(This week we welcome Joseph Kruzich, Public Affairs Officer, US Consulate Shenyang Province, China. He has been living in China for the past four years. Joseph will post all week about Chinese food and drink. Thanks Joe! --sdh)
Today I plan to post about the most fabled of all Chinese cuisine, the spicy food of Sichuan and a most unlikely place in China where I have discovered some of the best. I live in Shenyang, up in China's frigid Northeast, where one wouldn't imagine being able to find really good Sichuan food, but I have searched far and wide - from New York and LA to Beijing and Chengdu - and I have not found a better Kung Pao Chicken than the one served at one of Shenyang's most popular restaurants, Spring Summer Fall Winter (Chun Xia Qiu Dong). The restaurant owner has assembled some of the best Chefs from Sichuan and their commitment to Nouveau Sichuan is unparalled in China. The Kung Pao Chicken has a nice balance between spice and flavor, using the freshest peppers, onions, and chicken to be found in China's North. Each bite of this delicacy melts in your mouth, with a spice that is not overwhelming but leaves one with the desire to gradually devour this dish as you intermittently try other dishes on the table. I guarantee you will search long and hard to find a better Kung Pao chicken anywhere. My other favorite Sichuan dish at Chun Xia Qiu Dong is Shui Ju Xia, which is a variation of the second most famous dish from Sichuan, spicy fish in oil or Shui Ju Yu. Shui Ju Xia puts a generous portion of fresh, pealed shrimp in a pot of spicy oil, mixed with stringy mushrooms, peppercorns and the famous Sichuan spice, Ma, a kind of pepper that numbs your lips and leaves one addicted to this spicy flavor. This dish is not spectacularly spicy like its Kung Pao counterpart, but it leaves one with a smooth, oily and spicy flavor on top of a delicious shrimp that keeps you coming back time and time again with your chopsticks. I hope all of you will have the chance to come out to Shenyang to try this fabulous Sichuan cuisine, but tomorrow I will describe a few non-sichuan dishes, that I also love to introduce to my Chinese and American friends. Of course, food needs a drinking complement and spicy Sichuan is best accompanied by a good beer or a strong Bai Jiu (a kind of Chinese vodka) and I will post later in the week about drinking in China as well. I'm hopeful that I will be able to add pictures of the two dishes tonight, but if not, I will work out a way to get the photos posted this week.