So what is Szechuan or Sichuan food?
“Szechuan is a style of chinese cuisine originating in the Sichuan province of southwestern China that has bold flavours, particularly the pungency and spiciness resulting from liberal use of garlic and chili peppers, as well as the unique flavour of the Sichuan peppercorn (花椒). Peanuts, sesame paste, and ginger are also prominent ingredients in Szechuan cooking” Wikipedia
Last week I was invited to Seventeen restaurant in Notting Hill for a bit of a food bloggers evening to indulge in some szechuan food! I did not know what to expect, having not been too familiar with this type of cuisine but I was very excited all the same. It was lovely to mingle and feast amongst other fellow food bloggers and all camera and iPhones were out snapping at the ready.
I have not heard of Seventeen before but it has been established since 2009 in the trendy and hip district of Notting Hill located not far from the tube station. Upon arriving (slightly out of breath) from trying not to be late, I was greeted by the friendly manager Mark, who led me to a partitioned area of the restaurant downstairs to meet my fellow dining guests.
The restaurant is dim-lit, with beautiful traditional fused with contemporary decor to create a relaxed, ambient environment in which to dine and to compliment its cuisine.
The restaurant specialises in eclectic chinese, Cantonese, Shanghai fusion of dishes aswell as Sichuan cuisine for those more acclaimed to spicy dishes. They also do tapas style dishes which is great for those who are curious to try out a variety, especially if new to the cuisine and not sure what to order.
To start we were tempted with spicy cumin lamb skewers, these succulent pieces of lamb were laden with red flecks of chilli, at first I was quite apprehensive but bucked up the courage and got down to the nitty-gritty. They were not actually too spicy, the heat arriving later on in the aftertaste, but a great introduction to the meal.
Then came along the best dish for me, it was the slow cooked beef shank with szechuan chilli. The thin slices of beef shank were soft, melting tender, being a colder dish it worked so well against the spiced szechuan chilli it was served in.
The next dish was a bit of a spectacle to see, a large decorative bowl contained soft,blanched in water, white fish pieces amongst a mass of red chillies, more like a sea of red chillies! It’s enough to scare anyone off, but exciting in its entirety, using a ladle you “fish” out those white pieces of flesh from the hot oil (infused with chilli and peppercorn) and eat with steamed rice. It was not as hot as I expected it to be, but the fish was so velvety soft and worked well.
The cold dish of steamed chicken in chilli and oil was beautifully presented. Slices of white chicken pieces, amassed in a pool of bright red chilli infused oil and broth with flecks of chilli flakes and sesame seeds. This was a welcomed break of cold-hot dishes in temperature to play fancy with your taste buds and excite the palette with new textures and levels of heat.
The twice cooked belly pork was served with deep-fried green beans with mince and choi sum greens with garlic to add great texture compatibility of crunch with the soft pieces of belly pork. It combined traditional flavours of chilli, garlic,peppercorns and rice wine and this sauce was lightly dressed over the belly pork, great with steamed rice.
To end our journey into our Sichuan “fire feast” we welcomed a sweet pudding of mango jelly, vibrant yellow with sharp, sweet mango flavour and sticky mochi balls filled with black sesame and peanut. These were my favourite and I would have many more if I could.. deliciously sweet & savoury with jelly like, glutinous texture. Perfect with a cup of jasmine tea.
It was a fun-filled evening with great company to explore the wonder of Szechuan cuisine at a perfect location of Seventeen. If you fancy trying out something different, this is a great place to start.