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philadining

Szechuan Tasty House

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Made a third stop at the Szechuan Tasty House, and really liked it again. I'm starting to get really worried that I'm their only customer, there's never anybody in the place except me and my friends... It's a small place, but there's room for you, right now, I'm sure of it! Go!

Started again with gallery_23992_1383_4315.jpg

Dumplings in Spicy Sauce These aren't really all that spicy, more sweet than hot, but really tasty.

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Szechuan Ban Ban Chicken This was cold, sliced chicken with a sesame sauce, with just a hint of spice. This was very good, but I think I prefer the "Sliced Chicken in Spicy Sauce" which is in a hotter, redder sauce.

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Chang-Du Cold Noodle This was basically a really good cold sesame noodle, not really spicy, despite the little pepper icon on the menu.

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Twice Cooked Pork Yep, that's fatty pork belly and hot chile peppers. What else do you really need in the world? This was really good in that way that you don't want to tell your doctor about.

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Braised Beef Filet with Szechaun Style I'm guessing the "Szechuan Stye" is the thick layer of ground red pepper on top of the tender slices of beef, atop onions and celery, in a thick spicy broth. This was delicious, and surprisingly, still not all that hot even with the ground pepper.

They brought us some complimentary fried bananas that were really nice and crisp and greaseless, the chef is skilled with a deep frier.

All this cost $33.

On other visits I've loved the

Dang Dang Noodles: hot thin noodles with ground pork.

Sliced Chicken in Spicy Sauce: cold chicken in a deep red marinade.

3 Pepper Chicken: much like the pork dish pictured above, dried whole chiles, fresh chiles, ground chiles...

Golden Coins: deep-fried pork-stuffed eggplant.

Ginger Shredded Duck: thin slices of meat with ginger, snow peas and red bell pepper.

They have really charmed me by staying open from 11am until midnight every day except monday, when they're closed.

902 Arch Street (215) 925-2839


Edited by philadining (log)

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gbredben   

Wow, will have to get over this week to try it. I've been wondering if anyplace in Philly did great Szechuan.

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Well, we tried Szechuan Tasty House on Friday, and yep, it's not only Szechuan, and tasty, but also a house! Well, sort of.

Anyway, it's yet further proof that when you head to Chinatown, it's worthwhile to go armed with a plan. Without PAD's recommendation, I'd probably never had thought to try this place. If I had, I'd probably have been put off by the menu: it's not huge (maybe four pages) but is filled with lots of the boring ol' Chinatown dishes: beef with broccoli, et cetera. So it's worthwhile to seek out the treasures within.

Golden coins were juicy inside and crisp outside, the best fried Chinese dish I've had in ages. Ginger/scallion shredded duck was another highlight. Dumplings, I thought, were only so-so (for one thing, they're served in a way that maked them hard to eat), but I really liked the double-named dishes: dang dang! ban ban! zap! pow! boom! ... er, especially the ban ban chicken. Dang dang noodles were also kind of hard to eat: the sauce was sort of soupy. It's really a one-person dish, not so good for sharing.

Anyway, I'll second the recommendation: it's totally worth a visit.

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Dumplings, I thought, were only so-so (for one thing, they're served in a way that maked them hard to eat), ....  Dang dang noodles were also kind of hard to eat: the sauce was sort of soupy.  It's really a one-person dish, not so good for sharing.

I suspect these dishes are constructed mainly to test the chopstick technique of poseurs like me. It is indeed a little tough to eat these and maintain any dignity... but I still really like the taste of them, I thought it was worth the humiliation of chasing dumplings around the table.

I'm trying to subtly encourage them to feature more full-on Szechuan offerings, and less of the beef-and-broccoli stuff, but it's hard to get the Seinfeld Babu episode out of one's mind ("you very bad man!")

Andrew, I think your rule might be accurate: if the name of the dish might have been featured as a caption during a fight scene in the old Batman TV series, it's probably good.

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I was feeling lazy yesterday and went and picked up some take out from Szechuan Tasty House. Tried the Chang Du Cold Noodles and the Szechuan Ban Ban Chicken. Both very tasty, but far too similar. In fact, I dumped the Chicken into the noodles and squirted a little Sriracha sauce on it to spicy it up a notch. It was very good that way. :smile:

I also got a small Hot and Sour soup to start which was quite good, but a little "thin" for my taste. I figured Hot and Sour soup would be a good yardstick for a Szechuan restaurant. The flavor was very good, but it was just too thin and didn't have enough "stuff" in it. I still maintain that Lee How Fook makes the best Hot and Sour soup known to man.

I'd certainly go back to Szechuan Tasty House, but I think it would be more interesting with a large group so more dishes could be tried and there's less chance of repetition in the sauces.

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.. the Chang Du Cold Noodles and the Szechuan Ban Ban Chicken.  Both very tasty, but far too similar. 

Yes, I thought the same thing, sorry if my descriptions didn't make that clear!

I'd certainly go back to Szechuan Tasty House, but I think it would be more interesting with a large group so more dishes could be tried and there's less chance of repetition in the sauces.

My thoughts exactly, so far I've only been with 1 or 2 people, it would be really good in a crowd. We just might have to do that soon!

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menton1   
  I still maintain that Lee How Fook makes the best Hot and Sour soup known to man.

So Katie, where does one find this soup?

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Mummer   
  I still maintain that Lee How Fook makes the best Hot and Sour soup known to man.

So Katie, where does one find this soup?

Lee How Fook Tea House, 219 N. 11th St. (bet. Race & Vine Sts.) 215.925.7266

Take a right at General Washington's white horse and a left at Grant's tomb. :rolleyes:

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  I still maintain that Lee How Fook makes the best Hot and Sour soup known to man.

So Katie, where does one find this soup?

Yup - at 219 North 11th Street, next door to Vietnam and a few doors from the police station. I think it's the corner of 11th and Spring Streets?

This is my go to soup when I have a head cold. Blasts it right out of you. :biggrin:

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I didn't really even plan to go this time, it's Victor's fault...

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Cold Sliced Tripe and Kidneys in a Spicy Sauce (Fu Qi Fei Pan)

This is surprisingly light-flavored and refeshing, and the sauce has a bit of a kick. I'm not actually much of a fan of tripe or kidney, but I like this.

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Vegetarian Duck with Beijing Pancakes

Like a Peking Duck Roll, but with a deep-fried something-or-other simulating the crackly duck skin, along with the traditional hoisin and scallions. I'm not going to abandon the real duck, but this was pretty good!

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Sliced Chicken with Spicy Tangy Sauce

Very tender slices of chicken in a really delicious sauce, celery and carrots. This is excellent.

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Fried Fish in Szechuan Style (not on the menu)

This is pretty much the braised beef dish pictured above, but with fried fish filets. The flavor was still pretty good, but the beef stood up to the spice better, and had a better texture than the getting-soggy breaded fish.

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Peppers in Black Bean Sauce

Slightly spicy chile peppers, stirfried with a very thin, vinegary, salty black bean sauce. This was OK, but a little bit went a long way...

The chicken was the real standout tonight, everything else was good, but not my first choices when I go back.


Edited by philadining (log)

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Sorry to ruin my reputation, I really was trying to get this up last night, but the imageGullet pages were not reloading...

A just-barely-too-big-for-one-table crowd of eGuleteers descended on the Szechuan Tasty House last night. They were happy to let us try to construct a bizarre new geometric form that combined a big round table and a rectangular annex. Can't say it really worked too well, we probably should have abandoned the round table and just chained a series of the conventional tables. The round ones really only handle 8 people comfortably, 10 in a pinch.

Coincidentally, there was another large group right behind us, and they somehow seemed to have packed about 20 people around the same table we were having trouble getting 10 around... And another table of 6 (and about 347 kids if I recall correctly) occupied the front. Despite this relatively dense crowd for this small restaurant, the kitchen handled it pretty well. The air conditioner was having a little trouble keeping up, but then maybe some of the sweating at our table was from the hot pepper! But it is worth keeping in mind that on a very hot day, with a lot of people in the restaurant their one little window-style air conditioner is a touch under-powered (I had never encountered a problem previously).

I fell victim to the feeding frenzy at the beginning our meal and failed to get photos of the appetizers, but we started with a few bowls of the dumplings in a spicy sauce, which I had snapped at an earlier dinner.

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And we had a couple of servings of the Chicken in a Spicy Sauce which consisted of cold chicken breast in a bright red, peppery glaze. Sorry for missing the photo op, this is actually an attractive and tasty dish, one of my favorites, we were too busy eating it. This seemed to be a popular dish.

Because mrbigjas was there, I knew there'd be trouble if we didn't get the Fu Qi Fei Pan which consisted of cold slices of tripe and kidney with a bit of spice. Here's a shot from my last trip:

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We then moved onto the Golden Coins another one of my favorite things: discs of eggplant stuffed with ground pork,, battered and deep-fried, served with a dipping sauce.

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We flamed through these with such speed that they promised to make some more. We didn’t see them for some time, so I don’t know if they forgot, or if the kitchen just hadn’t had a chance to make them yet, but after some whining, we managed to get another plate later on.

The Twice-Cooked Pork was good as always, if you go for that combo of really fatty pork belly and hot peppers. I do….

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Appearing much the same was the Three Pepper Chicken but that third pepper makes a difference! The fresh chiles, and dried chiles were joined by szechuan peppercorns, which give that weird, numbing, medicinal thing that’s unique to this style of food. It’s weird, but I like it…

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As has happened several times now, the waitress recommended something that I wouldn’t have bothered with, the Pork with Garlic Sauce. Sounded pretty pedestrian, but ended up as one of my faves.

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We had an order of Shrimp with Spicy and Tangy Sauce which I didn't eat, and apparently subconsciously avoided altogether, because I didn't get a picture of it either. I've had this made with chicken and liked it a lot.

I really like the Braised Beef filet in Szechuan Style, which is a bit soupy, but features very tender slices of beef in a flavorful peppery sauce.

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I have no idea what kind of fish the Whole Fish in Spicy Sauce was, but I found it quite tasty. I want to thank mr and mrs bigjas for throwing themselves on the grenade, so to speak, taking the brunt of the peppery assault sprinkled on top. A little further down, the sauce was just good and spicy, not weaponized. (And Pedro, artful deboning, man!)

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The Dragon and Phoenix was from the still-handwritten new specials list, which should be added to the regular menu soon. Sadly, most of these new specials seem a little conventional, and even this, while tasty, was basically just a heap of decent General Tso’s Chicken, and some spicy shrimp. Most of the rest of the new specials seem to be small variations on that theme.

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(BTW I’m kicking myself, in the chaos of ordering all this food, I forgot to add the Shredded Duck with Ginger, I meant to….)

They're a little light on the veggies here, other than chile peppers. But mrbigjas made an excellent suggestion of getting a plate of green beans which were simple, but good, and made me feel a tiny bit less depraved, while lusting after that last piece of pork belly.

We had requests for Pork Lo Mein and Egg Foo Young, which I didn’t take pictures of, because:

A) you already know what pork Lo Mein looks like.

B) Egg Foo Young is just one of the ugliest-looking things you can possibly eat. (Incidentally, I don’t think they normally make this dish, I don’t see it on their menu anywhere, but I give them a lot of credit for catering to this request of one of our party. I hate egg foo young, so I didn’t have any…)

They brought us a daunting pile of sliced watermelon, which was the perfect salve for tingling tastebuds. Not that it dissuaded us from hitting Capogiro too…

Pedro and I actually laughed out loud when the check came, it added up to about $14 per person before tip. The more I think of it, I wonder if some sort of math error was involved, or if they were nice enough to toss-in a few dishes for free? That was 6 appetizers (3 orders of dumplings two of chicken one of tripe) and 12 entrees by my count. For $145 ?!? Well, we tipped nicely, maybe that will help when they discovered they forgot to charge us for half our food!

I’ve been a big booster of this place, so you know that I liked it, I hope others will chime-in with positive or negative critiques. I heard some folks say they thought many things tasted the same, or decried the lack of sauce on the pepper-based dishes. This didn’t bother me, but hey, different strokes….

I still wish there were a few more unconventional things to order, but then again, maybe there are, hiding under dull names: the Pork with Garlic Sauce is one of my new faves. I’ll go back any time for the dumplings in spicy sauce, the cold chicken with spicy sauce, the three pepper chicken, the double cooked pork, the golden coins, the duck with ginger (sorry again!)

Despite the good crowd last night, they told me that things are still a little slow, “not too bad for just opening” is their rationalization, but I think the location is tricky, and their sign is ambiguous. So next time you’re down that way, stop by 902 Arch, there’s plenty of tasty dishes you won’t find elsewhere in Chinatown.


Edited by philadining (log)

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Capaneus   

Great pick, Jeff. As always. I actually found myself getting very cranky when the Golden Coins were late for our second date. And I *loved* the Fu Qi Fei Pan, though I had to shut out much Yanqui Imperialist Running Dog whining about the texture of kidney. You American weak sisters go McDonald's chop chop, you hear? :raz:

I actually enjoyed the Egg Foo Young, though it was hardly my favorite. Just a new thing, never actually having bothered to try it before. And the Spicy Dumplings are very good, but the version at the Yue Kee cart up at Penn is still my favorite iteration of this dish.

The prices are absurd. And I think they have listed some interesting dishes under dull, familiar names, I guess in the mistaken assumption that would get them by the rubes. Don't be fooled.

And in Portugal they don't let you out of the house unsupervised until you know how to fillet a fish. Not safe.

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Mummer   

Food sharing at Chinese restaurants is a cliche, but there's nothing quite like a seemingly endless parade of platters with two tablesful of eGulls.

I had some of everything except the egg foo yung, which passed by just as the conversation changed from tingling lips to statins. "I prefer Washington State whites with Crestor..."

I had another slice of pork belly instead. Then the second order of Golden Coins appeared. Does anything go better with fried eggplant than ground pork? Maybe bacon would.

After all that hot, it's a damn good thing Capogiro isn't far from 9th and Arch. So much for the briefly powerful dollar!

Thanks again, Jeff.

You, too, Evan.

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There are tradeoffs in every exchange, I guess. My penance for overdosing on the whole fish along with mr and mrs bigjas apparently was to completely miss out on so much as a single bite of shrimp.

No biggie. It appears to me that we can already retire my proposed Best-of-Philly "Best Place to Pig Out for Under $25/Person" category right here and now, for either the waitress forgot to charge us for some of our dishes or the whole plate-sharing experience is an out-of-this-world bargain -- and the place lives up to its name to boot.

But I was one of those who reached the conclusion that the kitchen must have a huge vat of Szechuan chili pepper sauce on hand, which it then ladles over numerous dishes. The whole fish, the dumplings, the braised beef filet, even the kidney and tripe -- thanks, James, for ordering this, I loved it! -- had this fiery sauce/seasoning in copious amounts.

The cold sliced chicken was a welcome change as a result. It came in a slightly syrupy, sweet-hot sauce that looked to be soy-based.

I am going to have to order that three-pepper chicken again, though, mainly for that third pepper. Those Szechuan peppercorns are something else--pungent, astringent, licorice-y, and definitely medicinal. I should keep a bunch of these on hand for sinus congestion.

It was nice to be able to meet Jeff for real this time, and Andy too. But I'm still trying to figure out how Evan could read my avatar as female. Yes, there's those bright red lips, but that's a moustache above them!

And this time I didn't bail out on the Capogiro nightcap. That rosemary goat milk gelato was out of this world!


Edited by MarketStEl (log)

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mrbigjas   
A just-barely-too-big-for-one-table crowd of eGuleteers descended on the Szechuan Tasty House last night. They were happy to let us try to construct a bizarre new geometric form that combined a big round table and a rectangular annex. Can't say it really worked too well,  we probably should have abandoned the round table and just chained a series of the conventional tables. The round ones really only handle 8 people comfortably, 10 in a pinch.

ah, it was fine. i yelled at everyone from the hinterlands and all was well.

And we had a couple of servings of the Chicken in a Spicy Sauce which consisted of cold chicken breast in a bright red, peppery glaze. Sorry for missing the photo op, this is actually an attractive and tasty dish, one of my favorites, we were too busy eating it. This seemed to be a popular dish.

Because mrbigjas was there, I knew there'd be trouble if we didn't get the Fu Qi Fei Pan which consisted of cold slices of tripe and kidney with a bit of spice.

both of these dishes were really good and something really different than many things i've had before. something about temp-based heat vs. pepper-based heat makes them intriguing--the thing is not hot with fire, but is hot with pepper.

We then moved onto the Golden Coins another one of my favorite things: discs of eggplant stuffed with ground pork,, battered and deep-fried, served with a dipping sauce.

  (snip pic)

We flamed through these with such speed that they promised to make some more. We didn’t see them for some time,  so I don’t know if they forgot, or if the kitchen just hadn’t had a chance to make them yet, but after some whining, we managed to get another plate later on.

crazy good. dude really knows his way around a deep fryer. a thin very crisp crust, the eggplant all mooshy and melty like hot eggplant gets, and the ground pork inside providing a meaty base for everything.

The Twice-Cooked Pork was good as always, if you go for that combo of really fatty pork belly and hot peppers. I do….

i wish we could have ordered another one of these, but really i suspect with a dish like this moderation is definitely in order.

As has happened several times now, the waitress recommended something that I wouldn’t have bothered with, the Pork with Garlic Sauce. Sounded pretty pedestrian, but ended up as one of my faves.

this WAS great. the pork had been, i'm guessing, sliced thin with a meat slicer and then cut into strips--it almost looked like hand-rolled noodles or something. and it was deeply flavored, and a little spicy, and great.

I have no idea what kind of fish the Whole Fish in Spicy Sauce was, but I found it quite tasty. I want to thank mr and mrs bigjas for throwing themselves on the grenade, so to speak, taking the brunt of the peppery assault sprinkled on top. A little further down, the sauce was just good and spicy, not weaponized.  (And Pedro, artful deboning, man!)

this is true, but it wasn't on purpose. i hadn't realized--the braised beef is completely covered with red pepper like this was, and isn't nearly as hot. the top half of this fish was incendiary, and responsible for me downing two beers more quickly than i had previously downed one--and let's not talk about this morning. as i mentioned to you last night, i think i ran up against the limit of how hot this pepper is, as compared to how much of it is used--if there had been more pepper than this on there (and probably if there had been significantly less) this dish would have been at the same heat level as it was.

when my mouth had recovered i picked the bits off the bones and ate the cheeks, and jeff's right--it was a great dish. i suspect they fried the fish and then immersed it in the sauce, which is what made for the slightly slimy, melting texture of the skin, which mrs jas found kinda offputting, but i liked it.

They're a little light on the veggies here, other than chile peppers. But mrbigjas made an excellent suggestion of getting a plate of green beans which were simple, but good, and made me feel a tiny bit less depraved, while lusting after that last piece of pork belly.

i find it interesting that they don't have just a standard fried chinese broccoli or bok choy or yu choy or pea shoots or even spinach.

Pedro and I actually laughed out loud when the check came, it added up to about $14 per person before tip. The more I think of it, I wonder if some sort of math error was involved, or if they were nice enough to toss-in a few dishes for free? That was 6 appetizers (3 orders of dumplings two of chicken one of tripe) and 12 entrees by my count. For $145 ?!?  Well, we tipped nicely, maybe that will help when they discovered they forgot to charge us for half our food!

$18 per person is i think what it cost, actually.

I still wish there were a few more unconventional things to order, but then again, maybe there are, hiding under dull names: the Pork with Garlic Sauce is one of my new faves. I’ll go back any time for the dumplings in spicy sauce, the cold chicken with spicy sauce, the three pepper chicken, the double cooked pork, the golden coins, the duck with ginger (sorry again!) 

and maybe there are more unconventional things that aren't on the menu at all, like the fish last night that she just offered us out of the blue. return visits are definitely necessary, gastric distress be damned!


Edited by mrbigjas (log)

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mrbigjas   
I am going to have to order that three-pepper chicken again, though, mainly for that third pepper.  Those Szechuan peppercorns are something else--pungent, astringent, licorice-y, and definitely medicinal.  I should keep a bunch of these on hand for sinus congestion.

i've got a bunch; i'll give you some. hmmm... imagining infusing them in vodka for a three-pepper bloody mary! PATENT PENDING PATENT PENDING

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I am going to have to order that three-pepper chicken again, though, mainly for that third pepper.  Those Szechuan peppercorns are something else--pungent, astringent, licorice-y, and definitely medicinal.  I should keep a bunch of these on hand for sinus congestion.

i've got a bunch; i'll give you some. hmmm... imagining infusing them in vodka for a three-pepper bloody mary! PATENT PENDING PATENT PENDING

Hot Rabbits, I'd drink one of those in a second, and I don't even love the whole Bloody Mary thing. Do it, report back!!!

And BTW, it was indeed $18 per person after I added what was either a 20% -ish tip to the $14.50 each, or a voluntary adjustment for them forgetting the second Golden Coins, or the Beans, or something! The check was in Chinese, so I couldn't really audit it really well... I think we actually left a little more than that, a few folks didn't bother with change from a 20, all the better for prompting them to reveal the secret dishes next time!

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shacke   

It was nice to be able to meet Jeff for real this time, and Adam too.  But I'm still trying to figure out how Evan could read my avatar as female.  Yes, there's those bright red lips, but that's a moustache above them!

ex-squeeze me? It is Capaneus who has the avatar gender issues. Your avatar looked like a guy to me from the fist time I saw it. Maybe he confused it with a very swarthy east german olympic swimmer?

Last night was a blast. gettin' up this morning.... not.

Evan

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stephenc   

gallery_23992_1383_29216.jpg

This is actually a pretty common dish called "yu shan ro shi", which is translated directlly as "fish flavored shredded pork"

It's pretty simple to make at home.


Edited by stephenc (log)

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And in Portugal they don't let you out of the house unsupervised until you know how to fillet a fish. Not safe.

I suppose. But Chinese like to serve fish whole. More fish flavor.

Plus a lot of people, can de-bone it (assuming the only bones are the skeleton/spine bones and not little bones throughout) at tableside. It's not too hard.

You can do it with a spoon.

First separate the head and tail from the body of the fish.

Slice down the middle where the skeleton is.

Flip the two halves outward.

Lift the skeleton out of the fish.

Flip the two halves back on top.

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That's what was impressive about Pedro's technique, we had the whole fish and with a flick of the wrist, he had the skeleton out of there. He didn't need no steenking spoons!!

I guess I'd be a little freaked if my waiter reached in and ripped the bones from my fish with his bare hands, so I guess, in many cases, spoons are good...

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stephenc   
do tell!  i would love to make it.

Cut pork into thin 1 1/2 - 2 inch strips. Its easier to do this to partially frozen pork.

Marinate this pork in a mixture of soy sauce, black pepper, and corn starch and set aside.

Soak and then shred some dry woody-ear mushrooms. You can get them at any chinese grocery. Cut waterchestnuts into strips. Mince a generous amount of garlic, ginger, and thinly diagonal slice some green onions. Chop some small chiles, or get some szechuan peppercorns and grind them.

Fry up the pork in oil on high. Remove the pork after it turns color and leave the oil in the pan. Add the garlic, and ginger and chiles/peppercorns. Add the 'shrooms and the water chestnuts. Keep on stirfrying. Add some sweet bean paste and hot soy bean paste (toban jan) and stirfry until fragrant. I like adding a bit of szechuan hot bean chile sauce too, but that's just personal preference. Add the pork and the green onions. Maybe a little bit of sesame oil for flavor.


Edited by stephenc (log)

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shacke   

and maybe there are more unconventional things that aren't on the menu at all, like the fish last night that she just offered us out of the blue.  return visits are definitely necessary, gastric distress be damned!

I think next time we should tell them we are not the average chop suey eating americans. We could ask them to have the chef cook whatever plates he wishes, however daring. I think we'd be pleasantly surprised. One person there seemed to understand english well enough to accomplish that request. This way we could experience the "other" menu the people next to us had.

Count me in on that one now....

Evan

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