So Spicy That It’s Numbing, and That’s a Good Thing! (Sichuanese Cuisine)

5 Jul

Now that I’m satisfied with a couple of good choices for authentic Cantonese cuisine in Dallas (First Chinese BBQ & New San Dor), two worthwhile dim sum places (Maxim’s and Kirin Court), and a decent dumpling house (Jeng Chi), it is time to explore other realms of Chinese cuisine in DFW.  At the other end of the flavor spectrum lies my next adventure, Sichuan cuisine.  Almost all westernized Chinese restaurants serve primarily Cantonese cuisine or some adaptation of it.  Thus we’re easily accustomed to the often sweet, mildly spiced (almost always with ginger), and seafood-heavy dishes served at authentic Cantonese restaurants.  Sichuan cuisine is not mild, is rarely sweet, and is more beef-heavy than any other form of Chinese cuisine.  It is defined by the wide use of the Sichuan peppercorn, whose spice is not only fiery, but numbing.  A common sauce made from the peppercorn is called “ma-la”, which in Chinese literally translates to “ma” for numbing and “la” for spicy.

I’ve had a couple of encounters with Sichuan cuisine in DFW.  Jeng Chi’s menu contains some Sichuan dishes, most notably the water-boiled beef.  The new Asia World shopping center at Legacy and 75 also has a Sichuan restaurant (can’t recall the name, sorry) that serves up traditional dishes.  However, my visit to Sichuanese Cuisine (northwest corner of Coit & Park in Plano) blows the other two restaurants out of the water with raw authenticity and bold flavors.

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Yes, it’s another strip mall restaurant that is easily missed unless you’re hunting for it.  Sichuanese Cuisine actually started in Seattle with two locations in that area, and for whatever reason, has opened their third location in Plano.  The menu is tricky.  You have to sort through all the generic westernized dishes like Broccoli Beef and General Tsao’s Chicken to find the authentic Sichuan hidden gems.  Most of these dishes are under the “House Specialty” section of the menu with a few scattered in the other more generic sections.

The restaurant was packed with Asian faces on this Saturday lunch.  With a party of four, we decided on the water-boiled beef (hidden under the generic “Beef” entrees section with items you’ll likely want to pass on like Beef Broccoli and Mongolian Beef), twice cooked pork, and a Sichuan pickled vegetable and cellophane noodle hot pot.  Service was a bit slow with a fully packed restaurant.  We were presented with complimentary Sichuan pickled cabbage (spicy and sour!) to whet our appetites while we waited.  When the dishes finally came out, they were worth every second of the wait.

Twice Cooked Pork:

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Twice Cooked Pork is first boiled then shallow fried in oil, hence the name.  This version came with quick stir fried cabbage, onion, and leek (some versions will also include bell pepper).  The pork slices are rib steak meat, meaning they are fatty.  I had to pump myself up with some adventurous bravery in order to try my first bite of this dish, seeing the glistening fat trimming the edges of the pork.  I was glad I did though.  The pork slices were tender with the fatty edges being just slightly crunchy from the shallow frying.  And they were spicy!  As one of my dining companions noted, “it’s like spicy bacon, who wouldn’t love that?”  I wouldn’t say the texture is exactly like bacon, but I can understand the sentiment.

Sichuan Picked Vegetable and Cellophane Noodle Hotpot:

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Sichuan pickled vegetable, or zha tsai, is made from the stem of a subspecies of mustard greens.  It is dried, rubbed with chile, and fermented in clay earthenware.  It has a crunchy, somewhat fiberous consistency, almost like a turnip.  This hot pot dish extracts the flavor from the pickled vegetable into the broth and contrasts the crunchy vegetables chunks nicely with the minced pork and cellophane noodles, all of which are, of course, numbingly spicy with Sichuan peppercorn flavor.

Water-Boiled Beef:

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Listed on the menu in English as “Hot and Spicy Beef (Sichuan Style),” this dish is usually prepared  by first boiling the corn-starch covered beef for a short while (not too long otherwise it will lose the tenderness), then draining the meat and placing it on top of the veggies (usually napa cabbage like in this case, sometimes bok choy), then pouring hot oil seasoned with spices over the meat and veggies for an “out of the pan” frying experience.  The meat is always incredibly tender in this dish.  I actually prefer Jeng Chi’s version of water-boiled beef because it is spicier, with a lower “ma,” or numbing, factor.  But that is personal preference only.  This version was still impressive and well received by the table.

With awesomely spicy, numbing, authentic Sichuan dishes ranging from $6 to $10, I will be revisiting this bargain hole-in-the-wall again.  I hope the service improves when the restaurant loses its “newness,” but I also hope the bold flavors and raw authenticity aren’t toned down with time.  Ready for a new kind of Chinese cuisine outside of BBQ pork and sizzling seafood (not that I don’t love those things too)?  Try Sichuanese Cuisine and explore a new world of Chinese food. 

Rating: 3 / 5

Sichuanese Cuisine
2001 Coit Rd
Plano, TX 75075

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11 Responses to “So Spicy That It’s Numbing, and That’s a Good Thing! (Sichuanese Cuisine)”

  1. luniz 07/05/2007 at 2:04 pm #

    was it family style? did you happen to notice if they do take out?

  2. donnaaries 07/05/2007 at 2:16 pm #

    Yes, food was served family style. Didn’t notice any takeout orders while I was eating. Although I don’t see why they wouldn’t do it since the menu and phone numbers are posted on the website.

  3. Kirk 07/06/2007 at 9:28 am #

    Thanks for this recommendation, Donna. I have been looking for good Szechuan food in this area for a long time.

  4. Rodney 07/06/2007 at 12:56 pm #

    Great writeup Donna. I have been trying to convince my lunch mates to give it a try for months. Hopefully this will convince them.

    Rodney

  5. Kirk 07/06/2007 at 1:59 pm #

    Stopped by today for lunch, and have a couple of early comments:

    1. It is at Coit and Park (not Parker), in the same strip center as Elliot’s Hardware.

    2. The food we tried was good, and the service was decent today (even though there was no staff in the front of the house for the first five minutes we were there), but I was a bit put off by the lack of cleanliness. There was a self-serve salad and soup “buffet” at lunchtime with circling flies and grimy dishes. The whole place could use a serious clean-up and new paint.

    It would be a shame for people to be put off by something that good management could easily rectify this early in the restaurant’s new incarnation.

  6. donnaaries 07/06/2007 at 3:06 pm #

    Oops, sorry about the location error. I was thinking it was across the street from First Chinese when it is really across the street from the Supermarket. Thanks Kirk.

    Didn’t see a buffet there when I was there that Saturday. Must be a weekday lunch thing.

  7. Kirk 07/06/2007 at 4:03 pm #

    Thank you, Donna, for the recommendation. I will definitely be back to try more dishes. Today’s entrees were twice-cooked pork and pork with Szechuan preserved vegetables.

    Our server recommended the spicy fish for our next visit.

  8. donnaaries 08/16/2007 at 7:01 am #

    Went back last night for dinner and the restaurant was packed full (on a weeknight!). They were really short-handed and service was EXTREMELY slow. We actually gave up on trying to get the check and just left cash at the table. Twice cooked pork was still excellent but Sichuan Beef wasn’t very spicy. I’m looking for this dry, crispy beef that is coated in dried Sichuan peppers but unable to express as such to the waitress… anyone else know what dish I’m talking about?

  9. donnaaries 08/05/2008 at 1:04 pm #

    Had lunch at Sichuanese today. I didn’t realize their self-service “salad” bar had homemade Sichuanese pickled veggies. Good stuff.

    Also, answering my own question I posted last year, Little Sichuan in Plano has the dry sauteed beef I’m referring to in the previous comment.

  10. donnaaries 10/16/2008 at 11:42 am #

    Ordered takeout from Sichuanese for dinner last night (I’m not a fan of their less than squeaky clean dining room), had an excellent eggplant dish with ground pork covered in Sichuan red peppers and drenched in chili oil. Oddly, it wasn’t under the “house specialties” portion of the menu, but was rather hidden next to the generic pork and broccoli and such dishes as “Eggplant with Pork.”

  11. Dave 01/25/2009 at 3:17 pm #

    “First of all I will say that the food is ok. But I would not recommend this restaurant. First the people are very rude. The first time I went into Sichuanese the people were very rude and I thought ok this is my first time in maybe they are just having a bad day. I have been back several times and every time they have been very rude. Last time I was in I placed and order and was standing at the check out counter waiting for my takeout order and the management was very rude telling me that they do not like people to stand and wait for the order and that I should call for delivery and she gave me there take out menu. Today I call and I am placing a delivery order. First off the lady said no you have to come pick it up and I reminded her what she had told me last time in and she said oh ya that right what you like to order. I placed my order for Mongolian beef that normally come to about 12.00 when I go in and pick it up. She tell me no she cant deliver had to be 15.00 minimum. I reminded the menu she gave me last time in states 10.00 minimum. She said yes I know but we do not like to deliver today so if you want something you must order at least 15.00. Like I said their food is ok but not any better than I have eaten at other establishments. The only reason for eating there to begin with is because it is very close to home and convenient. I do not recommend this place at all unless you enjoy being treated like crap while spending your hard earned money.”

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