Fish head with minced peppers

Fish head with minced peppers

Rosie postulates that spicy food alleviate allergy symptoms, so with my nose congested through memorial day weekend, we decided to lunch at Hunan house and test out her theory.
While Cantonese and Sichuan food are familiar to the western palate, Chinese cuisine varies greatly based on regional differences. Hunan cuisine, like the two above-mentioned, reigns among the eight most famous Chinese culinary styles. Hunanese cuisine, like Sichuan food is spicy, but it relies not on tongue numbing characteristics of tiny but deadly Sichuan peppercorns. Instead, a ton of fresh chilis, both green and red are used in abundance. We recruited JW, another spice lover to test out 4 dishes.

The cold spicy tongue and tripe appetizer is authentically Sichuanese, slick with fiery red oil and those potent peppercorns that render your tongue momentarily dysfunctional. Next was a platter of tofu soaking up some light red sauce that had been enhanced by broth and peppers. Although humble looking, the tofu was smooth and nutty, and possessed a clean, bracing flavor from the light sauce. Large chunks of bell peppers and very tender ginger finished that dish. Next was a humble looking dish called chicken casserole on the menu. We would not have ordered it had it not come highly recommended by the helpful proprietor, with its really generic name and the fact it was not even on the specials page. However, the lean and flavorful chicken (unlike the garden roaster variety) stewed in a deep flavorful sauce that thickened as the casserole bubbled over an open flame was my favorite dish, the sauce, both spicy, sweet, salty with a little funk from fermented soy bean paste addictive particularly with rice. I ate a second bowl of rice just sopping up the sauce.

The unassumingly delicious chicken dish

The unassumingly delicious chicken dish

Just wonderful as the chicken may be, the piece de resistance was definitely the fish head cooked with fresh minced peppers. The braised fish head is not presented whole but thoughtfully chopped into 2 inch chunks to facilitate marination, rendering the freshwater fish tender with minimal mud taste and saturated with the delightly taste of soy and chili. Another dish that requires plenty of rice, which we happily ate, seconds and thirds included. Only quibble about this dish was that the chopped up head made it really difficult to locate the fish eyes that rosie and I both coveted. Hehe.

With Hunanese food  conveniently found in Flushing, the regional cuisine is definitely going to break my usual rotation of Canton/Shanghai and Sichuan food!

Hunan House

13740 Northern Boulevard, Flushing

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yin/yang pot

So here I am wishing for signs of spring, but  instead I get a cold front, blistering winds and a foot of snow dumped upon me unceremoniously on the first day of March. Whilst drinking soup out of a box in the pantry is a practical way of staying warm, it is not the ideal winter meal. I can only conjure memories of the hot pot at Little Fat Lamb to make myself feel better. Now if only my trip to Little Fat Lamb for the bubbly cauldron of hot pot happened this week and not 2 weekends ago. Then I would be able to slurp the piping hot soup, served in one big pot or a split one for the variety seeker. Both the spicy sichuan and the milk white concoction boiled long and slow with chinese herbs (goji berries, red dates, dang gui etc) are good. We swished razor thin slices of lamb and beef in the broth till just cooked and dragged the meat in a concoction of sauces before devouring it. Meatballs, fishballsm and other types of meat such as frozen fish slices (the freezer burn a little concerning) also made their appearance, as did some more exotic animal parts. We opted for the safe choices this time, with only duck tongue mildly more offal-like. Germaine and I seemed to be the only cartilage lovers so we split the plate.  To finish, a handful of vermicelli, some vegetables and a thoroughly warmed and satisfied stomach. Hotpot is a salve for cold days indeed.

Little Fat Lamb

36-45 Main St (Flushing)