Damn. I let myself down at Sichuan Village in Chantilly, VA. I finally showed my whiteness.
Wonderful, food-loving Ben took me to his favorite Sichuan-style Chinese restaurant in Virginia. He took good care of us, ordering five dishes for three people and earning a respectful (or perhaps incredulous) stare from the nice server lady. By the way, don't bother going without someone who can order off the Chinese menu, else you will be eating those beloved Chinese-American classics, chicken fried rice and lo mein. Vomit.
The first to arrive was a cold appetizer of sliced tendon, tripe, and stomach in a Sichuan chili sauce with spring onions, and peanuts. The sauce is the reason I dream about Sichuanese food. Made with dried and roasted chilis, not ground but crushed into small pieces that retain their texture, the heat and flavor of the chilis leached into the oil, coloring it red. And red is my favorite color. We were meant to be, don’t you see? Toasted, flavorful, moderately hot, with a dry crunch, the oil was painfully addictive. I could – and did – eat it with a spoon. Oh yeah, and the tendon, tripe, yeah whatever. They were good, but they were not confused. The sauce was the star of the show.
Then came the dry fried green beans, a la Shanghai Gate (perhaps even more delicious). There was also fried fish and steamed tofu, and a giant, bone-in pork shoulder with a thick fatty skin and meat so melted and tender that Ben cut it up with a spoon. A spoon, people! The rather imposing pork shoulder was surrounded by baby bok choy, reconstituted dried mushrooms, and curiously, squares of ham in a thick sauce. Forget the ham. Forget the sauce. You can most certainly forget the cabbagey bits when staring at sweet, fatty, cotton ball-soft pork that pulls away from the bone with no pressure from the chopsticks. Make sure to fight for the skin. I would have, if I had assurance I wouldn’t explode from eating too much.
I was so happy. So happy! We were all doing so well, happy, eating, talking… and naturally, this was around this time that it happened, that I failed. One of the chief reasons I forced Ben to take me to this place was the promise of blood tofu – congealed pork blood steamed and cut into squares. Try not to read too much into my dying to try this particular delicacy. Just let it go.
I was expecting something tinny, metallic and derr, blood-like. It wasn’t. The blood tofu was very mild. It hardly had any taste at all, with a consistency of hard tofu - creamy and silky, but drier. It was good. The blood tofu swam around with bamboo shoots and wiggly chunks of pork intestines.
The pork inside bits? Not so much. Without going into too much detail, they tasted just like the substance it is their job to convey. Yep, they had a certain tint of poo. And here’s the thing. You can’t really bite through a chunk of pork intestine. You kinda have to take the whole piece given into your mouth and pray that it stays there as you work on it, with pained focus and rigid concentration. I know that not everything I ate after the poo conveyor tasted the same, but I’ll be damned if I wasn’t looking for that flavor in every subsequent bite. That's an acquired taste if I ever experienced one.
I totally failed. I thought myself all kinds of badass. I was psyched about the blood tofu, the tendon and stomach frankly rocked (and rocked hard). The poo conveyor, however? It almost did me in. My whiteness got the best of me. I deduct ten badass points from myself. Sigh.
14005 Lee Jackson Highway
Chantilly VA 20151
(703) 631- 5888