I’m exaggerating about how spicy the food was. If you avoid eating the actual chilies, the food is about medium spicy. If you DO choose to eat the chilies…well…that’s all on you. For me, the more painful part was my allergy to capsaicin (the compound in chilies that make them spicy). Whenever I eat even traces of capsaicin, I start sweating like this:
Because of this affliction, I’ve avoided a lot of the Hunan and Sichuan/Szechuan restaurants around town. But recent visits to Nine Dishes and Joojak has reignited (literally) my interest in this spicy cuisine. I really do enjoy the flavours and the experience — I just need to bring a headband and a towel next time.
Szechuan Cuisine is on Kingsway near Gilley, in the building that used to be Lester’s Family Amusement Centre (we’re talking the 90s here).
All the customers were Mandarin-speaking. But the staff could deal with my Canadian-born Chinese ways fine.
Any time you want a gut full of chili oil, this place is ready for you.
NOTE: they only accept cash or debit. No credit cards.
I was a tiny bit surprised to see live seafood tanks here cuz I thought that was more of a Cantonese thing, but then I have very little experience with Sichuan food.
Ordering is done via dry erase markers.
Their menu is quite large.
More menu shots cuz I was sitting down and shooting at an angle.
Other side of menu.
You get the idea.
??? You’re gonna have to ask the staff about what all these drinks are.
Last bit of the menu.
There’s ALSO a big pictorial menu which corresponds to the order form. The actual name of the restaurant is “Chuan Chu Ren Jia”, but every English-speaker refers to this place as the name on the sign, “Szechuan Cuisine”.
If you can’t read Chinese, you should probably just jump to this menu first. All the English names correspond exactly to the order form, thank god. There’s a disclaimer that the photos are for illustrative purposes only.
I saw people post this “green bean cube” dish on Instagram. It’s served cold and has a strange name. I’ll explain more below.
The server said to circle my choices. I really think a checkmark would’ve worked too.
This beef with cumin dish came recommended by good old Karl of The Friday Lunch. While he no longer blogs, he does post food stuff on Instagram. He was travelling in Xian and Chengdu while I was eating here.
They call it “Grilled Beef” but the dish just looks stir fried to me — maybe with a touch of wok hei colour to it.
I didn’t see anyone else order plain rice with their food, but the Cantonese in me just had to have some rice to go with the beef. I think I made a pretty good educated guess that I was ordering a single bowl of rice.
Tea comes in a tree trunk! Is this “Willo the Wisp”? (NO ONE is gonna get that reference.)
So apparently they messed up punching my order in and entered a lamb dish instead of the beef. Long story short, they re-entered it as the proper beef with cumin dish. I was almost gonna say that I’d take the lamb dish to go if it was already cooked up.
Spicy & Sour Green Bean Curd ($8.99). This needs some explanation. This is NOT “bean curd” (tofu). This is sort of “green bean”. Not green beans, but mung bean, which in Chinese is literally “green bean”. This dish is also known as “Mung Bean Jelly with Numbing-Hot Sauce”, “Chuan Bei Liang Fen”, “Clear Noodles in Chili Sauce”, “Liangfen-Chinese Jelly Noodles”, or “Cold Mung Bean Noodles with Chili Vinegar Sauce”.
The noodles are mung bean starch formed into a jelly that’s set somewhat firm and cut into thick noodles. They look and taste a bit like Japanese konnyaku except quite a bit softer. They broke if I applied too much pressure with my chopsticks.
I avoided eating the chilies. There was plenty of heat and a moderate amount of numbing Szechuan peppercorns. Without eating the actual chilies, the heat level is about a medium (for me). Major flavours are chili, salt, and sourness. There’s also whole peanuts in this dish, and I’ve never been so happy to see peanuts in my life. They offered a much-needed reprieve from the spice. It’s not the most complex dish. The actual flavours are quite simple, so I think the balance between those flavours is what’s critical. I enjoyed it but wished the noodles were a bit firmer. Maybe that’s how this dish is…I’m not sure.
Grilled Beef with Cumin ($16.99). Again, if you avoid eating the chilies, the heat level is about a medium.
Punchy flavours of salt, beef, and cumin. Sweating my face off at this point. I asked for more napkins and within a couple minutes the whole stack turned into a sopping wet pile on the tablecloth. I’ve never been so happy to see onions before. They tasted really sweet against the sweat dribbling down my forehead and cheeks. I’m pretty sure there was tenderizer on the beef, but it didn’t bother me at all. Or maybe they did the “velveting” technique on the beef. Not sure. The flavour of the dish and the crisp juiciness of the onions and bell peppers overrode whatever I felt about the possible tenderizer.
I’ve never been so happy to see rice before either. A must-have with the beef.
Eating here solo is TOUGH. All the dishes are meant to be shared, and most of the tables seat four or more people. I ended up taking most of my food home. Really, I’ve only scratched the surface with this place and can’t really say with any certainty that this is a good place or not. But what I had was enjoyable and exciting. Maybe it was all the chili talking.