Back from London and tired from bland British food, Hope had only one request when I asked her where she wanted to go out for lunch. “I need some SPICE!”, she pleaded. Somehow I managed to convince Hope and Davis to wake up early on a cold day and venture into the inner depths of Queens for a taste of Sichuan cuisine.
I wanted to ensure a good meal for their inaugural visit to Flushing, so I consulted with our friend Gary for some recommendations. “What should I order?” I texted him. An hour later, I got an email listing with instructions on what to order, divided into “cold apps” and “main dishes”. One of the main dishes included one that was mysteriously called “enhanced pork”, which we sadly didn’t order. I guess that’s for next time. Just as I was closing the email, my eyes caught a glimpse of the last sentence — a few words of caution indicated by an asterisk:
*beware of the stinky tofu! smells like someone stepped in dog shit
Taking Gary’s suggestions — and warning — into consideration, we picked out a bunch of dishes to try and share. We started out with some cold appetizers, which were laid out in the display case towards the front of the restaurant. This part of the ordering process was easy. I simply pointed and said “this one” with my limited Mandarin vocabulary.
Having grown up eating beef ligaments with hot chili oil, a staple at restaurants serving Northern Chinese cuisine, I am accustomed to the texture and taste of them. Served cold with a dense but chewy texture, the beef tendon accompanied by chili oil is not immediately spicy, although if you start eating mouthfuls of tendon the spiciness can start to creep up on you. Although I’ve grown to like this taste and texture, Hope and Davis were not as fond of it, admitting that this was their least favorite dish.
The dry sauteed stringbeans were stir-fried in super high heat from wok cooking, (in Chinese the term is literally translated into “wok air”) browning the garlic and creating had a crisp crunchy exterior while maintaining the beans’ juiciness.
Submerged in a healthy amount of chili oil and fresh chilies, the fish fillet in fresh hot pepper was perfectly cooked and spiced with plenty of Sichuan peppers and spices. Most of the hot chilies were hidden in the middle of the dish, which were intended to be stirred in. Instead, we just worked our way towards the middle, each piece getting hotter and hotter.
Sichuan spiciness is different from that of salsa or curry, so even the spicier middle parts of the dish were not painfully spicy. Rather, these dishes are mildly hot and flavorfully spicy, which will at most make you feel a bit flushed and produce a few drops of perspiration but not dole out a full, mouth-on-fire sensation like that of strong Indian curries such as Vindaloo.
Last but not least were the peanut butter sweet sticky rice balls — a special request by Hope, who immediately was drawn to the peanut butter component (this came as no surprise; some of our favorite snacks freshman year consisted of bananas smothered with spoonfuls of peanut butter. Yes, I had a wholesale-sized jar of Skippy peanut butter from Costco).
Although I am a seasoned eater of sticky rice balls and a self-professed lover of all things made from glutinous rice, I somehow encountered more difficulty eating them than both Hope and Davis. Simply put, laughing and eating is a lethal combination. In this case, it resulted in a black sesame explosion that spilled into my spoon and onto my face.
Spicy & Tasty
37-09 Prince Street, 1H
Flushing, NY 11354