp toast in there. Cause in this case, more is more. 

Shrimp Toast Recipe

Have you ever had shrimp toast? If you never have, or if you are scared of shrimp – HELLO! This is the dish for YOU! Because, what is more delicious than shrimp? FRIED shrimp. Especially fried shrimp mixed with garlic and ginger on top of crunchy toast. It is a great way to use up stale bread, and to make a little bit of shrimp stretch a long way. You can include water chestnuts or bamboo shoots if you like them, but they aren’t  necessary for a delicious dish. This Chinese dim-sum dish in shockingly easy to make – all you need is a food processor and an affinity for frying things.
And if you read this blog…you probably have an affinity for frying things.

INGREDIENTS:
1/2 Lbs. Shrimp, cleaned and de-veined
1/2 loaf white bread (stale or lightly toasted)
1/2 onion, chopped into large chunks
1 clove garlic
1 small piece ginger, peeled
4 cups vegetable or peanut oil
1 egg white (don’t forget how to separate the eggs)
1 cup cilantro, cleaned
2 tsp. soy sauce
1 tsp. lime zest

 1)Cut off crusts of bread.

2)Cut bread slices into triangles. Set aside.

 3)Throw the onions, garlic, ginger…

Cilantro and shrimp into the food processor.
4)Pulse until it is a pretty smooth paste
5)Add soy sauce, lime zest and
egg white.

 6)Spread mixture on bread in about 1/8 inch thickness

 7)Place bread on spatula, shrimp side down.

 8)Slide bread into boiling oil CAREFULLY (it will splatter if you drop it from too high).

 9)Cook 2 minutes per side, or until lightly golden, then drain on paper towel.

10)Eat this golden piece of toast, incredibly crunchy but not at all hard. Topped with a springy, firm layer of sweet and salty shrimp, laced with the heat of ginger, the fragrance of cilantro and the zing of garlic, this is might be my new favorite way to eat shrimp. I like mine with a dipping sauce made of 1/2 soy, 1/2 rice wine vinegar and a few diced Serrano chiles, but you might like yours plain. Or you might like yours with a spritz of lime and a few water chestnuts.  And if you don’t like yours…
send them to me.
And I’m sorry you have no taste buds. 

Chinese Chicken Salad Wraps

Inspired by my awesome salad at Wolfgang Puck’s, I knew that I would have to enjoy it at home. 
I mean, I’m not saying I’m as great as Wolfgang, but I can hold my own at copying or adapting a recipe. 
Just look at these Chinese Chicken Salad Wraps.
First step – let’s poach that chicken! I used chicken thighs and breasts, but you can use one or the other if you prefer. Just make sure that the chicken is bone in, which will result in the most flavorful chicken.
I started with 1 carton of beef broth, because I love the deep, iron-y umami taste of beef. Feel free to use whatever stock you have on hand. Add about 1/2 a cup of soy sauce to the liquid. Set that to boil along with…

 A few cloves of fragrant star anise (do NOT leave this out – it lends an unmistakably Chinese taste to the chicken),

a pinch of ground ginger (or knob of fresh, if you have it),

 1 quartered onion, a few smashed cloves of garlic, and the (cleaned) stems of cilantro, whose leaves you will use later.

 Just set this pot to boil for at least 30 minutes, though an hour is better – the flavors will just intensify as it boils. When you are ready, just plop the chicken in and turn the heat down until the broth is just simmering, NOT boiling. This will ensure that the chicken cooks slowly and evenly. Poaching results in incredibly juicy and tender chicken, and boiling often renders it too tough.

It is done when the juices run clear when pierced with the fork – probably not more than 20 minutes, if you have a great stove, longer if you have a worse one (oh, New York kitchens…we all hate you). Strain the soup so all you have is the broth. You can toss the veggies, but SAVE THE BROTH! You will use it momentarily!
Set the chicken aside to cool momentarily while you make the dressing:

 You want to use whatever citrus you have lying around, but you at least need a lime. Lime has a certain acidity that really brings this salad to life. Use oranges, tangerines, clementines for the rest of the juice, but you need at least one lime. We used tangelos – they are sweet like tangerines but as big as oranges and with less seeds.

 So yes…you will need 2 cups total of citrus juice.

 Add to that about 1/2 a cup of rice wine vinegar,

 1 cup of sesame oil (not the hot kind, this time…the heat comes later),

 about a tablespoon of ponzu flavored soy sauce (it’s worth it to buy this citrus flavored soy if you haven’t yet. It will absolutely CHANGE YOUR LIFE),

 and  about 3 Tbls. of Hoisin sauce. This is a sweet, thick Chinese condiment that is the equivalent of Chinese BBQ sauce. I have yet to meet anyone who doesn’t become an instant fan of it. Whisk the dressing until smooth, then take the skin off the cooled chicken and shred it off the bone.

Let the chicken absorb the marinade – while it is warm or room temperature, the meat will absorb the most flavor.

 Now, take your package of rice noodles. These are the things that pad thai are made out of, and though you could use cappellini or bean thread noodles, these have the nicest, springy texture. You could even use fried wontons if you want, but, what the heck…I love a noodle!

 Here is where the broth comes into play. Boil the noodles until al dente, and they will absorb all the deep, salty, fragrant flavors of the broth.

Then drain ‘em and then you can throw the broth if you want (but I never would! That makes for some great eating!!)

I know it’s been awhile, but lunch is almost ready!

 Now you just cut up a couple of bell peppers. Any color will do, just be sure that you get a pepper that is shiny, smells fresh and a bit fruity and is firm with no wrinkles.

 Lop of the top and bottom,

 cut off the walls of the pepper, and slice them into thin strips. Be sure to only get the colored parts of the pepper, none of the white membrane.

 And then just prepare the other veggies and herbs. We used cukes, scallions, peppers, cilantro, bean sprouts and pea shoots. Use whatever you want, but these are the best ones. Trust me.
My blog, my rules.

Now make your wraps! The chicken is moist and fragrant, the noodles are chewy and bouncy and the vegetables add crunch while the cilantro adds that hit of freshness. Topped off with the garlicky tingle of Sriracha and another dollop of that sweet Hoisin sauce, and this is a meal that anyone would enjoy. 
Even Wolfgang Puck. 

Chinese Mirch – Fusion Flare

Chinese Mirch is unusual. It is a strand of Chinese cuisine that is fused with Indian flavors. 
I like Chinese food.
I like Indian food.
Did I like Chinese Mirch?
I liked how casual but still elegant it looked.

I liked the soy, samabl olek and pickled chilis at the table.

I mean, I REALLY liked those pickled chilis. Tangy, crisp, and spicy enough to bring a tear to my eye, but not incendiary enough to make me cry. Perfect.

Gobi Manchurian – cauliflower florets tossed in fresh ginger, 
garlic, onion seasoning.
Well, this is just the BEST DAMN CAULIFLOWER ON THE FACE OF THE PLANET. And I know, because I have tried almost every cauliflower on the face of the planet. Perfectly coked cauliflower, tender but not mushy, with a crisp, greasless exterior, laced with sweet onions, bracing ginger and the spiciest chilis imaginable. A bit of fragrant cilantro added an almost gentle freshness to it. The amazing thing is how unsalty this was – there was nothing heavy or sodium laden about it. It was just crispy, tender, spicy, herby goodness. I liked it.
 Honestly…my dining mate, Sarah, almost wouldn’t let me order this, because she “doesn’t like cauliflower.”
Well then how come, after she tasted it, she offered to PAY me if she could take the extra cauliflower home???
Don’t worry…I totally made her pay me for 

Chicken lollipop, spicy pulled back winglets .
These were like less salty versions of Bon Chon. Crisp, fatty, juicy, with spicy and sweet sauces for dipping. Not too spicy for those who don’t like heat, and for those who do, those pickled chilis really enhance the chicken’s natural sweetness and taste. 
I liked them. 

Mirch 65 – chicken spiked with curry leaves and red hot chilies.
Now, this got the spiciest level of heat warning on the menu…I was really expecting to have my face blown off. But…meh. It was good, don’t get me wrong - tender chicken, sweet peppers and caramelized onions. IT was salty with soy, pungent with garlic and fragrant with curry leaves. But did you see what I was missing there? HEAT. That lip blistering, brow sweating, I think I am going to die right here HEAT! 
So…even though I liked it…for the purposes of this review…
I didn’t like it.
But, see, I hate to end the review that way! Because, really, I did like the restaurant! The chicken wings were delicious and the cauliflower BLEW my MIND. Even the chicken was really quite good, just not quite what I wanted. I like Chinese Mirch enough to go back and try something else – making sure it is REALLY spicy.
Because, when it comes to Chinese Mirch…
I like it! 
Chinese Mirch on Urbanspoon

Szechuan Gourmet-It’s Getting Hot in Here!

The definition of a masochist is someone who enjoys being punished.  Though I don’t go in for the whips and ball gags, there is a certain part of me that enjoys being in pain.  That seeks out  an activity that makes me cry a little.  That longs for the euphoric high that only a true, deep hurt brings.
Yes, folks, I am talking about super spicy food.  Like the kind brought on from the divinely spicy Szechuan cuisine served at Szechuan Gourmet.  This isn’t the Americanized broccoli beef you get elsewhere.  It isn’t even Cantonese.  No, this is the real McCoy tongue tingling, nose running, mouth on fire Szechuan cuisine that sends me through the roof.  And the stuff served at Szechuan Gourmet is WAY above par.

Hot and Sour soup.  This was the only let down of the meal.  Not particularly hot or sour, and with a slightly viscous texture that reminded me of mucus, this soup really had nothing to to lend to the palate.

Spicy cucumber salad.  Oh Creator of All That is Holy, this is the most insanely delicious cucumber dish I have ever had in my LIFE!!! Thickly cut cukes, marinated in  chili oil that was to create a dish that was warming, deep, only vaguely spicy, and refreshing.  You might think this would be oily, but it instead came off as light.  Even people wary of spice could enjoy this-and ONLY this.  Because coming up next…

is the Stir Fried Fresh Pork Belly with Leeks and Chili.  Is there anything lovelier to read on a menu than “pork belly”?  Oh yes…pork belly with leeks and chili.  Yeah  that’s better.  Fatty, unctuous pork belly that seeped sweet porcine fat tempered by meltingly tender leeks and a few spicy chilis.  This dish was spicy enough to get my lips tingling but not enough to make my eyes tear.

Wok Fried Chicken with Green and Dried Chiles.  Ok, this is where the LOOOOVE started.  Smokey, garlicky, greaseless chicken mixed with lightly spicy green chiles, and red chiles so hot that when I popped them in my mouth, the corners of my lips turned red and raw.  The combination of meat and earth, of smokey and spicy, of hot and pungent, was more than I could bear.  Even as my nose ran and my eyes teared, I ate piece after piece of burning hot protein, tearing into the sweet green and hot red chiles.  This was an incendiary and outstanding dish.

We also tried the Shredded Chicken with Spicy Garlic Sauce.  The chicken cut with a spoon-it was almost velvety in texture.  The sauce was thick but not gloopy, strewn with sharp scallions and those hellacious, wonderful peppers.  The garlic sauce was extraordinary-sweet instead of bracing, with a soft and umami filled taste.  It contrasted so well with the spicy peppers and that  tender chicken.  It was my favorite dish of the day.

As my dad would say: “They don’t have to run this one through the dishwasher”.  
Szechuan Gourmet is really a heck of a restaurant.  It’s cheap, it’s fast, and the food is freakin’ amazing.  What can I say?  The more it hurts…the more I want it.
Szechuan Gourmet on Urbanspoon