5 May 2020

Banish the autumn chill with a chilli hit from Sichuan Chinese Restaurant

| Michelle Taylor
Chef’s Special Fish drizzled with hot chilli oil

Chef’s special fish drizzled with hot chilli oil. Photos: Michelle Taylor.

On this grim autumn night when the wind is slapping frigid rain against our windows, we seek warmth and comfort in Chinese takeaway. Sichuan Chinese Restaurant is in Belconnen and its menu on the EASI food delivery app looks delicious, with each dish accompanied by a photo that makes us even hungrier.

After placing our order, EASI provides clear communication from start to contact-free-delivery finish. They send an initial text telling us that our order is being processed. Moments later, our cheerful EASI courier phones to say she has arrived. She delivers our food, contact-free wearing a mask.

This is our first experience of Sichuan cooking. Restaurant owner Eddie grew up in Chengdu, the capital of Sichuan province and, of course, of Sichuan food. He says that spicy flavours and chilli heat have become synonymous with the city’s name and culture, and continue to set his cuisine apart from other regions in China.

When Eddie came to Australia to study, he loved Canberra and chose to settle here.

“But,” he says, “I missed the familiar tastes from my hometown. I opened the Sichuan Chinese Restaurant in Belconnen for my picky tastebuds, and to bring Sichuan cuisine and its spicy culture to my food-loving friends.”

Eddie tastes and adjusts the flavour of new dishes many times before adding them to his menu. What he has produced is a fusion of sweet and spicy, authentic Sichuan cuisine with a few Australian tweaks.

Dinner from the Sichuan Chinese Restaurant

Our dinner from Sichuan Chinese Restaurant in Belconnen.

What did we feast on?

Let’s start with the dish I loved the most, one specifically recommended by Eddie: Chef’s special fish drizzled with hot chilli oil.

One glance at the chilli oil, with dark red chillies and Sichuan peppercorns spread generously among the fish pieces tells us that this will be a spicy dish. I take one tentative mouthful. Oh my word, it is magic! The fish is moist and tender due to the unique way it has been cooked. That hot chilli oil has been poured over the thinly sliced fish fillets, cooking them instantly, locking in their juices and nutrition.

The spice level on this dish is red hot, at least two or three levels higher than I usually attempt. But the flavour in the succulent fish and in that chilli-infused oil have me pushing my tastebuds further into the realms of spicy heat than they have gone before.

Unlike some hot dishes where the chilli hit obliterates all sense of taste and smell, here the chilli and fire seem to enhance each bite. I can even pick out the citrus hit of the Sichuan peppercorns. My lips and taste buds are tingling, even the roof of my mouth is on fire. I still go back for seconds, spooning even more of the fragrant chilli oil over my fish and rice the second time.

Every bite of our next dish, the much milder Salt and pepper pork chop, is delicious. Think juicy pieces of pork belly infused with lemony Sichuan pepper, then fried until golden. Don’t be scared off by the pepper. This dish is not overly spicy. We delight in the crunch and zest packed into in that salt and pepper coating, and in the softness of the pork belly interior. Eddie recommends serving this dish with beer.

Braised meatballs … who can go past meatballs on a cold night? Eddie says the trick to his delicate, pillowy meatballs is hand-chopping the premium pork leg into mince. After hours of slow stewing, these oversized meatballs sit plump and tender in a mellow sauce. They are so good, I put one aside for tomorrow’s lunch before calling the family for dinner.

Sichuan style sweet duck with steam buns. The buns and a generous serving of crispy duck come separately. Fill the soft bun with tender boneless duck and add some crispy skin. After the first honey-sweet bite comes a delicately spiced aftertaste.

Our final dish is Beef slices in hot & sour soup. Whisper-thin ribbons of fat-streaked beef, bouquets of enoki mushroom and glass noodles soak up the tangy soup made from pickled peppers. It is a piquant foil to the richness of the other dishes and I especially enjoy the strands of enoki mushroom in there.

Sichuan soups

The chilli and spice of Eddie’s Sichuan dishes are the perfect way to warm up your tummy these autumn nights.

The chilli and spice of Eddie’s Sichuan dishes are the perfect way to warm up your tummy these autumn nights.

Vegetarian dishes are available, and Eddie says that the dishes can be adjusted to meet any dietary requirements.

Order your own taste sensations from Sichuan Chinese Restaurant through EASI. EASI delivers within a 50 km radius of any restaurant. Download the EASI app from the App Store.

Stay up to date with EASI through Facebook and Instagram.

Original Article published by Michelle Taylor on The RiotACT.

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