I wanted to go to Gene’s Chinese Flatbread Cafe for lunch yesterday, but they are closed on Mondays, so my wife suggested we go to Sichuan Gourmet instead. I didn’t need my arm twisted.
Sichuan Gourmet has a specials menu that changes up from time to time, and I think this is the first time we’d ever seen hand-pulled noodles on their menu. I was primed for noodles, so I ordered the hand-pulled noodles with lamb (pork intestines being the other meat option), and Bridget ordered “sweet-and-spicy”. The waiter pointed out to her that her choice was a “two-pepper” dish (everything at SG comes in either HOT or VERY HOT), but she waved him off because we know how spicy the food is.
I’m not sure that I believe that the noodles I got were hand-pulled, because they seemed a lot like regular wide noodles to me, but maybe that’s just the differene between Sichuan-style and Xi’an-style (the noodles we get at Gene’s). The dish was decidely Sichuan, though. Plenty of Sichuan peppercorns, and a thin, peppery sauce filled with chopped red chilies. It also had several whole baby bok choy in it, and thinly-sliced lamb. It was really good, but I think I like the thick noodles and heavy garlic of the Xi’an noodles a little bit better.
Another one of my favorite dishes from Sichuan Gourmet is this dish of Chinese cabbage in chili sauce. Though they have a “spicy” icon next to it on the menu, it is actually not all that spicy compared to things like the Ma Po Tofu I posted the other day. It is incredibly well-balanced; a little sweet, a little savory, a little spicy. It’s a great thing to have alongside dishes that are a lot hotter, or dishes that are mild. My wife prefers to get dishes without meat, so we ordered this one time as a compromise and we both like it so much that we order it every time now.
Ma Po Tofu is one of my favorite Sichuan dishes, and nobody makes it better than a local restaurant chain called Sichuan Gourmet. We’ve been going to a couple of their locations for many years, and I would put it up against the best Chinese restaurants you care to name anywhere in the U.S. I don’t think we’ve ever been to one or the other when the place wasn’t packed to the gills, mainly with Chinese ex-pats who live in the area, enjoying authentic versions of Sichuan cuisine.
Ma Po Tofu is essentially soft tofu cubes and minced meat (beef or pork) in a searingly hot sauce of doubanjiang and douchi, with Sichuan peppercorns. It’s actually not complicated to make at all, provided that you have the right ingredients. I bought the ingredients at C-Mart in Boston Chinatown, but have seen them at H-Mart as well, and they’re not hard to find online. I used the recipe from SoupedupRecipes.com (one of my favorite YouTube cooking channels). Her recipe was too hot for me, so I dialed it down a bit when I made it at home, and it was still too hot for my wife. Similarly, Sichuan Gourmet does not hold back on the spice unless you ask. I’ve wised up and just bring a towel when we go, to wipe the sweat off my face while enjoying this excellent dish.