Text and images by Tiantianchi @ Makansutra
My experience and impression of Sichuan food since young has been spicy, sweet and sour, such as the bad version of gong bao chicken that is tossed in a caramelised sweet spicy sauce. I never knew the concept of Ma (numbing) that is so common in Sichuan dishes, and that Sichuan food is not all spicy and numbing, until I visited China in the late 80s. Ever since then I have been hoping for an authentic Sichuan restaurant in Singapore.
The opening of Sichuan Dou Hua Restaurant fulfilled my wish. They did not disappoint and serve the best Ma Po Dou Fu 麻婆豆腐 I have taste. It is done with soft bean curd pudding (豆花) instead of the usual firmer block dou fu. However due to practical reason operating a business and family restaurant, they have to include milder Cantonese dishes in their menu to cater to all taste. Fortunately they do a pretty good job at that too.
They may not recommend these strongly to you for fear that you might not take it too well but their Sichuan starter items are stellar. I strongly recommend the Kou Shui Ji 口水鸡, a saliva inducing (hence the name) dish of steamed chicken sitting in a pool of chilli oil, dressed with a robust, savoury and spicy bean paste with just a touch of black vinegar, topped with sprinkling of lips numbing Sichuan pepper, intimidating but perversely delicious and additive. The Sliced Pork with Garlic Sauce（蒜泥白肉）uses pork collar instead of the usual pork belly. Just slightly fatty to smoothen and absorb the very well balanced and not overly pungent garlicky sauce.
They do an interesting and uncommon Wasabi Mayo Shimeji Mushroom (芥末鲜菇) instead of the commonly used prawns. It is a strange combination but the stocky, earth-y and musky mushroom goes very well with the creamy wasabi mayo refreshed with diced fruits scattered on it.
One of the best dishes here I felt was the “Typhoon Shelter Prawns” or 避凨溏大虾. This is a variation of one of Hong Kong’s iconic dishes. Jumbo size prawns were deep fried and tossed with fried garlic, dried chilli flakes, dried shrimps, almond flakes and for a local accent, curry leaves. It is a mixture of savoury flavour, spices fragrance, chilli spiciness that match perfectly. They even include popped rice for an “explosive” texture. You can taste the freshness in the sweet and firm flesh, shell so crispy you can even eat it.
I do not recommend the ubiquitous Sichuan dish Shui Ju Yu 水煮鱼 (water-cooked fish) as it comes too starchy, and almost like a Ma Po Dou Fu style but their Boiled fish沸騰鱼 in chilli oil is awesome. Fresh fish was sliced and cooked in a very fragrant pot of boiling chilli oil with copious amount of Sichuan pepper and crushed bay leaves. Let the waiter serve this as he will drain off the oil from each slice of the fish and removes the Sichuan pepper to prevent a numbing shock, allowing the fragrant of the spices rather than the spiciness lingering on the smooth and tender fish slices.
Although there is a fairly good selection of vegetable dishes, they are pretty common except the Kai Lan with mui choy 梅菜芥兰. Another rather popular dish in Hong Kong and not exactly the most beautiful looking dish but the sautéed mui choy was flavourful and not overly salty. Aided with the crunchy and sweet kai lan, I wish I can have a bowl of porridge to go with this.
I wondered what happened to all the dou hua dishes and noticed there are only two on the menu. A savoury spicy version which I felt was okay and is mild compared to what I had at People’s Park Food Centre, but the sweet version is very good. The homemade dou hua is very smooth and slurp-y and comes with alluringly fragrant and honeyed wolfberry syrup with a slight herbal hint.
Pricing is on the higher side comparing to PRC-runned small Sichuan food restaurants and air-conditioned cze char restaurants but despite it is in a hotel, it is more affordable compared to other hotel’s Chinese restaurants. Service is pleasant and the manager does a very good job recommending dishes based upon taste and budget.
I will certainly return but wish they can bring back the Ma Po Dou Hua one day. This was one of the dishes that made them so famous so I cannot understand why they remove it from their menu.
Si Chuan Dou Hua 181 Kitchener Road Level 3 Park Royal on Kitchener Road Tel: +65 6428 3170 Other branches: www.sichuandouhua.com