Rules for ordering Sichuan food

| food | china | family |

We had such a disappointing lunch the other day at a restaurant in Culver City that serves a combination of dim sum and for some reason Sichuan food. The place is all dolled up in Sichuan opera themed tableware and other pastiche. That should have been a red flag.

We saw boiled beef on the menu and both remembered how delicious that dish was the last time we had it. We were gathered around the family table in Nanchong and the entire house filled with the seductive aroma of facing heaven chilies and Sichuan peppercorn oil as Aosheng’s dad put on the finishing touches on this dish. Every bite was better than the last. It created a permanent food memory for me.

I was hoping to recreate a tiny bit of that here, but it failed on so many levels. First, they either forgot the peppercorn oil, or used a batch that lost all of its flavor because you could not taste it at all. This is the part that gives you that satisfying numbing sensation. Next, they used the wrong chilies. I am not sure what kind they were specifically but the flavor profile was closer to what you would get in the spicy sauce at chipotle than what you would taste at a hot pot restaurant. The end result was some bland beef in a flavorless broth. It was depressing because of how far off the mark it was. It just made us miss Sichuan that much more.

To help others avoid this mistake, here are some ground rules on ordering Sichuan food at a restaurant.

  1. If it does not smell like Chongqing when you enter the restaurant, DON’T DO IT.
  2. If there is dimsum on the menu, DON’T DO IT.
  3. If you see a vegan menu. DON’T DO IT.

P.S. Thank you to Nathan for helping me a find a typo in this post.

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