Me and my sister have a disturbing Mala Addiction. For those in the Know it’s a beautiful balance of Chillies – Spicy – Sichuan Peppercorns – Numbing – Garlic – MSG – Salt – Sesame – and alot of other herbs and spices depending on the menu. Stuck in a Traffic Jam in a really quiet awkward area of Condos, Roads and pretty much nothing else we noticed some restaurants in front of the Entrance to several Condominiums. We were surprised by the amount of Chinese Restaurants within a few meters of each other. Our eyes widen as we saw pictures of fish swimming in red colored oil. Szechuan FOOD!!! Without any hesitation we walked in and was greeted by that familiar smell of pungent mala oil.
Upon opening the menu and trying to communicate with the waitress we found out that we stumbled into a rather big Hunan Community in Bangkok. All the restaurants and people eating here were Hunan. I’ve never really had an experience with Hunan Food but it looked and smelled like Sichuan Cuisine. So where is Hunan?
Just on the upper right is Chongqing and Sichuan so i believe that’s why the close proximity has the influence in the cuisine. Will try to learn more but lets take a look at the food. First we ordered the popular and everybody’s favorite Mapo Tofu.
Nice firm chunks of tofu with bits of minced pork – The star really was tofu and what i noticed was there was really less sauce or oil / gravy. I didn’t feel so much of the bean paste here because usually you taste bean paste with the mala but this one was very very spicy. Less emphasis on the MA or the numb but a lot of heat. I do think it was still nicely flavored although intensely hot, you need to eat it with rice and my spice level is quite high. Then the next craving we had was for boiled fish in Mala. They actually had like 3 types so we just picked one. I guess we picked the less spicy one or the Mapo Tofu was just like a nuclear blast of spicy.
The fish was perfectly cooked delicate and not over at all – Strangely it was quite brothy and with the oil it was a nice balance of oily and spicy. Underneath there was enoki mushrooms and the sesame provided a nice creaminess to the overall dish. I can’t put my finger on it yet but there is a definite difference to the Szechuan Style and the Hunan Style. I feel that this dish had a more simpler flavor than the usual Szechuan Style. I feel there’s more layers to the Szechuan style.
In “some” chinese restaurants they have these cold salty chicken feet. I’m really not sure which province is the heritage but they would be a bit yellow and mostly served cold. If anyone knows please let me know. It’s rally fun to nibble on the cold and salty gelatinous feet however here they serve it warm and very plump and juicy not dry and chewy like i mostly have had it. For those who have never tried chicken feet it’s quite a yummy snack. It’s like nibbling on a jerky that’s paper thing with tiny bones. A jellyish jerky.
Since we are on feet and gelatinous food – I had to order non spicy food for my parents who my dad’s strictly cantonese – He doesn’t really like spicy food as Cantonese food is quite bland compared to other chinese cuisine and my palate actually leans to the Cantonese Side (Aside from Mala) The Pigs trotters was full of gelatin the and sauce was thick with porky flavours and sticky from all the collagen and marrow that boiled in the sauce. Quite similiar to many trotters i had before with a slight spice which we all thought it was white pepper as we can’t see much in the sauce. Good with piping hot rice as it came with ample sauce.
Definitely a must for every table is vegetables. This dish is also popular in many Chinese Restaurants not sure of the heritage although it came with smoked ham and sausage which i’ve never seen before. I did read that Hunan cuisine involved alot of these ingredients so it could be a signature twist to the normal Spinach, Salted Egg, Century Egg and soupy vegetable dish. The taste wasn’t really different elsewhere due the the power of the salted egg and century egg flavors but this dish was definitely milder (Again maby the mapo tofu was so strong) I like this vegetables as it’s a good stepping stone to those wanting to try Century Egg .
Last but not least every Cantonese meal cannot start, last and end without soup. I have never seen a chinese soup with a kombu like seaweed before. It didn’t have the same strong taste but somehow the soup was actually a creamy mouthfeel and a umami taste of the sea flavour with the creaminess of pork “fat”? It was quite a good bowl of soup. The pork spareribs were falling off the bone. It was really good mixed with rice and chinese level boiling hot soup. A really good meal and a great introduction into the world of Hunan Food. Maybe next time we will try those skewers not in the menu that other people were eating.
Please leave any comments and more knowledge for me would love to learn more about Hunan Cuisine. Thank you!