In Chinatown, there are a plethora of choices when it comes to Chinese Restaurants. One place, recommended by my partner’s university friend from Sichuan, is Xing Xing Sichuan Dish. With our flatmate, we made the trip out to Chinatown to test out the recommendation.
The first good sign was the large collection of Chinese people waiting to get into the restaurant so we took our number and got in line. The lady out front must have been wondering why two non-Chinese and a Chinese person with a full-blown Aussie accent were among the sea of Mandarin-speakers as she struck up a conversation with us, asking why we wanted to try Sichuan food! Eventually, after 20 minutes, we got to our table after my desperate scrambling to remember basic Mandarin numbers to know when our turn was.
As a precaution, I ordered a Pandan Soy Milk to help put out any fires on my tongue that are inevitably going to flare up.
We tried the Green Bean Jelly in Chilli Sauce first. Despite the name, this dish was more like a cold noodle salad and was more refreshing than spicy. The green bean jelly noodles were fresh and had a very different texture to the rice noodles that we’re used to. This dish was really good to have to help take the edge off the spice that was to follow.
The next dish to come out was literally Pan-Seared Green Chilli in soy sauce. Nothing more, nothing less. While we should have taken this as a sign of things to come, this turned out to be the least spicy and sweetest dish on the menu. I’m not sure if this was what my Mum meant when she told me to eat my greens, though.
The Spicy Deep Fried Chicken, Chongqing Style, came out on an ornate plate carried by an elaborate bamboo handle (not pictured) so points for style and presentation. Unfortunately there wasn’t much else to the dish. It was mostly inedible chilli and the few pieces of chicken that were there were too small, therefore too crispy, for my liking.
Next was a favourite of ours at Shanghainese places, Pork Wontons in Chilli Sauce. We wanted to see how the Sichuan version measured up. The answer is ‘not bad’. The pork wontons were large with plenty of filling and the chilli oil was spicy but not too much so. There were also some greens in the mix to give the dish more crunch.
The house special we ordered, Spicy Sliced Fish in Hot Sauce, had arrived. By this time, the cumulative effect of the chilli had really started to effect me and this dish was laden with it and Sichuan Pepper. Don’t let the colour fool you. This dish is positively tongue-numbing. The bowl it was served in was very deep so you get a lot of fish slices. This was one dish we packed home and was definitely worth the price in taste and serving size.
The famous Chengdu Dan Dan Noodles were the last dish for the night. We were all pretty full by now but these were delicious. The noodles were firm and springy with plenty of greens. By now, the soup was barely spicy at all and very delicious. For the price, this was a solid dish.
This meal was an awakening of the senses. Though we walked out in tears and panting for our lives, we also felt alive. If this is how people from Sichuan usually eat, it’s a wonder they have tastebuds at all but I can see why. There’s something addictive and stimulating about very spicy food in a way that is hard to replicate. If someone invited me to go back, I’d be there in a heartbeat.
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