My late Sichuanese grandmother grew up in possibly one of the largest ancient families in Sichuan. The house she was born in is now a historical site for tourists. I remember listening to her stories of eating swallow’s nests and bear’s paw like it was a fairy tale. She never ate anything too spicy, and as a result, my mother never cook anything spicy either.
Most people associate Sichuan food as spicy food. But I was told in the old times, way before the communist party took over China, spicy food was popular mainly with the working class. Only in the recent century did spicy food become a staple food in Sichuan.
Growing up in that kind of mindset though, I always expected spicy Sichuan food to be inexpensive. That’s until Sichuan cuisine became uber popular in the past decade, and all the “trendy” and “fusion” Sichuan restaurants started to pop up. In Hong Kong, I have been to many Sichuan restaurants, mostly overpriced, especially a few in Soho with rustic and fashionable décor but really bland food.
“How could Sichuan food be bland?” you ask, I know…that’s how bad it is!
One Sichuan restaurant that I would recommend is San Xi Lou on 51 Garden Road. It is not cheap (when I find that great and inexpensive Sichuan restaurant, I will be sure to let you know) but it is one of the reasonable ones. Don’t expect spectacular or ancient Chinese décor, the restaurant is plain and simple. The taste though, is hearty and authentic with none of the fusion nonsense. They offer not only typical Sichuanese dishes such as Husband and Wife’s Pork Lung Slices, Sichuan Water Boiled Fish, Chili Chicken, Twice Cooked Pork but also mala (numb and spicy) hotpot.
When you are in the mood for some Spicy food, a meal at San Xi Lou will sure send your palates dancing.
Husband and Wife’s Pork Lung Slices
Twice Cooked Pork
Dan Dan Mian
Water Boiled Fish
San Xi Lou: 7/F, Coda Plaza, 51 Garden Road, Mid-Levels
Tel: 852 2838 8811