An Fu Restaurant on Balestier Road

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Chengdu, the capital of the Sichuan Province, is known as “the Party City“. Ever wonder what’s the cause of such merriment amongst the locals?

Let me reveal the secret. It’s the suffering and pain that tourists go through when they foolishly sample the “local” prank food laid out by the locals who then run away and laugh as the poor tourist immolates into a lump of charcoal.

The name “Sichuan” means “Four Rivers”, that was definitely what the person who named the province – a tourist, naturally – was thinking about as he evaporated into a puff of smoke after a mouthful of what is known as “Sichuan Cuisine”. You need at least four rivers running into your mouth to quench the fire.

All this crossed my mind as I attended the July Makan Session and chomped on a small little pepper that recommended by TTC (as he surreptitiously spat his out) as worthy of a good chomp.

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TTC must have been a Hunan native in his past life. (See! This blog documents what I put in my mouth).

And naturally, the Chef was instructed by TTC not to hold back the heat but to give everyone a taste of what the real Sichuan Cuisine is like.

Anyway, I arrived at the restaurant just as William Wongso of Indonesia finished filiming a segment for a TV program. I was grateful for that; me choking on a small green pepper is not a pretty sight, maybe except on Fear Factor.

The dinner was divided into two parts: Cold Dishes and Hot Dishes. It’s all a lie; they were all hot dishes. It is most unfortunate that Singapore has only one river.

Anyway, the Cold Dishes were appetizers designed to entertain the restaurant staff as everyone started tearing and perspir sweating. The Black Fungus in Vinegar and ginger sauce looked deceptively mild until the deception is broken as you bite into one of the small sliced chilli.

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And as this blog was choking and gasping in the background, a lively discussion on the various methods to cure the heat started amongst the people at my table.

***

Cure for Heat #1, Ice Water: Drink vast amounts of ice water to numb the tongue from the pain. It actually works but only after a fashion because once the ice water (same for ice) runs out, the heat not only comes back, it intensifies. You really need four rivers.

***

The other Cold (ha!) Dishes were the cold chicken in spicy sauce, preserved mixed vegetables, pork tripe in chilli oil and sliced pork in garlic sauce.

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In spite of all the heat, I enjoyed the sliced pork in garlic sauce. Cold, crunchy boiled slices of pork dipped in a delicious garlic and (of course) chilli sauce. Once you get past the heat of the chilli oil, the savoury garlic sauce takes over and envelopes the pork in an almost velvety layers of citrus and smokey garlicky creaminess.

The guotie (pot stickers) was also pretty good in the sense that it was the only dish that night that was not drenched in chilli oil. It was also cooked differently where some of the batter is poured into the frying pan. This forms a layer connecting the pieces of guotie and makes it easier for the Chef to turn over.

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But you need some skill with the chopsticks to eat though. 😉

***

Cure for Heat #2, Milk. Has the same problem with ice water but with is compounded with the fact that adding an alkali like milk to the acidic chilli is not a good thing; similar to setting yourself on fire because of cold.

***

The Tyrant Crab was the first of the Hot Dishes that came out. It came out an angry red. This was unlike the salt and pepper prawns which was quickly snapped up by everyone except me. The fried chicken in chilli oil was superb. Drenched in chilli oil, the only way to eat this was to pick off from the top. I liked it because of the salty tender pieces that was given a nice tartness from the chilli oil.

If I thought the fried chicken was good, the Homestyle Duck was outstanding. I believe it was smoked duck as it had a very smokey sweet flavour. And scattered about were chewy bits of sea cucumber Ito Konnyaku.

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To me, the most outstanding dish of the night was the Wok of Fish Slices with salted vegetables and tanghoon. Like the movies Jaws, the surface looked deceptively mild until you discover that it’s full of different types of peppers including the infamous Sichuan Peppercorn.

According to TTC, you need to get beyond the fire to allow the flavours to come out.

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He was right. The trick is to use your spoon to push away the layer of oil as much as possible before spooning in the broth and fish slices that lie beneath. The broth was outstanding; peppery and salty. And as your lips swell and your tongue goes numb, the fish slices take on a very creamy yet citrus flavour that is not unlike cod with a light sprinkly of lemon.

***

Cure for Heat #3, Sugar: Spreading sugar on your tongue will soothe your tongue and remove the heat. This actually works and quite rapidly too. Always have a spoonful of sugar crystals available.

***

Actually, in between the Cold and Hot Dishes, a palate cleanser, more of a palate soother, was served in a huge bowl carved out of a watermelon. This lead a lot of people to mistake it for dessert.

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Cooling White Fungus with chunks of soothing watermelon floating in sweet watermelon juice. This is the thing to cure heat. Almost immediately the fire in the mouth was extinguished. It was no wonder people were hoarding it for the rest of the meal.

The dinner at An Fu Restaurant was a pore-opener with many people spending time on the porcelain throne because our stomachs were not used to such strong spices. But once you get past the burn and the numbness, the subtle citrus flavours of the peppercorns emerge. It was a wonderful revelation for me.

On normal days, the heat is greatly reduced to cater to the weaker local palates, but if you really want authentic Sichuan Cuisine (on high heat or otherwise), An Fu Restaurant is definitely a place to try out. Now, gimmie some sugar…

An Fu Restaurant is at #01-06/07 Balestier Road, Tel: 6254-3266, Open 11:30am to 3am.

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Posted on 30th Jul 2007 in Food and Drink, Makankaki, Sichuan

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There Are 5 Comments

 

carrie commented on July 31, 2007 at 6:16 am


“But once you get past the burn and the numbness, the subtle citrus flavours of the peppercorns emerge.”

Pure poetry.


 

Ivan commented on July 31, 2007 at 8:58 am


@carrie: The Sun Smiles and the River Laughs. 😉


 

Mich commented on July 31, 2007 at 10:35 pm


you’ve been yahoo-ed! 🙂


 

balestier rd commented on March 19, 2010 at 7:22 am


[…] Eng Seng beat Kent Ridge 60-30 in Group X and Fairfield Methodist overcame Balestier Hill 51-46. …food.recentrunes.com | An Fu Restaurant on Balestier RoadAn Fu Restaurant on Balestier Road. Chengdu, the capital of the Sichuan Province, is known … An Fu […]


 

thomas commented on March 31, 2011 at 5:50 pm


HI


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