Wednesday, July 1, 2020

Weekend Sichuan Meetup

As we were slowly going back to normal in terms of social activities, a few weeks ago a few friends and we got together for something hot and spicy at Deng G. It's been a while since all of us last visited this small Sichuan restaurant in Wanchai so this seems to be a logical choice for a meet-up long overdue. 

It's perfect that all of us arrived hungry and ready for a feast as there were so many dishes that we loved to try this time, having deprived of eating in a big group for a while. It's not been a particularly busy night at the restaurant because of the looming typhoon, so the dishes arrived soon we shot off our order. We began with a few cold appetizers. Their signature "Mouth Watering Chicken" and "Ox Tongue and Tripe Medley" were both served in a red chili sauce but with slightly different style, with the chicken dominated by the taste of chilies and the beef offals more about the tingling Sichuan pepper flavor. The sliced pork (coming from the belly cut) went down a notch in terms of heat but with rich garlic aroma instead, and finishing up our starter quartet was the okra with ginger sauce, just because we felt we need something green as balance (and it was delicious, with the okra cooked just right with the crunchy texture)
We then moved onto something served in more substantial portion. Mandarin fish is a classic ingredient in Sichuan cuisine and can be done in a number of different ways - this time we went for the one stewed with pickled vegetables and dried chilies and presented in a deep serving platter. One of the less spicy dishes we had this evening but loaded with flavors from the herbs and pickled cabbage with the silky soft pieces of fish fillets plus chunks of winter melon soaked with the sauce. Fatty intestine stew, on the other hand, was probably the spiciest dish we had, with thick pieces of pork intestines swimming in red hot chili oil with bean sprouts and clear noodles made with potato flour. Love the bouncy texture of the intestines lined with fat. We didn't ask them to tone down on the spicy taste but it's still manageable.  
"Snowy Chicken" (Xue Hua Ji Nao) was the only dish we pre-ordered. The dish is often quoted as an example to counter the misconception that Sichuan Cuisine is always about hot and spicy dishes. In this classic Sichuanese dish, chicken was minced and tenderized, mixed with broth and egg white, sauteed in low temperature and finished with bits of dried ham. It has a soft and delicate texture - like snow hence the name - and there was the distinct meat flavor with no meat in sight. 

We had a few more main dishes in slightly "smaller" portion. "Ma Po Tofu" is probably the most well-known dish in Sichuan cuisine and a signature here, and it didn't disappoint with the right balance of hot chilies and tickling Sichuan peppercorn tastes. We asked for the non-spicy version of the stir-fried poplar mushrooms and it was delicious with nutty and rustic flavor, reminding me of porcini but crunchier with the long stalks. I also liked the Dan Dan noodles, with thin threads of noodles served in a spicy broth and topped with minced meat and soy-bean paste in a small bowl. 

We finished with a pair of desserts, both traditional street snacks. The "ice noodles" was similar to the Japanese Kuzukiri, with the jelly-like thick noodles made of potato flour served in a fermented sticky rice syrup. I prefer this to be slightly more chilled but at least it's of the right sweetness and definitely slurp-worthy. Somehow the "Mochi Crisp" also reminded me of something Japanese as well, with the sticky rice cake cut in long slabs, deep-fried and served with peanut powder and black sugar syrup. 
Wine pairing in Sichuan cuisine is always a tricky one with many of the exotic herbs and spices used and we tried with a pair of white-ish bottles. Of course, a glass of champagne worked with just about everything especially in a hot summer night but on a more serious notes, the acidity and richness did stand up well with the intense flavor from the Sichuan dishes. I also liked the full-bodied bottle from Northeastern Italy with a bit of skin contact, big on minerals and oak and gripping acidity. 
When? June 13 2020
Where? Deng G, 2/F, 147 Queen's Road East Wanchai, Hong Kong
Menu Highlights? "Snowy Chicken" (Xue Hua Ji Nao)
2014 Champagne Nicolas Feuillatte Vintage Collection Blanc de Blancs Brut
2016 Paraschos Ribolla Gialla Venezia Giulia IGT

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