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CHENGDU CUISINE OF CHINA * * *
[STATEWIDE Edition]
Hartford Courant - Hartford, Conn.
Author: Daley, Bill
Date: Mar 11, 2001
Start Page: 10
Section: NORTHEAST
Abstract (Document Summary)

Chinese eggplant in garlic sauce is plush and handsome, another humble dish rendered nearly haute by respectful treatment. The slender vegetables sport a silvery purple skin taut and unblemished, while the underlying flesh is at once firm but yielding. Lemon chicken -- one of the old warhorses -- is surprisingly light and mildly tart, not at all cloying. The wide, flat fillet of boneless batter-fried chicken ain't the prettiest, but it's commendably grease free. Even the rather mucilaginous white sauce in a special dish of chicken and asparagus offers its own subtle flavor interest. This dish is beautiful too, the snowy white chicken slices offset by the deep crunchy green of the asparagus.

Firecracker beef is a holdover from the old owners. I can see why. The beef is dusted in water chestnut powder, stir-fried until the batter is nearly brittle and coated in a savory sauce made bright with sweetness. I don't know how authentic this dish is, but it's a wickedly good indulgence. I feel the same way about the Chengdu bacon shrimp, monster tails coated in ground peanuts and bacon and served fried atop a mound of sauteed onion strips. The smokiness of the bacon against the sweetness of the shrimp is irresistible.

My favorite cold dish is a plate of shredded chicken strips and cucumber tumbled in a chili-spiked, peanuty sauce. The "spicy and tangy" shrimp is a dish in the same mode, with the shrimp plated with lots of cool, shredded lettuce. My only quibble is that the quality of the shrimp varies. One night, the taste is clear and bright. On a second visit, the shrimp are markedly tired.

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