Hit the hot spots

As the weather gets cooler, flavorsome Sichuan cuisine is perfect for combating the chill. At Sichuan Lab in Wan Chai, veteran chef Kenny Chan has created two innovative yet authentic Sichuan pots, available until mid-December.

The cold pot fish with tiger frog (HK$398) has elevated the traditional Sichuan specialty “cold pot fish” to another level. The silver carp is cooked with tiger frogs, then served in a cold pot with a broth made of blended green peppercorns, scallions, with a dose of fresh and dried chilies. Fried taro, vegetables and glass noodles soak up the rich flavors of the soup. Foodies can keep the taste of the soup going by cooking hot pot side dishes from an a la carte menu.

“The novelty of the dish is using frogs and taro, whose sweetness balances the numbing spice of Sichuan,” said Chan. “I also use aged Toban Djan, a Sichuan chili sauce, to create a strong aroma.”

Another new dish is braised duck with shredded konjak, Sichuan mixed chilies and tea-seed oil (HK$398). Inspired by a popular Sichuan home-style dish, it guarantees a tingling, numbing mala experience with green chilis, as well as fresh and dried Sichuan peppercorns.

Widely used as a dietary supplement in Chinese medicine to strengthen the immune system and manage cholesterol, tea-seed oil promotes guilt-free hotpot. “The difficulty with this dish is controlling the heat and tea-seed oil, which has a higher melting point and helps release fewer harmful substances during cooking,” Chan said.

The Chongqing-born chef also recommends the hot and spicy butter broth and braised spicy chicken with 33 herbs and spices (HK$248). Another favorite is the pan-fried Sichuan cured pork patties with pepper (HK$58), which combines juicy cuts of pork and the less mouth-numbing spice known as the Cambodian “king of pepper.”

If you are looking for a different kind of Christmas dining experience, the Christmas menu (HK$688) at Chilli Fagara in Central, is hot, red and perfect for group dining.

Starting with the tomato heaped with coriander in mouth-watering chili sauce and the delectable pork and vegetable dumplings in black truffle chili sauce, a serving of hot and sour soup paves the way for the main dishes. 

The kung pao wagyu beef is made with the finest ingredients, while the crisp-fried lamb shank is hard to ignore. The white water snowflake in supreme broth is perfect for the cold in both name and appearance.

Cooling down the tongue is the strawberry tanghulu, with the candied strawberries topped with a spun-sugar Christmas tree. Available from December 18 to January 1, the menu also includes a glass of Henri Giraud Esprit Nature champagne.

But if you like your food sour, Dynasty in Wan Chai is serving up classic spicy and sour delicacies with a twist to fire up the taste buds. The Sichuan-Chongqing classic deep-fried chicken with chili (HK$400/half and HK$800/whole), has sublime layers of spiciness.

The chicken is deep-fried with assorted chilies, including dried chilies, Sichuan peppers and facing-heaven chilies, resulting in a spice-numbing flavor.

Another chef’s favorite is sauteed celtuce and potato in garlic and chilli (HK$228). Fine slices of celtuce and potatoes are stir-fried with Zhenjiang vinegar and dried chilies, to bring an irresistible spicy and sour flavor.

Want just a touch of spice? Yum Cha’s all-you-can-eat buffet (from HK$158) offers spicy fish fillets, or spicy beef vermicelli and vegetables in spicy soup, and spicy turnip cakes among more than 40 choices for dim sum. The promotion ends on December 31.

(This article was published at The Standard on December 6, 2019: Weekend Glitz: Hit the hot spots )

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