Thursday, 6 January 2011

Spicing Things Up

The best of the lot: Mapo tofu that's "medium spicy"
My American friend who came back to Hong Kong discovered a Sichuan restaurant in North Point. He said it was so good and I asked him to take me there.

But he went back there again without me!

Incensed, I kept bugging him to take me and finally we managed to meet up last night with another friend I haven't seen in years.

We first met at the Fortress Hill MTR station and from there took Exit B and walked several blocks east until we crossed the road north. He asked for directions, but not all locals can understand gweilos speaking Cantonese. I said it's the "little chilli" place and they said oh! Down the street turn right and keep going. We followed the directions and at the end of the street we saw it across the street, Little Chilli.

Cold dish of shredded chicken, cucumber and rice roll sheets
It was already packed inside, but the ever flexible staff let the three of us sit at a reserved round table first and then they persuaded two women to share our table so that they still had a reserved table.

The menu is in Chinese, but there is an English one with fewer dishes listed on it.

Most of the staff are mainlanders and same with the customers. Lots of dishes covered in red chillis are served to tables as well as beer -- Qingdao being the beverage of choice.

I used my Mandarin to order from a waitress from Hunan even though she could speak Cantonese and some English. Pretty soon the two large bottles of beer arrived and then a cold appetizer of shredded chicken, cucumber and rice roll sheets with peanut sauce. It was OK, not as good as the ones in Beijing, but it would suffice. We were all starving so we ate most of it quickly before the spring onion pancake arrived too. Strangely it was in a rectangular shape cut into squares, but it didn't matter.

The mapo tofu was quite good -- thick slabs of silky tofu that was what the waitress said was "medium spicy", with bits of dried chillis sprinkled on top and minced pork. On a winter day, it pretty much hit the spot.

Kung Pao chicken
I told my friend about kung pao chicken and he thought it was a North American Chinese culinary creation, but I told him this was a staple dish served in Beijing. While this one in Hong Kong wasn't as good as the ones in the Chinese capital, the cubes of chicken were still tender, though not enough flavour probably because there weren't any leeks in the dish and the peanuts weren't as big.

The jiaozi, or boiled dumplings with pork and chives were quite good, and I seemed to eat the majority of them, while my two other dining companions were fascinated by the julienne potato stir-fried with slices of garlic, dried chillis and Sichuan peppercorns. The last time my friend was there he ordered this dish, but it was much too oily, as the shredded potato sat in a pool of oil.

This time I asked for it to be cooked in less oil, but the end result was burned chillis. Nevertheless the potato wasn't burned and my tongue was so numb from the Sichuan peppercorns that I drank too much beer and could feel my face burning up. My two friends enjoyed the dish thoroughly and pretty much cleaned up the plate (minus the chillis).

We also ordered a plate of vegetables, seasoned stalks of chives that were stir-fried with copious amounts of diced garlic.

In the end we almost finished all the dishes, filled with hot food and cold beer.

The total came to HK$280 ($36) for three people! Mainland Chinese prices! Which explained why there were so many mainlanders who patronized the restaurant. Not only was it a taste of home, but cheap too.

The meal made me miss my Beijing food days -- I never thought I'd miss kung pao chicken that much!

Little Chilli
B2, 33 North Point Road
North Point
2571 9822

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