Sichuan cuisine has gained soaring popularity in the last couple of years, and restaurants all conveniently have similar names, especially the Barshu and BaShan in Soho. Sichuan Folks (BarShu Folks in Chinese) is apparently a spin off from one of the former two, and handily located on the Spitalfields-end of Brick Lane.
The place is not as brushed up as the ones in China Town/Soho; adorned with red lanterns, Chinese writing and ink paintings printed on wallpaper, tables arranged in parallel rows, plus karaoke booths behind the dining room. A bit like My Old Place, but more cramped. Half the diners were having hotpot with a bubbling pot of glaring red soup. We went for a la carte.
Soft water in Sichuan province favours the growth of all kinds of chillies, which the ancient Chinese wisdom claims can improve our digestive systems, something that's brought about by the soft waters. Hence Sichuan is renowned for their fiery dishes. On the plus side, soft water is gentle on the skin, leaving Sichuan ladies with a natural radiant glow.
Special Flavoured Chicken
The sauce looked deceivingly spicy with the orange flare, but it only carried a mild fragrance of Chinese herbs that has a gentle numbing effect. It was indeed special with the aromatic, thick sesame paste that hung onto the shreds of chicken and cucumber hidden beneath.
Twice Cooked Pork
One of the more reputable dishes of Sichuan cuisine; wafer thin slices of pork belly in spicy bean paste. It is twice cooked because the pork belly is first stir-fried in medium heat to melt away excess lard, then returned to the wok after the veg and sauces start sizzling away. This method lessens the grease of pork belly, yet retains its bouncy texture and fatty flavours.
This may not look overly piquant, but it was. I think it was the chilli oil; it punched through pretty sharply to leave a modest scar.
Boiled tender beef slices in a spicy and lip-tingling sauce
Another signature Sichuan dish; strips of beef submerged in chilli oil and excessive chillies in the bowl. Some mistake the lip-tingling for the chillies numbing us senseless, but the spiciness and tingling actually comes separately from various strains of chillies and peppers.
The heat didn’t burn or pierce, but lurks around under our skin at a constant level, creeps and crawls all over until our entire body felt it. And Mister certainly felt it as he was surprised to find himself sweating in a rather cool evening. It didn’t hit me that badly, but my lips definitely passed out by the end of the meal, in a good way though.
Stir-fried water spinach
Compared to the other dishes, the veg was almost sweet.
Hot ‘n’ spicy hasn’t never really been my thing, but I don’t mind the occasional thrill. One thing I do particularly like about Sichuan cuisine is the numbing sensation the peppers added, which bring a different dimension to the heat. Dishes here are promising; they all arrive looking exactly the same as the photos on the menu. Greasy? Yes - it’s kinda inevitable when chilli oil is one of the main ingredients. Intolerable? Nah.
32 Hanbury Street
Tel: 0207 247 4735
You may also like: My Old Place, Dumpling Legend, Nakhon Thai