Tuesday, July 19, 2011

Cuisine Szechuan (Montréal, QC)

2350 Guy Street
Montréal, Québec

My family in Montréal tried Szechuan for my mother's birthday back in March and really looked forward to take me. I am half Chinese on my father's side, more specifically Cantonese, so am not familiar with Szechuan cuisine.

[As a long side note - please skip if you're not interested: I just finished reading Shark's Fin and Sichuan Pepper: a Sweet-Sour Memoir of Eating in China by Fuchsia Dunlop. It was a very interesting read. "Chinese food" is really a general term that doesn't mean much considering how varied food can be from province to province. The book spends a large amount of time on Sichuan food since the author spent her first year in Chengdu. She then follows by cuisine in Hunan, Fujian, Hong Kong, Beijing, Kashgar, etc.

What was interesting was understanding Chinese cultures through food, such as one of the chapters callled "Only Barbarians Eat Salad", in which the author is frustrated that she has put effort in being open-minded about Chinese food and the feeling is not at all reciprocated. The book spans more than a decade of travel in China. Changes and events are discussed, and their impact on the food culture, such as the growing middle-class' purchasing power for delicacies like shark fin, pollution, the Communist regime and SARS. She also touches on how ethnic minorities are treated in China.

I thought the book came full circle. The author first opens herself up by trying all food. At a point, she realizes that she's moved on from being an open-minded adventurous eater to actually enjoying such delicacies as goose intestines. Finally, she becomes somewhat weary of eating Chinese food and yearns for simple food. I really liked the description of the progression of eating in China (p.303): first, 'eating to fill your belly' - this is eating as a means to stau alive, followed by 'eating plenty of rich food' - splurging to make up for years of deprivation and the final phase, one I think everyone should strive for, 'eating skillfully' -"eating with discernment, seeking out 'green food products', reducing their consuption of animal foods, and ordering less gluttonously in restaurants."

Each chapter ends with mouth-watering recipes related to the chapter, such as fish-fragrant aubergines (I've tried a recipe here.) and Dan Dan noodles. The book is also rich with descriptions of different foods - the one I was most intrigued with was guo kui.

I highly recommend this book if you're at all interested in Chinese food, and really China in general, since food plays such a large role in China.]

Cuisine Szechuan Cuisine Szechuan

On to the food, speaking of fish-fragrant eggplant , I think we ordered the Yu Xiang Eggplant with Dou Ban Jiang (Yu Xiang = Fish Fragrant, Dou Ban Jiang= black bean sauce). I think because my sister couldn't recall what she ordered the last time since there were 3-4 eggplant dishes. The aubergines were slick with a sweet and sour sauce that we all enjoyed.

Eggplant dish
Yu Xiang Eggplant with Dou Ban Jiang ($7.99).

The dish that my family was excited to have me try was the tofu flower & sliced halibut in a chili pepper & Szechuan peppercorn broth. It consisted of slices of fish in a very spicy sauce. The heat came from both chilies and Szechuan peppercorn, which gave the sauce a very distinct flavour. Under the fish, were soy bean sprouts. This sauce was very, very spicy!

Szechuan Fish dish
Tofu flower & sliced halibut in a chili pepper & Szechuan Peppercorn Broth ($11.99).

Sprouts Szechuan peppercorn
Soy bean sprouts and Szechuan peppercorns.

We also ordered the Kung Pao chicken. I don't remember it being overly hot, and it had a nice sweet and savoury sauce.

Kung Pao Chicken

Finally, we ordered a fried shrimp dish that was totally disappointing. Nothing exciting about it and the batter was too thick.


I know that Szechuan food has been out there for a long time but it was the first for me. This visit, combined with reading Shark's Fin and Sichuan Pepper: a Sweet-Sour Memoir of Eating in China really inspire me to not only try Szechuan food but Chinese food from different regions.

Cuisine Szechuan on Urbanspoon


Gastronomer said...

Say you'll come back to L.A. to eat regional Chinese food with me?

Laveena said...

I like your simple descriptions of your meal. Continue your good work ;)

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