Making Japanese Curry – From Scratch

Another part of the Young Family Dinner Challenge… Making a version of Inspired Japanese Curry with no Roux Cubes, no artificial flavorings seemed like a very long challenge.  I did my research and used the following ingredients for my Japanese Curry.

1 Pound of very very sinewy beef shank

A mix of Veggies – 1 Onion, Baby Potatoes, 3 Carrots, 20 Baby Carrots — Depending on Taste & Haricot Verts Beans quarter of a Pound & 3 Apples for the Sweetness & Sauce Thickness. Half a Pound of Chopped tomatoes – Skin Removed.

Curry Flavor – Tumeric Powder, Cumin Seeds, Mustard Seeds, Paprika, Saffron & Dark Chocolate.  I flavored as i went no measurement but roughly 2 heaping table spoons of each except for the saffron – Maybe 5 strands.

First up the beef: – Marintate with Pink Himalayian Salt and Black Kampot Pepper and lightly dust with rice flour.

Sear on High Heat with Rice Bran Oil until browned – Stir in Onions for 10 mins until softened.

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Pour off the excessive Oil.  Now it looks like soup….

Add water and simmer with apples and chopped tomatoes. – Let Simmer for 2 Hours Low Heat stirring gently.

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At this stage the apples should smash easily….

Add all the seasonings and stir to combine.  The color should now turn quite dark. Let simmer on the same low heat for another 2 hours – Try smushing the apples into the sauce after the 2 hours.  As it’s on low heat the cooking time is much longer.  I prefer the oven but this time i wanted to try using the stove which i thought worked perfectly fine.

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Gently Heat – so it doesn’t burn and everything gently cooks….

Enter into the 5th hour.  Add Carrots and Potatoes – Always cut potatoes larger ad carrots smaller to ensure similiar cooking times.  Taste after almost done – 45 minutes – At this stage i add in brewers yeast for a darker flavor and color.  You can leave this step if you prefer and add in some chicken stock if you like.  I like my curries sweet and light.

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It’s delicious – sweet, mild and you can taste the richness…. See the beef sinews?

Add in the baby corn and beans – 5 Minutes and close the lid, turn off gas and leave over night.

The Beef sinews becomes like a fatty expensive cut.  It melts and breaks in the mouth with a rich fatty mouth feel without the fat.  Really nice.

Enjoy Dinner – Young Family way…..

Hot Pot for the Soul…..Megan’s Kitchen

Megan’s Kitchen caught my eye many years ago when i stumbled across an article about a hot pot restaurant actually being in the Michelin Guide. Of course I asked my cousins in HK about it and all i got was posh posh and very expensive.  I checked out their website and indeed it was very very expensive – it can run almost 80 – 200 HK dollars just for the soup base.  Very expensive indeed even for HK pricing.  6 years later working alone and no one to have lunch with i gave it a go.  I went to the website to reserve a seat – and there was a special promotion – Lunch set for 148 dollars.  Off i went….

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Choice of Japanese Miso, Malaysian Satay and Coriander & Salted Egg and I chose Winter Melon Soup

It was interesting that hotpot is a communal activity – Even if you had individual pots you almost never see people eat hotpot alone.  I’m not surprised when the waiter asked me “How many Miss?”  “For one?”  Nothing bothered me as I settled for the Beef Hotpot Set with the Winter Melon and Yunan Ham broth.  With the lunch set i suppose as it’s the bare minimum you wont get much of the usual things you might get with the normal price – but i think it was good enough as it is.  The condiment set came with Chillies, Spring Onion, Garlic, Shallots and their soy sauce.  I asked for some vinegar – Chou which they gave me at no extra charge.

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Condiment Overload – Chillies-Garlic-Shallots-Sesame Seeds-YUM…

 I peeked at the other tables though and some people paid another 25 HKD for the big sauce condiment – I thought i saw OX sauce, fried shallots etc.  I honestly believe you don’t need anything else as the broth was so good already.  Eating for one gets you the luxury of being able to do as you please – I ordered the Shrimp Paste (Which was almost 70 HK Dollars – GASP) this is something you don’t get in thailand.  Fresh beaten and flavored shrimp is pounded until it’s a sticky paste, when you drop in boiling broth it becomes sort of a misshapen meatball with non of the fake floury taste.  It transforms into a soft, sticky chewy deliciousness.

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A giant Scoop gets you around 8 mouthfuls

In the set there was 2 meatballs and 2 wontons.  I”m not really a boiled wonton person, i feel sometimes the wrapping is too thick and the filling is sad.  I also have a mistrust with meatballs – Either you get rubbery icky borax filled bits of minced mystery meat or you hit the jackpot with something very good.  The meatballs here is a delight – you can feel how fresh the beef is with a carrot filling.  Usually meatballs come precooked which you jsut sort of reheat, these ones were fresh beef which were a bit bouncy and very juicy and with the carrot in the middle it was a surprise.  However the wonton actually won the show.  It was pieces of chopped beef with cheese.  The wrapping was a perfect ratio to the meat.  IT wasnt smushy but chewey and nicely dense.  It was amazing!

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Lovely Chunks of meat in Cheese Sauce

The set itself was quite plentiful – The beef is nice marbled and not too thickly or thinly cut.  It was amazing.  I think it’s very important and I judge alot of these hot pot places by the thickness of the beef – It’s crutial to have extremely good thickness – Too thin and the beef has freezer burn, too thick and it’s too tough and chewy.  You really can’t find problems with Megans Kitchen except for the fact that it’s expensive.

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Good Quality Beef – Perfect ration of fat to meat 

The set came with 3 different kinds of lettuces, 2 giant shitake mushrooms, 3 tomatoes, some Eringi Mushrooms, Rice noodles, the 6 slices of beef (Quite big sized slices) and 2 meatballs and 2 wontons.  The soup is great it’s bubbly and always topped up by the nice staff.  It’s really delicious and great for spending that lunch hour alone.  It’s a treat noone should miss….  (Theres a 12 HKD for the tea and a 10 percent service charge.

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Megans Kitchen

5th Floor Lucky Centre –

Wan Chai Road

Hongkong

MALA Hotpot – A plethora combination of addictive deathly ingredients…

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A duo of soups – Spicy and Calm…

What is a Mala hotpot you may ask.  It is a deathly delicious combination of bubbling stock, oil fried with Szechuan Peppercorns, dried chilies, garlic, Chinese bean paste, dried jujubes, and a mix of other herbs and spices.  Each restaurant blends their own special recipe or they just use a ready mix.  This is my favorite style of hotpot, usually you would get a half and half which you can numb and burn yourself on the spicy mala side and cool down with the normal stock.  I believe that in the olden days this was used to help mask not so appetizing smells from using the cheaper cuts of meat.

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Hand cut shank is tender and melting

This restaurant is a gem hidden in on of the off sois located in Silom called Boon restaurant.  We ordered just enough for two and it was a great way to cure a hangover…. Amazingly the fishballs had a soft chewy texture, not too fishy and went well with this spicy oil.

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Watercress, Taro and Fishballs

Taro is usually flash fried to help keep it’s shape in the bubbling broth.  Personally i like to mash the taro in my soup.  It gives it a creamy texture to the soup. A creamy spicy, hot and numbing mouthful of soup.

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Pig’s small intestines – Gross but delicious

It may look gross but it’s got a chewy, porky flavor that is either a favorite or you can’t stand the look of it at all.

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Lightly Battered Squid – Garlicky, Spicy – Very delicious!

Hard to understand why this battered squid works so well.  Its lightly crispy, spicy when chewed with the Chilies, extremely garlicky and just so soft and perfectly chewy.  No calamari can beat this dish.

This restaurant doesn’t rank high is nice atmosphere, clean bathrooms and smiling service.  It’s a no frills, inexpensive family styled restaurant – the menu has pictures!!!!!  Drop by for a good time.

Boon Pochana, 152/8-9, Silom Rd.,

Bangkok, 10500 Thailand

Best Seafood in Moscow – Arbat Street

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Interior of restaurant

Walking along Arbat Street we stumbled across a little sign that showed a cute crab – After 15 days in Russia we were quite sick of meat and the three of us trotted down the stairs to the second level to have a “crab” seafood dinner.  This little restaurant had about 15 tables – seats maybe 50 – 70 people comfortably – clean bathrooms and very friendly service with English Menus.  They specialize in Seafood – Prawns – Oysters – Crabs.

 

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Oysters – Fresh – Briny – Delicious

Pricing isn’t bad at all – The seafood is served in a cold platter but depends on which platter you pick – The prawns arrive hot – get the Russian ones they are big with plump Roe! – The whelk with potatoes is delicious and arrives hot, the scallops are a bit small but hot and tasty – well seasoned – the mussles are excellent and arrive piping hot and a generous amount.  We went there 2 times – First time  we got the platter to share for three people maybe it’s because we are asian or we just eat little and we couldn’t finish it.

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Piping Hot & Delicious Russian Prawns

Second time we ordered ala carte which turned out to be more expensive with less food so get the platter!  Giant Crabs are very expensive in Thailand which can go for over 1000 roubles for 1 piece in the supermarket and here it was about 1800 roubles for a whole plate.

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In many high end restaurants they serve these giant crab legs but are salty – over here its very meaty and not salty at all.  I’m most impressed however with the prawns – the roe is bright and very plump and very delicious – you can taste the sea with every bite.

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Plump Roe

The have a few choices for soup, on the first visit we have the bisque which was ok but not something to order again.  However on our second trip we ordered the milk crab soup and it was absolutely delicious.  Milky, creamy crabby with a hint of spice.  It was very very good.

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Very very good!

We also ordered the little prawns that arrived in a small metal bucket.  It was the same as those you get in the platter so i definitely recommend getting the platter as it is alot cheaper.

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Refreshing and delicious in a strange way.

They recommended us a drink / lemonade – cucumber, mint concoction was just refreshing and actually really nice.  We had 3 jugs as it wasn’t overly sweet and somehow the got the balance right with the cucumber lemonade and basil.  Great way to balance the meal.

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Get a nice 5 percent discout!

Upload pictures on instragram and you get a 5 percent discount.  Which you can go with their free wifi.  Their servers are very friendly and very nice even with limited english.  It’s rare to fins such nice servers in Russia in my opinion and they really went the extra mile to help out.  Definitely one of the best places to come.  It’s located around the middle of Arbat street, next to a Kid’s restaurant.  There’s only 1 seafood restaurant that i saw in Arbat street so not hard to find.

 

Homemade Miso Cured Salmon & Egg Yolk

 

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Silky and Smooth – Serve Piping Hot!

The secret to congee is low heat and constant stirring.  Low heat and constant stirring.  For hours and hours, in this case around 4.  There is another trick however that i learned, if you set your rice cooker on warm and bring it to boil every hour it also works with less effort!

Egg Yolk in miso works if you leave it over night.  The egg yolk turns jelly like and with a creamy rich consistency.  Drop it in the piping hot congee which helps cooks it and eat right away.

Ingredients:

  1.  4 Cups of Rice – Warm on  Low in Rice cooker and bring back to boil every hour and stir (Min 4 Hours)
  2. 4 Fillets of Salmon – I used Organic Raised
  3. 6 Tablespoons of Miso
  4. 6 Egg Yolks
  5. Spring Onion
  6. Pepper

Salmon – Rub Miso on Fillet and Keep in Fridge over 24 hrs / Draining Water off every few hours

Egg Yolk – Line a small tupperware box with miso – separate the egg yolks and gently add the miso to cover.  I left mine over night.  Gently remove the egg yolks and drop in hot congee.

Simple and Home Made Goodness!

Easy Cheats Homemade Sausage Rolls

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Piping Hot!

Everyone craves a good homemade sausage roll once in a while, yet no one who has a job, family and a bunch of dogs should even have to time to act Martha Steward and roll her own puff pastry.  Guilt as charged.  Buy a roll of ready made puff pastry from the freezer section, in Bangkok we have a great brand that made fresh with no preservatives – hence the short life span.  Usually i made a mixture of pork, carrots, potatoes as the mince but after a hectic week i just grabbed a package of Cumberland sausage, a few carrots and potatoes. I thawed my pastry overnight in the fridge.  Makes it easier to roll without breaking.

Dice the carrots a bit smaller than the potatoes so you have an equal cooking time, saute them in some olive oil and garlic.  Season well with salt, pepper, paprika and a tiny hint of sugar.  Just a small touch to offset the saltiness of the pork.

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Lovely golden brown and not soggy at all!

I unwrap the baking paper on the baking sheet and unroll the puff pastry directly on the baking sheet.  I mix the sausage mixture into the cooled veggie mixture and mix well gently.  I dont season anymore now as sausages tend to be quite salty.  Shape into logs on the puff pastry and roll it over.  Leave a bit of space before cutting it.  No need to be neat.  Roll it over again so the edges are on the bottle.  Flatten slightly and cut into pieces with a wet knife wiping in between.  As you see i cut into different sizes and they bake at the same time.

Rub a bit of beaten egg and throw in oven with fan at 125 degrees.  Rotate tray after 15 mins and brush some more egg wash and they are ready to be eaten hot in 10 – 15 mins.

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Crispy, buttery and juicy!

 

 

Pan Seared Tenderloin with Pasta

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Cooled & Sliced – Perfect Medium & Medium Rare Parts

Another rough day at work and wishing for a sumptuous dinner.  Sister says want beef the night before.  Nice beef tenderloin defrosting whilst at work.  Everyone arrives home and demand to be fed.

45 Mins Dinner Challenge:

  1. 1 Beef Tenderloin – Rubbed with Olive Oil and Smashed garlic with salt into a puree
  2. Package of Pasta from Italy
  3. Home Made Tomato Puree (Roasted Tomatoes and crushed)
  4. Home Grown Basil from Garden
  5. Salt & Pepper

Heat Pan to HIGH.  Use non burning oil, I used Rice bran.  Sear Beef on all sides – 3 Mins on each side, lower and cover pan for 5 mins.  Reheat to high and sear again on all sides (pouring off juices to make gravy)  Cover and set aside.

At the same time I have boiled a medium salted water and threw in the dried pasta.  This type takes around 9 mins to cook on the pack. I turned of the heat at 6.  And took pot of stove.  In another pan, heated the tomato sauce, threw in the beef drippings and flavored with salt, pepper and a touch of sugar to help balance the acid.

Drain pasta and mix with sauce.  I find that if you time pasta correctly you can turn it off the heat before cooking time is over but this takes experience and lots of mistakes on my part.  I find that you dont need to add any more pasta water as the pasta has water in them.

Slice beef and place on pasta, sprinkle basil to each person’s liking and serve.  Usually i serve with thin slices but Sister said she was hungry.

Guaranteed it was soft and tender.  Was hoping for leftovers but everyone devoured it.  Completely.  Happy Tummy, Happy Family.

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Dinner in 45 mins

Simple Eats – Luang Prabang

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Known in Thai as Khao Jii

Working in Luang Prabang a few weeks ago gave me ample time to taste and try the local laotian food native to Luang Prabang.  I felt that it was a melting pot of Thai, Laotian, Vietnamese and French Cuisines.  I think the Mekhong River helped spread the tradition around this area.  My friends told me that Vientiane cuisine is different to that of Luang Prabang, i guess we will have to wait and see.  Khao Jii or grilled sticky rice patty with brushed beaten egg and fish sauce is one of my absolute favorites.  It’s soft gooey insides with a savory salty crunchy bite coating.  The best part is that it’s offered slathered in a chilli paste, now many chilli pastes in Thailand is a sweet concoction which i’m not in favor off.  This is torpedo spicy.  Served on a banana leaf for 10 baht it was delicious.

At the walking street a cheerful food stall opened for business around 5 pm.  It’s the biggest stall at the beginning of the market (You cannot miss it)  selling Pho, Khao Soy and Noodles etc.  In Thailand Khao Soi is a Thick, creamy curry more islamic influenced with egg noodles and crispy egg noodles on top.  In Luang Prabang Khao Soi is a bean paste / tomatoeish / pork rib soup with noodles which is similiar to that of Chiang Mai’s Naam Ngeo which is similiar except we use fresh rice round noodles or flat wide noodles.  Usually served with fresh veggies, lime and spicy chilli paste it is one of my absolute favorites.  In Thailand we see it boiling in pots, but at this stall as they are serving so many varieties of noodles it seems like they only have 2 pots – one for boiling noodles and veggies and one for the stock.  So they have containers of pork ribs with the bean paste / tomato mixture and they mix with the stock.

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The hanging crispy things are not pork rind but buffalo rinds.  Light airy and delish!
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Fresh Veggie Basket.  Yum.
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Khao Soi – Luang Prabang Style

You choose your noodles, tear your garden herbs and veggies, squeeze some limes and dump crazy amounts of chillis and dig in.  It was around 80 baht which i thought was quite expensive for street food, but again this is Luang Prabang.

My fondness for Khao Soi is great as i had 4 bowls of if at different places.  This place seemed like a local restaurant – although there is no such thing because locals eat at home. They have Shrimp paste on the table complimentary eaten with fresh vegetables.  Thai use it to make a dip but the locals here eat it straight with fresh vegetables.  Quite lovely as i’m used to th epungent smell.

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Khao Soi at a local restaurant

Note that they all serve this noodle soup with fresh mint, limes and lettuce.  Really hearty and savory from the bean paste which is total different from miso which has a different feeling of saltiness to it.  The contrast with the tomatoish broth makes it a fresh sourness to it.

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This place serves their Khao Soi with Pork Rinds inside.  Broth was very savory.
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Plump Rice Grains – Soft and Hot

I have always preferred sticky rice over steamed rice i think its got a good texture and just feels more right.  The sticky rice at this roadside restaurant (only 4 tables) is nicely steamed.  Not tough when cooled.  Still soft and chewy.

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Sai Oua – Pork Sausage

The pork sausage is much blander than the ones in Northern Thailand but quite crispy casing, and juicy insides.  I feel that Laotian cuisine really relies on the tastes of the ingredients and not too much flavoring.  It will be considered bland for Thai tastes who which are so used to so much flavoring.

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Laotian Papaya Salad

Som Tam or papaya salad is one of my childhood favorites.  In Thailand the papaya is shaved in to small strands, in Luang Prabang it’s sliced and wide.  I like it because it had a nice texture and mouthfeel to it although the taste of the pradaek – fermented anchovies is not as strong as the ones in Thailand i feel.  They also have the addition of kapi – shrimp paste in their papaya salad.  I think it’s a taste that everyone can enjoy, a balance of sweet, savory, sour and spicy.  A well rounded dish, although i prefer extreme spicy and sour som tam.

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Naem – Fermented Pork Sausage

This is seriously to die for.  My whole team is still drooling for the grilled fermented pork sausage.  Hands down.  I have never had this good of a Naem before.  I usually dislike cooked Naem I prefer it still raw.  But this.  It’s juicy, slightly sour, very savory and the right balance of the pork rind to provide that teeth resistance when you bite into it.  Chew it together with a chilli and pop a hot sticky rice ball in your mouth.  It’s worth swiping your card, getting on air asia just for this Naem.  It’s been 3 weeks and everyone in the office is still dreaming and talking about this fresh fermented Porky Heaven.

Fiery Spicy Szechuan Cuisine

My knowledge of Szechuan Cuisine or Sichuan Food is actually limited to Ma La Hot Pot, the bubbling stock with hot oil, szechuan peppercorns, garlic, five spice ingredients and extreme amount of dried chillies.  It is actually my favorite type of hot pot.  Going to a szechuan restaurant was interested or so i thought.  Would it actually be the same approach?  All food just topped with the spicy oil / spices?  I was in for a treat.

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Waste Nothing!

Organ meat is a very chinese thing, we eat everything.  Most likely it’s a waste not mentality.  If i’m not istaken this is the stomach from a cow.  It’s got a chewy crispyish texture more than any taste actually but the spicy garlicy oil made it a nice appetizer to whet your appetite before the fire starts.  I appreciated the green cirpsy and watery thin celery stalk to help add some coolness to my poor tongue.

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Decadent Pork Belly

This was not spicy at all, i think it was great over piping hot rice.  I’m not entirely sure how they made that sauce but it was more sesame in taste, i’m sure there’s ginger in there somewhere.  I understand it looks oily but it doesn’t feel too oily, it doesn’t coat your tongue like when you chew on a blob of butter or margarine.  It seems to melt away leaving this comforting taste.  Really good.  Too salty to eat alone although i preferred it with some rice.

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Nice hit of crispy greens

In Thailand food we usually stir fry cabage with fish sauce, over thre it’s oyster sauce i presume with a few dried chillies thrown in for good measure.  Done correctly cabbage shouldn’t soggy but  with a nice crisp texture and juicy freshness.  This helped balace out all the rich meats so far.

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Ma La Craziness!

My absolute favorite is the Ma La spices, this arrived smoking hot and you can actually feel the dried chillies sizzling in the hot oil.  It’s probably palm oil, with dried chillies, garlic, szechuan peppercorns and other crazy goodness. There is a thick vermicelli noodle which is sticky and chewy in texture and sliced beef.  It was a bomb of chillies, numbness and savory saltiness in every bite.  The beef was tender and the soup underneath was quite delicious.  However you do have to sort your way through the pool of oil.  People may cringe at the amount of oil, but i’m actually ok, it’s not like we eat this every single day.

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Chilli Power!

Now this is everyone’s favorite, the MAPO TOFU.  You see in japanese restaurants but you dont really find it in every chinese restaurant.  Chinese food is quite vast with different regions serving totally different food.  This was like bolder MA LA crazy version, it was so spicy, a hint of sweet with a bit of minced prok thrown in for good measure.  It was so delicious over piping hot rice.  You can’t really eat it on it’s own, it starts to burn after the third bite.

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Best Potato I have ever Tasted!!!!

This potato dish arrived and i though it was just short strands of spaghetti stir fried.  To my amazement it was round strands of potato, stir fried.  Its so hard to explain, it was mushy, but it was al dente but not under cooked.  It was salty, savory, not too oily.  It was very interesting.  It was the highlight of the night, it seemed so normal but the taste and texture was just so interesting and delicious.  I must find out how they cooked this dish.

Szechuan cuisine is really more than just the hot pot but i do believe it’s an acquired taste, it’s very different from my day to day chinese food but it’s a great lift to a cold gloomy day washed with some cold beer.  Definitely for people who love spice, and dont mind a bit of oiliness.  Only warning is for your stomach and it’s a scary addiction.