Just know I’m writing this post while hungry.
Today is my second day in San Francisco, my roommate, Boris, has finally arrived. Boris is much more experienced since he had already done a work term in Mountain View, so he suggested we go to a Hunan-styled restaurant in Chinatown.
The store we wanted had a huge line up.
We were both starving at the time, and I really didn’t want to wait for 45 minutes just to have some food. Considering that this was the San Francisco Chinatown, we assumed that there would be at least one other decent restaurant just around the block.
We picked Chongqing Noodles.
Shaanxi Province, which is where I’m from, is not really known for eating really spicy food, but Boris is from Hunan, and they’re very well known for their rivalry with Sichuan cuisine as a battle of the spiciness. Chongqing is one of the largest cities in Sichuan, and is renounced for its spicy and robust cuisine; Shaanxi is very well known for our noodles, so both Boris and I expected goodness going into this restaurant.
Numbness is what we got.
To someone who doesn’t know or like Sichuan Cuisine, he/she probably things I’m bashing on this restaurant. But the hallmark of a good Sichuan restaurant is how willing are they to make their food using lots and lots of Sichuan peppercorn, a spice that improves the flavor of the oil, and has an interesting side effect: a numbing taste.
The biggest difference between Hunan styled spiciness and Sichuan styled spiciness is the numbness.
Hunan people don’t really use Sichuan peppercorn (hence the name) nearly as much, so their cuisine tends to be in your face straight up spiciness. Sichuan styled cuisine isn’t as spicy, but they tend to use lots of Sichuan peppercorn which gives off the numbness, hence the phrase 麻辣 (numbing and spicy) is often used to describe their cuisine.
This restaurant delivers on the promise of Sichuan cuisine.
The taste takes me back on my trip to Chongqing with my parents when I was a little kid. I hated that city as a kid because everything was 麻辣 (numbing and spicy). My appreciation for spicy food didn’t come until I had a contest with my cousin regarding who can eat the most peppers without crying; I won.
The 夫妻肺片 (Beef and Ox Tripes in Chili Sauce) was spot on perfect; the cut was great, the mix was great; the sauce was great; and the taste is on point with both spiciness and numbness. The noodles we had ordered were great as well, the soup almost reminds me of my favorite instant noodles, but the base was a lot more wholesome, and you can really taste all the spices they used (and MSG as well, lol).
For me, the noodles were just okay.
Being from Xi’an and growing up on noodles, I’ve been spoiled by the brilliant craft that is noodle making. The noodles served to us were not fresh. Now don’t get me wrong, they were definitely made today, but for noodles to not lose their tensile strength, you must cook them right after making them, which is definitely a logistical nightmare for any restaurant. Only on the streets of China would you see that, because the labor there is cheap enough that some wasted noodles are okay.
The taste was great though, and tensile strength isn’t liked by everyone anyways.
10/10 would come again!