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International Incident Party: Sichuan cuisine

This month’s International Incident Party is not the joyous occasion it generally is.  Our lovely hostess, Penny, lost her dad recently and is in Singapore helping out her mum so she won’t be participating this month. The rest of us, however, decided to go ahead and dedicate our dishes, with a “Sichuan” theme to the memory of Penny’s dad.

When you Google “Sichuan cuisine” you get approximately 754 000 results.  It’s known for its strong flavours and liberal use of garlic and spicy chilies and one of the most representative dishes is Kung Pao Chicken (宫保鸡丁/宮保雞丁 (gōngbǎo jīdīng).  Now, since I am in Paris right now with no access to my fabulous cookbooks, I had to rely on the internet for my recipe which can sometimes be a little overwhelming.  So I turned to a favourite site of mine, Rasa Malaysia – Easy Asian Cuisine where I found just the recipe I needed for Kung Pao Chicken.

Bee’s recipes really do make Asian cooking do-able and I was able to find most of the ingredients at the legendary Tang Frères in Paris’ 13th arrondissement, close to where I used to live briefly when I first arrived over 16 years ago…  I chose the wettest day ever to visit…  No photos of colourful Paris Chinatown because I had my head down…

It was, in fact, raining so much that I had to duck into a restaurant to dry off.  Quite by chance, I ended up at the restaurant where I dined out for the first time when I moved to Paris. It’s a good sign that it’s still here and was full of people at 11.30am!

Hawai Restaurant (87 Avenue D’Ivry Paris, Paris 75013, Métro: Porte d’Ivry)) I had a steaming bowl of Pho and dried off, ready to tackle Tang Frères for some challenging ingredients.

(No photos in Tang Frères – I have already learned my lesson once.)

First up, something I have not been able to find anywhere – scallions/ spring onions…

Oh I mean, I have found slightly older onions…

but never the scallions until I got to Tang Frères

Next up, Bee’s recipe called for Shaoxing wine which I found out is a rice wine for cooking.  Since I didn’t want to buy a ginormous bottle of rice wine, I found a pretty good substitute…

Not only does it have an awesome label but it tells you it is “for gourmet cooking only, not for beverage.”  Also, in case you don’t know what it’s for, it tells you this: USAGE: (1) To deodorize stench of fish and meat, make cooked food more delicious and (2) to wash frozen meat.

Well, I don’t know about that but I do know that it is a rice wine that would absolutely “do” for this recipe!  What was difficult was not having a printed out recipe. I am so old school!  I had to have my phone in the kitchen. Luckily it’s small…

(chicken marinading)

… because look at the gigantic mess:

But it all worked out in the end.  I invited my new Paris friend Lindsey of Lost in Cheeseland over to help me test it and she gave it two thumbs up.  We can also suggest that it goes well with un petit rosé (I mean, really, what doesn’t?).  I stayed true to Bee’s recipe, except I added some shredded basil and some thinly sliced blanched snow peas right at the end for some colour and texture. A winner. I will definitely be making this again!

Don’t forget to check out what everyone else brought to the party by clicking the links below:  I think Penny’s dad would have loved this party!


Keep up with me this summer in London, Paris, Alsace and Burgundy through my Summer 2011 Flickr set.

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46 Responses to International Incident Party: Sichuan cuisine

  1. leaf (the indolent cook) July 27, 2011 at 21:15 #

    I haven’t had kongpo chicken in aaaaaaaaaages. I think you did well!

  2. Maya@Foodiva's Kitchen July 27, 2011 at 22:11 #

    Mardi, your Kung Pao Chicken brought back memories! So happy that you made the effort (and even invited a friend) to produce a delicious Sichuan for the party. I nearly made this, but decided to cook ants instead!

  3. Lindsey July 28, 2011 at 02:03 #

    Was thrilled to be the one to get to test the recipe! It was bursting with flavor, really really delicious. Bravo, Mardi!! And lovely shot of the dish! Mine didn’t come out quite so nicely :-/

  4. penny aka jeroxie July 28, 2011 at 03:22 #

    Oh nice job Mardi and thanks for bringing this dish to the party. Much appreciated :)

  5. GourmetGetaways July 28, 2011 at 04:47 #

    Oh just lovely!!!

    The images are mouthwatering!

    I will be trying this dish too, I actually noticed this on Bee site as well :)
    Good on you for searching Paris for all the ingredients, even in the rain I would love to be back there now.

    I need a printed recipe too, maybe we are both a similar vintage?

    Good on y

  6. Mr. Neil July 28, 2011 at 06:08 #

    I’m sorry I missed this dish!

    Good suggestion from Lindsey…just tell me you didn’t use a glorious Tavel! ;-)

  7. Jill Colonna July 28, 2011 at 07:00 #

    Gosh – this looks a real treat. Love Chinatown – while since I’ve been but had not idea about photos at Frères Tang. Glad the horrid wet weather was good for trying out the restaurant :-)

  8. Adora's Box July 28, 2011 at 07:45 #

    Two thumbs up for your Kung Pao Chicken (more if I had more thumbs). Excellent! I like the basil and snow peas topping. That would have added a fresh twist on the dish.

  9. Joan Nova July 28, 2011 at 08:08 #

    Well-written and photographed journey that captures the reader’s attention. Well-done Mardi.

  10. Brian @ A Thought For Food July 28, 2011 at 08:44 #

    Great post, Mardi. I have been interested in making szechuan eggplant

  11. Kate@Diethood July 28, 2011 at 09:12 #

    Mardi, I want that white plate … it is gorgeous! The deliciousness that is in it is even better!!

  12. Cookin' Canuck July 28, 2011 at 09:26 #

    I’m so sorry to hear about Penny’s dad, but you have honored him well with this tempting dish.

  13. Rochelle July 28, 2011 at 10:14 #

    Beautiful dish, Mardi! I haven’t attempted kung pao chicken in my kitchen yet, but I think I’ll have to give this a whirl.

    Oh… and one more thing. You call that a mess? I wish my kitchen messes looked that clean!

  14. Trix July 28, 2011 at 10:44 #

    Hello, lovely – better late than never, right? I love that you picked such a classic Sichuan dish, and one of my favorites. I can tell from the color that you nailed it. You really can’t go wrong with Rasa Malaysia! I love your rainy shots of Paris.

    • Mardi@eatlivetravelwrite July 29, 2011 at 16:44 #

      Aw thanks – I have never had an authentic one so didn’t know except that it tasted out of this world!

  15. Heather | Farmgirl Gourmet July 28, 2011 at 11:37 #

    Mardi – I need to make this very very soon. My kids would think they’d died and gone to Panda Express Heaven. Ok, a much nicer, tastier PE. :) This looks fab! My good thoughts are with Penny!

  16. foodwanderings July 28, 2011 at 14:37 #

    Love kung pao chicken done right and this one looks like it was done perfectly!! Good job Mardi and love following in your footsteps in Europe!

  17. Erin @ Dinners, Dishes and Desserts July 28, 2011 at 17:34 #

    I love Kung Pao Chicken, it is definitely a favorite. Your looks and sounds perfect!

  18. Vicki @ WITK July 28, 2011 at 22:17 #

    What a great way to celebrate and remember. These are some beautiful dishes and a whole bunch of weird ingredients :)

  19. Ann July 28, 2011 at 23:01 #

    The dish looks amazing! I’m always stunned at what you can make in your smaller kitchen. While I don’t know Penny – I know how difficult it is to lose a parent – my thoughts are with her…

  20. Elsie July 29, 2011 at 11:18 #

    I love bold flavours such as Szchewan flavours! :) thanks for the post!

  21. Mike@The Culinary Lens July 29, 2011 at 18:26 #

    I have been playing around with some Chinese cooking of alte and really like how this looks. I love those links

  22. Ann July 30, 2011 at 05:16 #

    Beautiful photos and a delicious looking recipe! Tang Frères is a mecca for all Asian products, but if you don’t feel like going to the 13e, there’s another good Asian market right next to Maubert-Mutalité. Have you ever tried Sichuan peppercorn? It creates a tingling, numbing sensation that contrasts with the burn of chilies — guaranteed to raise your endorphins :)

  23. Evelyne@CheapEthnicEatz July 30, 2011 at 11:47 #

    That looks absolutely delicious and how amazing you could pull such a meal while in a small kitchen in Paris. Enjoy the rest of your stay!

  24. Jen @ My Kitchen Addiction August 4, 2011 at 23:44 #

    Yum! What a tasty dish… I need to give this one a try!

  25. Paula August 6, 2011 at 12:14 #

    I’m so sorry to read of the loss of Penny’s Dad. My sincere condolences to her and her family. This dish and post is a lovely tribute to him.

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