Thursday, October 1, 2009

Fiery Cuisine

I think Sichuan food can only be described as fiery.

The Chinese would describe Sichuan food as 麻辣 (mala), which means spicy hot in a numbing manner. You will understand why "numbing" if you try Sichuan food. They often contain an ingredient called 麻椒 (majiao), which is sometimes also called Sichuan pepper. It is not spicy hot actually.. but gives a numbing feeling to the tongue. In English, I find no good word that explains 麻辣 in a more appropriate way than "fiery"

2 Sichuan dishes that I like have interesting names.

The first is 水煮鱼 (shuizhuyu), which literally translates to "Water-boiled Fish". You won't see any water when the dish is served though. It is actually fish boiled in water and drowned in a LOT of chilli oil. The chillis are usually removed at your table by the staff. If you like it even spicier, you can request for the chillis to be removed later... (Not advised)

The fish is very tender because of the way it is cooked and even though it may seem very oily, because you kind of have to "fish" it out of the chilli oil, it's actually okay. Just avoid the odd Sichuan pepper still in the dish.

The second dish is 口水鸡 (koushuiji), which literally means "Saliva Chicken". Doesn't sound good but it is really just steamed chicken with a really spicy mix of chillis, peanuts and assorted spices. Very simple but good. It is usually served as a cold dish.. although there is nothing "cold" about it.

Sichuan food is gaining popularity all across China now.. and even though I didn't really appreciate it as much in the beginning, but over time, I'm really getting quite hooked on it and would request to go to a Sichuan restaurant whenever I visit Beijing.

This last trip, we went to a popular restaurant to satisfy my cravings.

Address: 东城区建国门内大街7号长安大戏院1楼
Telephone: +86-10-65171012

"Water-boiled fish" - No water in sight.. 

Delicious cold dishes.
Any dish you see with chilli will be spicy hot and numbing.
The "Saliva Chicken" is the one at the bottom right.

Prawns in chilli oil - can't see the prawns, right?
They are under the chillis. Surprisingly, this dish is not as spicy as it looks.

Super spicy frogs. I tried one and stopped at that.
Not just because it's frogs.. but it's so so spicy!

One of the few non-spicy dishes at the table. Home-made tofu.
Goes really well with spicy food. It kind of "relieves" your tongue a bit from all that spiciness

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