Sichuan House Seafood
395 Victoria Street
+61 3 9913 6235
Remember how I mentioned that dining with food bloggers can sometimes lead to an invite to another meal? As soon as we strolled out of Tall Timber, we discussed meeting up for dinner (instead of the usual brunch). I asked Lauren if she was a fan of Sichuan food and she immediately remembered that she had been invited to dine at Sichuan House in Abbotsford. How uncanny! She graciously extended the invite to Fakebooo, The Angmoh and I.
Sichuan House used to have 2 restaurants, one in the city (Corrs Lane) and one in Abbotsford. The former is currently undergoing renovations and a series of unfortunate incidents have delayed the re-opening of the restaurant. Fingers crossed, all will be well and it’ll be up and running in no time. Nonetheless, the Abbotsford branch is going strong.
Peter Hu, the owner of Sichuan House, joined us for dinner that evening. In all Chinese generosity and graciousness, he ordered a plethora of food; some he knew were our favourites and others new dishes that we should try.
As the dishes kept coming, conversation ebbed and flowed smoothly. He enlightened us about the history of certain Sichuan dishes, the importance of quality in Sichuan ingredients, the differences in Sichuan peppercorns and how, ultimately, Sichuan food is a “combination of tastes”.
We discussed how the Asian food scene in Melbourne (and Australia) had changed drastically over the years. Peter chuckled as he recalled having sweet and sour pork or honey chicken as his main options when ordering from a Chinese restaurant in Brisbane some 24 years ago. Asian food amongst locals nowadays is no longer uncommon, and Sichuan food, despite its spice and oily glory, is certainly most welcome. Take The Angmoh, for example: he and his bunch of likewise friends meet once every couple of months for Tsing Dao beer, fish-fragrant eggplant, spicy cumin pork ribs and Kung Pao chicken. And they abso-freakin-lutely love it.
My favourite part of dinner (apart from the eating, of course) was when Peter kindly offered different types of peppercorns for us to sample and compare. There are 3 different types of peppercorns used in Sichuan cooking. Fresh peppercorns are harvested in the optimum season (May, to be exact), frozen, then exported to Australia. These are known as 麻椒. The other 2 varieties are the pink peppercorn 红花椒 and the green peppercorn绿花椒. I was delighted at the subtle differences in each of them. All, of course, left a tingling on the tongue. The frozen peppercorn was initially sweet with a slight effervescent bubbling effect. The sweetness soon became slightly salty with hints of lemon. The pink peppercorn had floral and minty elements and my tongue had by then become too numb to pick up the notes of the green variety.
While all of the food was delicious, my favourites were the pickled wood ear fungus, dan dan noodles and fish-fragrant eggplant. The fungus was tangy, crunchy and a wonderful entrée to whet and prepare the palate for the flavoursome, highly spiced dishes to come. The dan dan noodles were unlike the ones served at Shanghainese noodle shops. While the accompanying peanut chilli sauce was similar, the noodles were slimmer, somewhat lighter, and served cold. The “Jenga” stack of eggplant was one of the better ones I’d come across in Melbourne. It was crisp, not too sweet and had a lovely aroma of Chinese vinegar.
The Angmoh selflessly shamelessly dug into the ginormous bowl of beef hotpot. Peter told us that 35 ingredients are used to conjure it. The Angmoh is very familiar with this dish. His usual solo-dining at a Sichuan restaurant involves a serve of beef hotpot, dumplings and rice, all this just for one.
Our dinner ended with us stuffed to the max and almost to the point of rolling out of the restaurant. I would very much like to thank Peter, for his hospitality, knowledge and passion, and Lauren, for inviting me to partake in such a memorable meal. Looks like pho and roast duck are no longer just the reason to visit Victoria Street!
Read more about our meal at Fakebooo’s blog here.