Tofu haters can have a shot at tasting the addictive Sichuan-style sauce flavored with hot chili oil and numbing Sichuan peppercorns.
'Sichuanese' on Serious Eats
The Seattle area has a number of Sichuanese restaurants, with good overall quality and some stellar dishes. At these restaurants, you'll find more adventurous menu options, including the pickled and peppered preparations typical of the Sichuan region—especially some fiery ma la (numbing and spicy) dishes that come with bright red colors. Most of these places are on the Eastside, but when I'm in the mood for something spicy, I don't mind crossing Lake Washington.
Dan Dan Mein—the hot and numbing cold noodle staple of Sichuan street food—is one of my favorite dishes ever, but I can't help but think to myself, "I'm sitting here eating refined wheat starch coated in chili oil." Now I'm no health nut, but I'm not looking to die young either, and if I can not only have a healthier version of the dish, but one that actually tastes more exciting as well, then why not?
I'm here to set the record straight: tofu is emphatically not a meat substitute. It's an ingredient in its own right, and a delicious one at that! Indeed, in many traditional Chinese and Japanese dishes, it's prepared together with meat in a single dish. I grew up on the sweet-and-salty, heavy-on-the-beef version of Mapo Dofu that my mom used to make for us, sometimes with her own seasoning, but often just thrown together from a packet. When paired with her handmade beef dumplings, it was far and away my favorite meal.
"It’s the brainchild of the restaurateur Shao Wei—who also owns Bar Shu across the road—and food writer Fuchsia Dunlop, the first Westerner to train as a chef at the Sichuan Institute of Higher Cuisine. The corner venue over four floors is divided into rooms with Chinese names such as Happiness of Rustic Cheer and Preserving the Tradition Pavilion." [Bloomberg]...