Dede’s Teajuice City revisit

S and I were craving Szechuan food a while back and decided to revisit Dede’s Teajuice City (since Spicy City, our usual favorite in SD, is usually pretty crowded). I had an okay impression of it last time but thought I’d give it another chance.

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We decided to skip the cold plate this time since we wanted to order more of the entrées.

毛血旺 - Pork blood w/ meat & vegetables in spicy sauce [$12.99]

毛血旺 – Pork blood w/ meat & vegetables in spicy sauce [$12.99]

The first thing that caught my eye from the menu was the “mao xue wang”, pictured above. Traditionally, it’s made with pork or duck blood, eel, mung bean sprouts, pork, and other various vegetables and offal, stewed in spicy broth. I was pretty disappointed with the version here, – there was no basically no flavor other than the chili oil, indicating that the ingredients probably weren’t cooked long enough in the broth? It didn’t distinguish itself from the “shui zhu” (boiled meat/fish in hot sauce) that’s also on the menu, either.

蒜泥白肉 - Sliced fatty pork in hot garlic sauce [$10.99]

蒜泥白肉 – Sliced fatty pork in hot garlic sauce [$10.99]

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Spicy City revisit

First up, an announcementI am doing an Instagram giveaway today! Be sure to follow jinxieats for details on how to enter! :) 

It’s been quite a long time since I visited Spicy City, one of the most popular Sichuan restaurants in San Diego. S and I recently went with a couple of friends, and we ordered some dishes that we haven’t tried before – so I thought I’d share them here!

By the way, I didn’t put prices on these dishes because I forgot to save the receipt! There are prices for these dishes on the website, but I think they’re a little outdated. Sorry!

Spicy City - Cold pork sliced with garlic chili sauce

蒜泥白肉 Cold Pork Sliced with Garlic Chili Sauce

This is one of my favorite dishes, and I’m not sure why I’ve never ordered it here before. Thinly sliced pork belly is boiled and chilled, then tossed in a spicy chili oil/sesame oil/soy sauce mix, and topped with minced garlic. The version here is quite good – I liked the sprinkling of sesame seeds to enhance the sesame oil – although I found it too salty towards the end.

Spicy City - Eggplant with Garlic Sauce

紅燒茄子 Eggplant with Garlic Sauce

We really like the eggplant dishes here – To me, the key for cooking with eggplant is frying it first before stir-frying with the rest of the dish’s ingredients, and Spicy City’s eggplants haven’t disappointed me. Although the name of the dish is technically “red-braised eggplant”, it didn’t really taste braised to me and instead just stir-fried with the other vegetables. It was still quite tasty, though.

Spicy City - Mao's Style Pork in Brown Sauce

毛家紅燒肉 Mao’s Style Pork in Brown Sauce

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Szechuan Chef

Recently, a friend of ours had a birthday celebration/get-together – she wanted Sichuan food, and we decided to try out Szechuan Chef, a relatively recent (opened last summer) Sichuan cuisine addition to Convoy St.

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These Sichuan restaurants all have three-character Chinese names, and sometimes I get them mixed up… Szechuan Chef’s Chinese name is also three characters, 滋味村. I’ll try hard to remember.

I wasn’t initially very excited about this place after reading some reviews by Kirk and Kirbie. However, I am always curious about new Sichuan restaurants, and one of my friends said that he liked several items from this place.

We started out with a plate of cold appetizers (I forgot the exact price, but it was around $5 or $6 for the trio):

Cold Appetizers: "Husband & Wife" Sliced Beef Cuts; Pickled String Beans; Sliced Bean Curd

Cold Appetizers: “Fuqi Feipian” Sliced Beef 夫妻肺片; Pickled String Beans 酸豆角; Sliced Bean Curd 鹵豆乾

The sliced beef appetizer (fuqi feipian, literally “Sliced Lung by the Married Couple” – read the wiki for details) is normally one of my favorite dishes in Sichuan cuisine. It features thinly sliced beef, tripe, and tongue. The version here seemed to be all (or mostly all) beef and lacked the offal. It was not spicy enough but less salty than some of the other versions we’ve had in San Diego. The marinated bean curd had nice texture but slightly bland – could have used a longer marinade time. Lastly, the pickled chopped string beans is almost always a “must-order” for me since they serve nostalgic purposes – pickled string beans are a staple in my “home” cuisine of Hunan. The version here is nice and crispy, a little less sour and less spicy than my liking, though.

Lamb Skewers [$5 for two]

Lamb Skewers [$5 for two]

The server recommended the lamb skewers to us, and we decided to try them out. The cumin flavor was quite strong, which I enjoyed. I did think $2.50 per skewer was a bit pricey.

Boiled Fish Filet with Hot Sauce 水煮魚 [$9.99]

Boiled Fish Filet with Hot Sauce 水煮魚 [$9.99]

Of course, we had to order this signature Sichuan dish, boiled fish filet in hot sauce….

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FuAn Garden

A couple of weeks ago, S and I went with a couple of our friends to check out the San Diego Night Market in the Zion parking lot… and were sorely disappointed by the lack of variety in food booths, the food booths running out of most items, the long lines, and huge crowd. I didn’t even bother taking many photos, and we pretty much went straight from the Zion parking lot to grab dinner elsewhere. Since we’ve been curious about the recently-opened FuAn Garden nearby (which took place of BBQ Chicken), and my friend and I are both spicy food enthusiasts, we decided to go and check it out.

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I read from Kirk’s post that the owner of FuAn Garden is a former prep cook at Ba Ren, a Szechuan place that was quite popular but closed before I ever got a chance to try it. Actually, I’ve heard several differing opinions on Ba Ren… S has been there and didn’t enjoy it much – he didn’t feel like it was very authentic or spicy enough, but some of our other friends swear by it. I’ve also heard that Ba Ren has gone through several changes in ownership, so that could be a contributing factor to the differences in opinions.

Normally, I like to try the cold appetizers at Szechuan restaurants, since it’s usually pretty cheap (choose three items for $6 or so) and can give you a pretty good idea of how good the food is. Unfortunately, we arrived at the restaurant pretty close to closing time (~9:30PM), so there wasn’t much to choose from the in the standard “cold dishes” bar. I was sad to see that they ran out of my favorite, cold cut beef & tendon slices (Fu Qi Fei Pian 夫妻肺片), so we decided to forgo the cold appetizers and order an extra entrée instead. The four of us each chose one dish…

Twice-Cooked Pork with Garlic Sprouts 蒜苗回鍋肉 [$9.99]

Twice-Cooked Pork with Garlic Sprouts 蒜苗回鍋肉 [$9.99]

Twice-Cooked Pork with Garlic Sprouts

Twice-Cooked Pork with Garlic Sprouts

S’s pick was the Twice-Cooked Pork – one of our favorite dishes at Chinese restaurants. It’s made with a slab of pork belly simmered in water with spices, then sliced into thin pieces and fried in a wok with vegetables. In this case, they added ginger, bell peppers, and garlic sprouts, which I really loved. The dish was super flavorful, and the portion size was decent as well.

Homestyle Lamb 小炒羊肉 [$12.99]

Homestyle Lamb 小炒羊肉 [$12.99]

We asked our waitress to recommend a lamb dish, and she mentioned homestyle lamb so we went with the suggestion. Basically it’s wok-fried lamb slices, with plenty of cilantro, peppers, and dried chilis. We’ve ordered a similar dish at Spicy City, where it’s about 20% lamb and 80% spices & chilis, so I was really glad that they actually give you plenty of meat here. The taste was quite good – the thin lamb slices are prone to overcook, but they did a great job here.

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Spicy City revisit

My father came to visit San Diego recently, and while I would usually never take visitors coming from Asia to eat Chinese food, my dad can’t live without it. So S and I decided to revisit one of our favorites, Spicy City. We haven’t gone in a while because we’ve been trying to eat less spicy food (he’s doing pretty well, I lose resolve every time I get near hot sauce), and Spicy City is a bit heavy for our taste. But my dad loves spicy food, so I thought he would probably enjoy it.

S raves about the Dan Dan Noodles, so we decided to order one for the table. I must admit that this is the only version of Dan Dan Noodles I’ve ever had, so I can’t attest to its authenticity.

Dan Dan Noodle 擔擔面 ($5.50)

Dan Dan Noodle 擔擔麵 ($5.50)

I can, however, say that this was an absolutely delicious bowl of noodles. The sauce is a mix of chili oil, soy sauce, and a generous amount of sesame paste, which made it super fragrant. The toppings are simply chopped peanuts and green onions. Make sure you mix together the sauce and toppings with the noodles before eating – you’ll want each noodle covered with the sauce.

Braised pork belly with pickled vegetables 湖南梅干扣肉 ($10.95)

Braised pork belly with pickled Chinese mustard 梅干扣肉 ($10.95)

We noticed this on the specials posted on the walls. S and I love this dish, so we decided to try it out. The preparation of this dish involves steaming the thick-cut pork belly slices and placing the Chinese mustard on top of the meat, so that the meat will absorb the pickle flavor. When the dish is ready to be served, you turn the bowl upside-down so that the pork covers the mustard – hence, the Chinese name of the dish is actually called “pickled Chinese mustard-covered pork belly.”

Anyway, we thought Spicy City’s version wasn’t that great. I don’t think they used the right kind of pickled Chinese mustard greens – the traditional dish uses a very specific version (I actually couldn’t even find the translation from Wikipedia – the English article just says “meigan cai”). Also, the dish was way too salty. The pickled mustard is supposed to be very salty already, so when preparing the meat and sauce they should really go easy on the salt and soy sauce, which I guess didn’t happen. The third (and possibly most grave?) offense is that they added a lot of chilis. This dish is not supposed to be spicy at all. My dad, who is pretty well-versed in different regions of Chinese cuisine, said that they were trying to turn a Shanghainese dish into a Szechuan dish – never a good idea.

Boiled fish fillet in chili oil 水煮魚片 ($9.99)

Boiled fish fillet in chili oil 水煮魚片 ($9.99)

This is a really classic Szechuan dish, and I think Spicy City does a pretty good job. We usually order some version of this dish every time, whether it’s beef or fish fillet. I prefer the fish – it’s very tender and soaks up the chili oil. According to S and our other friends, this is pretty spicy, so be warned (my dad and I are both from Hunan, and don’t really think that it’s spicy at all).

Homestead tofu 家常豆腐 ($9.99)

Homestead tofu 家常豆腐 ($9.99)

The tofu is another one of our favorites. The braised tofu is super soft tender on the inside, and has absorbed a lot of the soy sauce flavor. I love all the veggie accompaniments in the dish, especially the leeks.

Baby bok choy 蒜蓉青江菜

Baby bok choy 蒜蓉青江菜

Finally, we always order a simple veggie dish. S says that their eggplant dishes are good, but my dad doesn’t like eggplant, and those dishes tend to be too greasy. So we went with a simple stir-fried baby bok choy.

Anyway, aside from the disappointing braised pork belly, I thought the other dishes were all very well done. Spicy City is probably one of the most popular Chinese restaurants in San Diego, as there is usually a line (can be over an hour for weekend dinners). We don’t come here often because it’s a pretty heavy and greasy meal, but when I crave spicy Chinese food, that bowl of dan dan noodles always comes to mind.

Spicy City
4690 Convoy St., Suite 107, San Diego, CA
http://spicycity.menutoeat.com/

Hours: Mon-Thu 11am-9:30pm; Fri-Sun 11am-10pm

 

[SD Kearny Mesa] Szechuan food at Dede’s Teajuice City

I love Szechuan cuisine, and actually one of my favorite Szechuan restaurants is 35 Chinese Restaurant in North Carolina.  In the Bay Area, my favorite was Great Szechuan Restaurant (川味王) in the Pacific East Mall plaza in Richmond.  Here in San Diego, I have tried Spicy City and did not find it too impressive.  Recently, I visited Dede’s Teajuice City, which has apparently recently undergone management changes and is serving pretty good Szechuan food.

Dede’s Teajuice City 渝香村

They have a counter with a selection of cold appetizers, similar to Spicy City.  Three for $5.55.

Cold appetizers 冷盤

Cold appetizers 冷盤

Our pick of the appetizers:

Appetizers: chicken gizzards, sliced pork, veggies

They were pretty good, not as spicy as they looked (disappointment for me, relief for some of the people at my table).

Boiled Sliced Fish in Hot Sauce 水煮魚片, $9.99

I’m not normally a fan of this dish, but it was actually pretty good – probably because the fish slices were actually fried nicely.  Again, it wasn’t that spicy.

Beef with Green Onions 蔥爆牛肉, $9.50

Normally I would never order anything like this at a Szechuan restaurant because I’d want everything to be red-hot – but one of my dining companions had a cough and didn’t want everything spicy.  This dish was decent: pretty good meat and solid flavors.

Mapo Tofu 麻婆豆腐, $7.50

Mapo tofu is one of my favorite dishes, but I am also super picky about it – the best, in my opinion, has a strong peppercorn taste (aka mouth-numbing).  The mapo tofu here lacked any peppercorn taste, and it wasn’t even very spicy.  I was pretty disappointed, but SK and the others liked it.

Lamb with Cumin 孜然羊肉, $9.50

This reminded me a lot of the lamb kebabs sold at street corners in China.  Cumin and lamb are seriously a match made in heaven – loved this dish.

The bottom line?  Some of the dishes here were better than Spicy City’s, while others weren’t so great (for me).  I would visit again for the Boiled Fish and Lamb with Cumin, and maybe ask for more spicy next time.
Dede’s Teajuice City 渝香村
4647 Convoy St., San Diego, CA
(858) 279-5999

Spices 3 in Oakland Chinatown: Not So Spicy

As you probably already know, I love spicy food and Szechuan cuisine. So, I was very excited to try Spices 3 (辣妹子) in Oakland Chinatown. First impressions of the restaurant actually weren’t so great: the place was small and mostly empty on a Sunday evening, and it was rather dimly lit and depressing. But I was still excited about the food.

Hot & spicy beef combination (夫妻肺片), $4.25

To start, we ordered my favorite appetizer, beef and tendon slices in chili oil. If done well, the meat is tender, not too salty or greasy (it’s supposed to be a refreshing dish to kick-off your meal, after all), abundantly spicy to prepare your palate. At Spices 3, sadly, this was not done so well. The meat slices were basically soaked with chili oil – which wasn’t even that spicy – and all you could really taste was the grease coating. What a waste of some nicely sliced beef and tendons.

Stinky fried tofu (酥炸臭豆腐, $4.25

Interestingly, this place served Taiwanese-style stinky fried tofu – which sort of made me question exactly what regional cuisine this restaurant is supposed to serve. But the stinky tofu was so good that I also quickly forgot about all my questions. Crispy on the outside, soft on the inside, plenty of ‘stink’. I didn’t even really bother with the sweet and sour dipping sauce. It was good enough on its own.

Pork intestine casserole (五更腸旺), $8.95

Our main dish of the evening, pork intestine casserole. This dish is not for the weak-stomach – main ingredients are pork intestine and pork blood. It also should contain pickled cabbage hearts for an acid component, and the spicy-ness should come from pan-fried chili peppers. Spices 3’s version of this dish did not have the pickled cabbage AND used jalapenos (AND added cilantro as garnish, which I would never do).. all these things combined gave it a very foreign flavor. The dish tasted decent; just not the authentic 五更腸旺 that I had hoped for.

My overall impression of Spices 3 was just all right. Although I loved the stinky tofu, the two supposedly classic dishes that I tried really lacked authenticity. I may come back to try some of the other dishes, since this time we ordered so few items – but so far, it’s not at the top of my Chinese food list.

Spices 3 (辣妹子)
369 12th St, Oakland, CA
(510) 625-8889
Hours:
Mon-Thu 12pm – 11pm
Fri-Sun 12pm – 12am

New Year’s Eve at Spicy City (San Diego)

I have wanted to try Spicy City since the second time I visited San Diego, back in November. However, both times Sid and I have gone there, the line had been so long that we left in disappointment. On New Year’s Eve, I was determined to get a table – so we showed up just before 6PM. Voila, we were in.

There were six of us there, and we ordered a cold appetizer plate plus four dishes: 夫妻肺片 (sliced beef & tripe); 蒜苗炒豬肉 (pork with garlic sprouts), 水煮牛肉 (boiled beef in hot sauce), 大腸乾鍋 (pork intestine dried pot), 紅燒茄子 (eggplant with garlic sauce).

(Click on the photos to enlarge.)

I really enjoyed the sliced beef & tripe.. it was probably the spiciest thing we ordered, since the boiled beef in hot sauce actually wasn’t too spicy. The beef was pretty tender. My next favorite dish is probably the stir-fried pork with garlic sprouts, because the flavor was so spot-on. The pork was well-cooked, and the garlic sprouts made it so fragrant and delicious that I’d almost forgotten it wasn’t a spicy dish. The pork intestine dried pot was decent as well – towards the end it got really spicy, probably because all the chili oil was warmed up and absorbed by everything. The eggplant and boiled beef were okay – didn’t see anything special about them, I suppose.

So, I probably ate mostly the sliced beef & tripe – the dish was right in front of me, I couldn’t resist. But overall, it was a pretty good Szechuan restaurant. They also had some Hunan dishes as well – and I believe some of the staff are Hunanese, so those dishes might have turned out pretty well, too. I still miss 35 Chinese Restaurant in NC, though – that was good stuff.

Gourmet Kingdom: ‘chuan-food

Finally made it to Gourmet Kingdom in Carrboro the other day for one of my good friends’ birthday lunch. I had been looking forward to trying out this place since everyone compares it to 35 Chinese Restaurant so much.

We had eight people and ordered 2 ‘appetizers’ (cold dishes) and 7 entrees. Of course, plenty of rice to go around. The appetizers:

涼拌三丝 ‘liangban sansi’ (Pork, vegetable, and cellophane noodle) – it was okay. I like seaweed salad or jellyfish salad much more.. so I didn’t have much of this dish.

涼拌三丝 Pork, Vegetable, and Cellophane Slices

涼拌三丝 Pork, Vegetable, and Cellophane Slices

And of course, 夫妻肺片 ‘fuqi feipian’ (Beef & tripe medley) – the flavoring and sauce of this dish is much better at Gourmet Kingdom than at 35 – GK wins here!

夫妻肺片 Beef and Tripe Medley

夫妻肺片 Beef and Tripe Medley

Moving on to the entrees:

核桃大蝦 ‘hetao daxia’ (Pecan shrimp) – this is, of course, a rather Americanized dish (fried shrimp with some pecans tossed in), but I must say.. I really liked it! The sweet mayonnaise sauce was a little too heavy for me, but otherwise, it held everything together very well.

核桃大蝦 Pecan Shrimp

核桃大蝦 Pecan Shrimp

白菜扣肉 ‘baicai kourou‘ (Steam pork with Chinese cabbage) – I was really, really looking forward to this dish since ‘kourou’ is pork belly.. and you should know by now how much I love pork belly. Unfortunately, it did not live up to my expectations as it was entirely too salty. I put the blame on the meicai – plum dried vegetables – in the dish. Their saltiness overpowered everything, and overall it was just slightly disappointing.

白菜扣肉 Steamed Pork with Chinese Cabbage

白菜扣肉 Steamed Pork with Chinese Cabbage

孜然羊肉 ‘ziran yangrou’ (Cumin sliced lamb) – Another dish that I’ve also had at 35.. and I was surprised by how tame the spiciness level is here at Gourmet Kingdom. I remember at 35, I thought their cumin lamb (or maybe it was cumin beef, something comparable) was spicy enough to make me feel the heat, but here… just meh. There was plenty of flavor from the cumin and spices, but the spiciness was really lacking.

孜然羊肉 Cumin Sliced Lamb

孜然羊肉 Cumin Sliced Lamb

家常牛筋煲 ‘jiachang niujin bao’ (Homestyle beef tendon in hot pot) – This was one of my favorites. Beef tendon is difficult to manage because if you don’t cook it long enough, it’s still super chewy, but if overcook it, everything sort of falls apart. I think they did a pretty good job of finding the right balance and getting just the right texture, and the flavor is also quite nice as well.

家常牛筋煲 Homestyle Beef Tendon Hot Pot

家常牛筋煲 Homestyle Beef Tendon Hot Pot

水煮魚片 ‘shuizhu yupian’ (Boiled fish fillet in Szechuan sauce) – A classic Szechuan dish that unfortunately I’ve never really liked.. perhaps because I’ve never a had well-prepared ‘shuizhu’ fish. Basically the sauce is just a bowl of chili oil, and the fish fillet and vegetables just soak in the oil. Not very appealing to me. Perhaps there’s an ideal ‘serving time’ that I’ve also never grasped? Not sure. But there is also a difference between the ‘shuizhu’ fish here and at 35.. for one thing, it’s not spicy at GK at all. 35 is much more spicy, and actually more flavorful, which I attribute to the peppercorns that 35 used.

水煮魚片 Boiled Fish Fillet in Szechuan Sauce

水煮魚片 Boiled Fish Fillet in Szechuan Sauce

Overall, I found that a lot of the dishes and flavor from Gourmet Kingdom are quite similar to 35, so they must be trying pretty hard to imitate each other’s styles. Although many people recommended GK over 35, I’d probably still go to 35 because their dishes are spicier (or maybe because someone at my table secretly told the server to make everything less spicy?). Then again, perhaps I’m making my judgments too early – I hope I’ll have another chance to go to GK before leaving NC.

35 Chinese, Part II

Went back to 35 Chinese with a different group – this time, with people who were more tolerant of spicy foods (yippee!). We still ordered the same appetizers: 夫妻肺片/ sliced roast beef and tendon (fuqi feipian) and 蒜泥白肉 / sliced pork belly in garlic sauce (suan’ni bairou). Otherwise, I think most of the dishes were different, so here we go…

五更腸旺 / chitterlings with tofu hot pot (wugeng changwang)
– The photo really doesn’t do this dish justice, because it was one of my favorites of the evening. It had a lot of flavor besides just straight-up spicy, which is always nice. The dish does contain pork intestines and pork blood, which might turn some of you away… although I do have a friend who doesn’t eat intestines but makes an exception for this particular dish here – so really, it’s worth it.
The only downer to this is that the pork blood is kind of dry, so I wouldn’t expect too much from that. Otherwise, thumbs up.

蔥爆牛肉 / beef with scallions (congbao niurou)
– Although this isn’t a traditional Szechuan dish, we still ordered it. It was pretty good – the beef was tender, and plenty of flavor.

麻婆豆腐 / Mapo tofu

– This is my favorite dish EVER at this restaurant. Ever. Probably because I haven’t had the authentic version of mapo tofu for a long, long time. It was served in a 砂锅 (clay pot) instead of plate – the way that it’s supposed to be, and it has plenty of the 麻 (“numbing”) element, which means you should probably save room for this dish last. Overall, I was impressed and happy with the authenticity of this mapo tofu.

清炒丝瓜 / cooked loofah
– Yep, loofah. I was really excited about this dish because I love loofah vegetable, but we were appalled to discover that it tasted bitter (might have spoiled). We sent the dish back in exchange for 乾扁四季豆 / string beans Western style (ganbian sijidou), which was pretty much the same as the last time.

Overall, with the exception of the disappointment of the loofah, it was an enjoyable meal. Their service does slow down as the evening goes on (they seem to be short on staff), so you should arrive early and order quickly. Between six of us, we ordered six dishes and it ended up being $15 each. Not particularly more expensive than any of the other Chinese restaurants that I’ve reviewed so far, I think.

Restaurant: 35 Chinese Restaurant
Price Range: Around $15
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