Sunday, October 19, 2014

Little Sichuan

The funny thing about traveling for work (often) is that by the time I've landed, know my way around and find the places I like to time it's time to move on.
Barbecue may be what people come to Texas expecting to eat, but here in Plano looking around at the substantial Asian immigrant population (I've seen both East West and Cathay Bank -- harbingers of quality Chinese food in the vicinity) it suddenly dawned on me. Don't tally with smoked meats that pale in comparison to the delights of South Texas or the Hill Country . . . eat Chinese!
Armed with the power of my newfound resolve, late on a sleepy afternoon I wandered into Little Sichuan, a nondescript space in a completely Asian mini-mall ( a small version of what diners might see in Monterey Park, CA or Flushing, NY). To one side off duty wait staff sat cutting a giant pile of hot peppers into strips for the kitchen. The cook lounged at a table watching Chinese soap operas. He walked to the kitchen to ready my dishes after I ordered. The only other diners a group of elderly Chinese. I am the only white face.
Sichuan food is famous for its liberal use of chili, and garlic. I love the tingly almost numbing effect the area's Sichuan peppercorns add to a spicy dish. Chengdu (capitol of Sichuan provence) is the fertile regions most famous gastronomic city and these "Chengdu" dumplings, soft dough pot stickers bathed is vibrant chili oil, are a popular snack. Little Sichuan's version were savory and not seemingly hot (as Sichuan food can be) but somehow addicting. The more I ate the more I wanted.
Following the dumplings, twice cooked bacon. I expected crispy pork bits but instead found a plate of sautéed pork belly bound by an earthy cumin flavored sauce. Bacon is bacon but the real treat of that dish were the delicious leeks, peppery and soft.
I've eaten Chinese food all over the world. I love it and rarely attempt it at home. Here in little Plano Texas, nearly hidden from view, are dishes maybe not quite as spectacular as those in LA or Queens (or maybe so) but solid tasty cuisine that stands up favorably to the best anywhere within the middle of the country for sure.
So often the case, towards the end of my trip I've found that place I should have known all along.  Can I go again? Can I eat every meal at Little Sichuan until I leave? Why didn't I find it sooner?  The usual questions surrounding a most unusual and unexpected restaurant.

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