FIREWORKS pow pow wow wowwwww
August 8, 2011 § 3 Comments
E arrived in Shanghai on Saturday afternoon and we decided to go for afternoon tea. I am obsessed with Sichuan food lately, so I did that intense online restaurant hunting thing again, going on Dianping (Shanghai verson of Menupages in NYC or Openrice in HK) and finally settling down on this restaurant near People’s Square.
Shanghai is so LARGE. Do you know, that it is the largest city in the world? There are TWENTY exits for the metro at People’s Square and we sort of (I think) got out at the right exit and found the Mall where the restaurant is. But turned out, the mall has about 10 entrances, 5 sets of lifts that go to different floors and sections and you could imagine the ecstasy on my face when we, after looping back and forth on the ground floor, suddenly saw a sign to the restaurant somewhere far off.
I decided to be exceptionally organized and obsessive that morning when I did my restaurant research, so I had a picture with me on my iphone of all their signature dishes:
and we ended up ordering the 钵钵鸡 (chicken) and 水煮鲶鱼 (literal translation: water cooked fish. In reality…. well you’ll see in a second)
Then E and I started catching up for a bit while we waited for food. It always makes me so happy to catch up with LPC kids, there’s just something… something about us…
Nah, just kidding. It’s just that I ran out of vocabularies.
And then suddenly, E’s eyes widened and she let out an almost horrified whisper ‘Oh…’
I turned, and towards us, loomed a GINORMOUS china bowl – actually more like a lake of chili oil in a water tank made of China. It was so large, I swear you could bathe in it. Note that we were having afternoon tea at that time – the dainty little scones and tarts from Brown Hotel’s high tea tower could drown themselves like sweet babies in this abyss if they wish.
Our immediate reaction: Gawk at pot for the longest time, hear it settle with a bang on our table, look at each other and then slo-o-o-o-oowly reach for our cameras. I swear we were like a mirror image.
Nevermind the shock of the new. I picked up a slice of catfish with my chopsticks and waited a few seconds for it to drip free of excess liquid. I call it liquid because the ‘lake’ is not oil and not water – but somewhere in between.
Bite. Chew. Swallow.
The flavors …. were truly…. INSANE.
INSANE. It’s like introducing spicy fireworks to your tastebuds. Only, it couldn’t be described as ‘spicy’, because it is much, much more than that. There’s also a herb in it, very much resembling hybrid between a peppercorn and a caper, that when you bite down on it, releases a most mind blowing circus performance in your mouth. It’s numbs your tongue for the first few seconds, then it turns tart… and then I don’t even know how to begin explaining the rest of the journey. People often generalize Sichaun food as ‘spicy’. But spicy is a single, straightforward adjective – it could be used to describe a fraction of this dish, as well as KFC wings, or your sauce of choice at Subway. But this is like… like an orchestra playing in your mouth – no, like you’re doing a live DJ set and you’re mixing and meshing the sickest tracks with one hand and punching the air with another. And by god, the crowd is dancing. They’re dancing my friend!
… which calls to mind a memorable quote. From the 1997 Julia Roberts movie My Best Friend’s Wedding:
‘Suddenly, a familiar song. And, you’re off your chair in one, exquisite movement… wondering, searching, sniffing the wind like a dapple deer. Has God heard your little prayer? Will Cinderella dance again? And then, suddenly, the crowds part and there he is: sleek, stylish… radiant with charisma. Bizarrely, he’s on the telephone. But then, so are you. And then he comes towards you… the moves of a jungle cat. Although you quite correctly sense that he is… gay… like most devastatingly handsome single men of his age are, you think… what the hell. Life goes on. Maybe there won’t be marriage… maybe there won’t be sex… but, by God, there’ll be dancing.’
And there will sure be.
In short, what I am trying to say is: This is the beginning of an obsession with Sichuan food. And guess where I’m flying to in a few hours to join the rents? CHONGQING. Land of Sichuan food.
Excuse the title. You’d expect me to apologize and say I ran out of ideas but believe it or not, Sichuan food does make me feel that way. *Big Smile*