Friday, January 30, 2009

Drive-by, January 30, 2009

Mexico To Go on Michigan Avenue closed a while ago, but there is a sign in the window that looks like it says "Coming Soon - Taqueria (something)".

Tuesday, January 27, 2009

Hong Kong Sichuan -- Even More Heavenly Dishes

Before I continue my tour of the menu at Hong Kong Sichuan Food, a note about the Lazi Chicken that we haven't tried yet. Fuschia Dunlop mentions this dish in her blog. I definitely want to try this soon.

Aside from the wontons I mentioned last time, you might start your meal with a noodle salad.

Z01Sichuan Noodle Salad
Spicy, tasty. The sharp and earthy flavors of many Sichuan dishes, red and black pepper, toasted garlic. The Spicy Chicken Salad (Z04) has similar flavors as the Sichuan Noodle salad, but with sliced chicken and more green onions.

Z07 Shredded Vegetables Salad
Tofu and veggies with cellophane noodles in a salty tangy sauce. I think overall I like this one a little better, but it depends on what else I'm ordering. If I plan on ordering a lot of spicy dishses, I go for this one. If I am ordering less spicy entrees, the Sichuan or Spicy Chicken is a good starter.

M26 Ziran Lamb (Muslim Lamb with Cumin)
There is a lot of middle-eastern influence in Muslim areas of China - kabobs, flat breads, lamb dishes. Sichuan does not have a large Muslim population, but neighboring Hunan does at least a little, and this is a common dish. It's lamb, stirfried with green peppers and onions and seasoned with a lot of cumin. Cumin is the spice that gives chili powder and taco seasoning that unique flavor. It's common in the middle east and India, and is quite strong in this dish.

M37 Crispy Eggplant with Hot and Sweet Sauce
This one is addictive. Thin sticks of eggplant are battered in a thick but fluffy batter and deep fried, then served with the "hot and sweet sauce". The batter is not at all dense, and this dish is just plain luxurious.

The "hot and sweet sauce" isn't actually hot at all. It's got garlic and maybe ginger in it. It's similar to another famous Sichuan sauce that you may already be familiar with under the name "garlic sauce." Odds are, if you order a broccholi in garlic sauce, the sauce will be yuxiang or "fish fragrant" sauce. (Which means it goes good with fish, the way steak sauce goes good with steak. It is not made of fish, nor does it have the fragrance of fish.) It's aromatic and a little sweet and sour, and very friendly to western tastes. The other eggplant dish comes with this sauce too, and there is a Yuxaing pork on the menu.

M04 Double-cooked Side Pork
If you've ever had Double-cooked Pork before, it probably was quite different than this. This is the authentic way to make the dish, and it is very very rich, and many Americans will find it too fatty.

It's made with side pork -- one of the cuts of pork from which you make bacon. This rich, melt-in-your-mouth cut is usually simmered to render out some of the fat, and then sliced and stir-fried. Hence the name "double-cooked".

M06 Steamed Side Pork in Soy Sauce (Button Pork)
This dish is also made with side pork, and it's a nice showy kind of dish you can nibble from. The Chinese characters for this dish are "button pork" and that probably refers to the way it is presented. A bowl is lined with slices of side pork, and then filled with salty preserved Sichuan vegetables. It's seasoned with soy sauce at some point, and then steamed. The bowl is then inverted and the dish is served like a "button" on a plate.

Button Pork a little salty and fatty for western tastes, especially as a main dish, but it's a great side dish, and surprisingly good for leftovers. It's so flavorful, you can just chop a little bit up and put it over rice to make a very tasty lunch.

I have not tried the Korean Noodle Soup, nor the main dish version of the Hot and Sour Soup -- but friends have and both are highly recommended. Both are spicy. The Korean soup is a seafood soup and friend noted that the squid was so perfectly cooked, it wasn't rubbery. That's noteworthy.

Hong Kong Sichuan Restaurant, 315 S. Homer St. (south of Frandor, near Kalamazoo St -- behind Bake n Cakes), Lansing Mi. (517) 332-5333.

Read previous reviews of heavenly dishes at Hong Kong Sichuan:

Heavenly Sichuan Food
Hong Kong Sichuan, More Heavenly Dishes

Monday, January 26, 2009

Lion Dance at Golden Wok

Gung Hay Fat Choy!

Happy Chinese New Year. It's the year of the earth cow! Golden Wok had a performance of a lion dance this weekend, and we were lucky enough to have made a reservation for other reasons. Here's some video.

See you tomorrow for more Sichuan dishes....

Tuesday, January 20, 2009

Posting Schedule

Watch for new posts on Tuesdays for the time being.

I've been doing some blog housekeeping. I have fixed a few things about the Google id that owns this blog. (Unfortunately I can't seem to fix the fact that it now claims that all the old posts were authored by "pitchlady" which is my script reading and synopsis service name. Sigh.)

Feedburner is now a part of Google, which may affect RSS and Atom feeds, however I suspect it won't be a problem for this blog. What might be more of a problem is that I hope to update the template to the new Blogger formats sometime soon. This will allow things like an "older posts" button at the bottom of the page.

I will warn people before I do anything drastic that might affect your subscriptions.

In the meantime, I have created a new blog for folks who want to learn more about Reading Chinese Menus. That blog will be much less demanding than this one, in terms of the preparation I need to do for each post, so in some ways, that's a reward for posting here. I'll post to that blog on Fridays.

Hong Kong Sichuan -- More Heavenly Dishes

We've been eating at Hong Kong Sichuan Restaurant regularly since they reopened as an authentic Sichuan place in November. At first they had their real food on separate menus from their Americanized dishes. At one point they even had three menus, one entirely in Chinese. I went to the trouble of translating the whole darn thing, and found that Calvin Trillin's assumption is correct: the best dishes were on the Chinese menu.

But the owners noticed that non-Chinese people were interested in the good food, so they now have a unified menu in English and Chinese. (They didn't translate a few dishes that westerners are highly unlikely to like, like certain dishes with blood cubes and tripe.) They also have a lunch buffet again, but I don't know if it's the same dishes they had before or not. I expect it is probably their more westernized dishes, but their buffet was always good before and I have no reason to think they aren't now.

I already told you about the MaPo Tofu and Green Bean with Pork.

N01 Pork Wonton with Spicy Sauce
These luscious wontons in a spicy Sichuan flavored soup is my favoriate takeout dish. These are, ironically, not as hot as "sichuan wontons" are in other restaurants around town. However, other places seem to just drown them in hot oil and maybe a little garlic. Here they are in a soup of many nice seasonings, like the Mapo Tofu I mentioned in the previous review. (It's about as hot as an average hot and sour soup in town, not the hottest.)

M09 Dry Stir-fried Beef
Spicy, salty with toasted garlic. The chunks of celery really go well with the flavors here.

M18 Jumbo Shrimp wth Sichuan Sauce (aka Tasty Shrimp, or "Strange Flavor" Shrimp)
"Sichuan Sauce" here is a very special sauce that translates something like "strange flavor", but what it means is more like "intriguing flavor". The point of this sauce is to balance all flavors lightly and perfectly -- sweet, sour, salt, hot and rich aroma.

IMPORTANT NOTE: authentically prepared shrimp dishes include shells and heads... and all the flavor in a dish like this tends to be on the shell. Therefore, if you don't want to eat the shell, ask that it be prepared without shells. This is true of the other jumbo shrimp dishes on the Authentic Chinese Dishes menu.

M20 Gongbo Chicken with Peanuts
I don't have a picture of this, which is too bad. This is the classic Sichuan Dish on which Kung Pow Chicken is based. Diced chicken and celery, with aromatic seasonings, stirfried with chunks of dried hot peppers and peanuts. Like other dishes here, this is more subtle and aromatic than the Kung Pow you'll find in your average midwestern Chinese restaurant. Since the spice resides mostly in the hunks of red pepper, you can modify the heat or not by eating them or leaving them. (And they add a great flavor.)

(On another note: another famous Sichuan dish is Lazi Chicken -- or spicy little chicken. Chunks of chicken, with bones in, seasoned and deep-fried and served with piles of dried peppers on top. The peppers are there for aroma and add some spicy oils to the chicken, but again, you don't have to eat them. We have NOT tried this dish here. The only caution for westerners, aside from the potential heat, is the tiny bits of bone in each piece. You probably can't get this dish without bones, but you could always ask.)

More dishes next week....

Hong Kong Sichuan Restaurant, 315 S. Homer St. (south of Frandor, near Kalamazoo St -- behind Bake n Cakes), Lansing Mi. (517) 332-5333.

Read more about those heavenly dishes at Hong Kong Sichuan at:

Heavenly Sichuan Food (previous post)
Hong Kong Sichuan, Even More Heavenly Dishes (next post)