A crunchier, spicier version of kung pao chicken, this version is made with breaded chunks of juicy, fatty dark meat, deep fried until ultra-crisp, and tossed in a dry mixture of sichuan peppercorns, roasted chilis, sugar, and an assortment of aromatics. It's like the popcorn chicken of your youth, assuming you spent your youth with your Chinese grandmother in the fiery depths of Mount Doom.
Steamed Beef, Szechuan Style ($11.95)
The mother of all chili dishes, it's a 12-inch diameter bowl that is literally covered edge-to-edge in chili oil and chopped dried chilis and Sichuan peppercorns. That said, it's not quite as hot as it seems. The whole point is to fish out the slick and tender slices of steamed beef underneath. As you pull them through the chili oil, a thin fragrant coating forms around the meat, gently flavoring it and adding a bit of spice. The tender-crisp cabbage comes out a little hotter—it's got more nooks and crannies for the chilis to stick to.
Noodles with Spicy Szechuan Sauce ($6.50)
One of the finest renditions of Dan Dan Mien I've had, with flavorful chunks of pork and plenty of pickled mustard root piled on top of just-cooked noodles. Toss it all together to let the sesame-flavored chili oil coat the strands before shoveling it down.
Fresh Fish Filets in Special Hot Sauce ($24.95)
When the hot bowl arrives at your table at first nothing is visible save a brooding, bubbling red surface, slick with chili oil, opaque with roasted chili flakes and Sichuan peppercorns. Only by stirring it up do you release your target from the depths: tender slices of simmered fish that have been dipped in a slick batter, rendering them ultra moist and tender. Despite the abundance of chili flakes, the heat is mild compared to some other dishes on the menu—the chili is mostly there for aroma.
The set up for this dish is nearly identical to the Steamed Beef, Szechuan Style ($11.95), only the protein is different.
Mapo Tofu ($9.25)
The mapo tofu at Fuloon is not listed on the menu, though it's difficult for me to understand why, as theirs is the standard by which I measure all other mapo tofu. Rich and intense, custard-smooth and blazingly hot, rib-stickingly satisfying, and mouth-numbing with the intensity of its Sichuan peppercorns, there's a reason this dish is one of the classics of Sichuan cuisine and one of the great foods of the world. (For a closer look at how it's made, check out the slideshow here).
Mandarin Cabbage with Spicy and Sour ($9.25)
Who knew that cabbage could be one of the most exciting dishes on the menu? There's nothing complex going on here, just some perfectly stir-fried, crunchy napa cabbage licked by the smoky breath of a good carbon steel wok, coated in a thin, thin vinegary sauce, and tossed with some charred peppers. The heat and vinegar are mild, but their effect is to elevate the natural flavor of the cabbage to new heights.
Pickled Cucumber ($3.50)
Lightly garlicky and crisp, cool pickled cucumbers are an essential counterpoint to the seriously hot fare that's probably crowding your table.
Bang Bang Chicken ($5.50)
Tender shredded chicken tossed with cilantro and scallions in a vinaigrette flavored with roasted chilis and Sichuan peppercorns.
Kan Shue String Beans ($9.25)
Dry fried string beans come out blistered and tender but still bright green and crisp with plenty of flavorful pork and preserved mustard root to pick at in between bites of vegetables.