We sniffled. We teared. We sweated, fanned our mouths, and we coughed. But did our chopsticks stop moving? No they did not. Last night my friends Marnie, Alejandro and I were introduced to the fiery world of Szechuan cuisine, and while it was spicy as all get-out, it was also rather addicting.
Golden Szechuan on No. 3 Road was my first real foray into Szechuan cooking, and it’s a space with a ceiling so high, you have to drop your head back just to see the red lanterns hanging from it. The atmosphere is refined, with plenty of large tables and a few 4-tops for smaller groups like us.
The menus, tall and important-looking, matched the ceiling well. They held an intimidating number of dishes, and we went to Urbanspoon for help. Eventually we settled on the Sliced Pork on Bamboo ($15.95), the Boiled Lamb and Cumin ($14.95), the Szechuan Tan Tan Noodles ($5.50), the Free Range Spicy Chicken ($19.95), and the Fried Chinese Bread ($2.95). There were plenty of other things I would have liked to try, and I knew this place was legit when we saw cow hoof on the menu. Yes, it is very hoof-like, but more importantly, check out how spicy that looks!
When I saw a picture of this dish online, I knew I had to have it. There are few times in your life when you’re presented with the opportunity to eat meat draped over a bamboo rack, but when they do arise, you must seize them! With vigour! Marnie aptly described this dish as “a carnivore’s laundry.”
The streaky slices of pork appeared to be strips of bacon, however it was white-ish, not pink. Perhaps it was steamed? While the colour was a little off-putting to our traditional bacon sensibilities, we were too caught up in the dish’s extravagance to care. We removed pieces of pork with their neighbouring slices of cucumber, rolled them up, and dipped them in the sauce.
All in one bite there was crunch, fat, lean meat, and heat. While it wasn’t my favourite dish of the night, the novelty of this carnivore’s laundry was worth it for sure!
The stew-like Boiled Lamb with Cumin featured a number of Szechuan culinary characteristics; it was spicy with chili and peppercorns, very oily, and had boiled meat. The cumin flavour was sweet and strong, and when I bit into a peppercorn, the flavour lingered for minutes within my cheeks. Honestly, this dish was too spicy for me, but Alejandro and Marnie could handle it. If you like cumin and lamb, give it a try.
As usual, the tan tan noodles were a crazy-big hit; they’re were a little homely in appearance – pale noodles topped with a smattering of ground pork, sauce, and crunchy soy nuts – but once they were stirred up, there was no stopping us.
These were spicier than most of the other tan tan noodles I’ve had in Richmond but equally as addicting, and I think we easily could have eaten two bowls.
In addition to the lamb we also wanted a chicken dish, but our server seemed downright un-enthusiastic about their Chinese Restaurant Award-winning dish, Steamed Chicken with Chili & Fagara. He said something like “that was a long time ago…,” and if a server’s not enthusiastic about a dish, neither am I. So we went with the Spicy Free-Range Chicken instead. It came beautifully presented – a puzzle of chicken arranged in red, spicy oil and topped with peanuts.
The dish was served cold, and while I’m still not a fan of uncrispy chicken skin, the meat below it was moist and flavourful. The nuts soaked up the oil and made for a satisfying crunch, and I can say this was the first time I genuinely enjoyed a cold, boiled chicken dish.
Anytime the heat became a little too much, when we felt like the inside of our mouths had been rubbed with a burning handful of cayenne-dusted Scotch bonnets, we grabbed a piece of deep-fried bread.
Not only did it quell the sweat-inducing heat, but it was SO GOOD – crunchy on the outside and soft and sweet on the inside, like a donut. To make it that much better, it was served with a side of sweetened and condensed milk for dipping.
9/10 doctors recommend donuts dipped in sweet milk as the best remedy for a mouth-on-fire. There have been studies.
It may have been painful (for me) at times, but we enjoyed our dinner. It was an adventure! I’m no Szechuan expert, so I can’t compare this (yet) to other Szechuan restaurants, but I’ll happily accept any and all advice regarding this cuisine in Richmond. Or heck, the world for that matter!
Also, I put Marnie and Alejandro to work last night. They’re a competitive and creative pair, so I’ve faced them off against one another in the Great Richmond Food Adjective-Off, 2012. It’s tough for me to come up with hundreds of alternatives to the word “delicious,” so they’re going to do it for me. We started filming last night, and will continue to do so the next time they join me for a meal. Stay tuned.
In the meantime, here’s just how much Alejandro enjoyed his meal. Anyone able to translate?