March 15, 2009

A spicy affair

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I'm normally not a big fan of spicy food, and given that wine forms a large part of my dining experiences, I naturally tend to steer clear of cuisines that don't work well with wine. Last night I met up with someone who has just arrived from Japan who requested spicy food for dinner. Since we were catching a movie in Kowloon after dinner, I decided to give Yunyan Szechuan Restaurant (雲陽閣川菜舘) a try.

Of course everything was gonna be spicy tonight, and we started with crispy chicken with spicy dried red chillies and Szechuan peppercorns. Eh? What happened to the starter that we ordered? Shouldn't that have come first? Oh well... I should remember that I'm in Hong Kong and restaurants don't care much for serving dishes in the proper order... Anyway, the chicken was good - a plate-ful of chillies and actually more chicken cubes than I expected. I tried to make this a bit less lethal by shaking off some of the pepper seeds, but that only had limited effect. Eventually the numbing effects of the Szechuan peppercorns (花椒) got to me, and my mouth started to water...

The starter of sliced pork with spicy tasty garlic soya sauce and tossed flat pea noodle (蒜泥白肉) arrived, giving us a welcome respite from the chillis. This was nice and actually a bit sweeter than expected.

A big pot of mapo tofu (痲婆豆腐) arrived and it was time to get some rice. This was REALLY spicy, but sooo good. I ignored my now burning tongue and kept shoving more of this down...

The stewed eggplant with garlic and chilli (魚香茄子) was different from what I've had before. There was a distinct sour taste to this, and I knew it wasn't because it had gone bad. A careful look reveals small, soggy grains which were most certainly fermented rice (酒釀). I've tasted the dish with a bit of alcohol added before, but this one has got to be the strongest in terms of the taste.

Finally we had the steamed spicy chilli rice flour spare-ribs with taro and sweet potato in bamboo cage (原籠粉蒸排骨). I wasn't a big fan of this today. Somehow I felt that the rice flour wasn't done the way I liked it - it was all too mashed together and I preferred to see individual grains. But taste-wise there was no problem and I only wish I had more room to fit the food.

Overall this was a pretty good meal, though it did take my tastes buds out of commission for a few hours... Interestingly the restaurant was given "Bib Gourmand" status by the people at Michelin, and judging by the size of our bill I can certainly vouch for that!

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