News & Politics

Cheap Eats 2013: “Too hot for me.” “I don’t like spicy.”

We’ve heard it all. It’s easy to sit down at a Szechuan
restaurant and wind up with a slate of mouth-scorching dishes, to walk out
overwhelmed, numbed, and wondering if you’re missing

The key is to balance hot with cool (we recommend ordering
garlicky pickled cucumbers to quench the fire) and focus on dishes that
are spiced without being too spicy, such as cumin lamb or fish. Scallion
pancake, a fried flatbread flecked with green onions, is hit-or-miss at
most places, but order it anyway; a few tears of bread are a great
antidote to a mouth-tinglingly hot dish like mapo

The other complaint about Szechuan is its oiliness. No, it’s
not Cantonese or that elegant subset, Hong Kong-style, with its delicate
seafood dishes. Think of it as the Chinese counterpart of the
bacon-and-butter-boosted cooking of the American South—comfort food at its
gutsiest and most elemental.

This article appears in the August 2013 issue of The Washingtonian.