When a favorite restaurant dies, you undergo a bereavement process as a former patron. You try to replace it with another one, usually failing to do so. Then occasionally, you come across a dish at another place that tastes familiar, but doesn’t -quite- get there. You see glimmerings of the original, enough to make you do a double take, but then you come to your senses and again realize you are someplace else. Its like walking down the street and seeing someone who resembles another person who has been dead for years, or playing with another person’s pet that looks remarkably similar to one of yours which passed away. You tear up a bit, think about the good times, and then move on.
Such as it is with my favorite Chinese restaurant, China 46, which closed down in September of 2007. I haven’t taken this loss particularly well, as there were a lot of dishes that were prepared there that I cannot get at any other Shanghai/Sichuan restaurant I’ve been to, and this includes the very good local newcomers such as Chengdu 1 and Petite Soochow, which I recommend heartily. I thought I had moved on until I had this dish recently at China Palace restaurant, a small authentic Chinese place in Durham, North Carolina:
Spicy Capsicum Pepper Saute with Pressed Tofu, from China Palace restaurant in Durham, NC.
This dish closely resembles another dish at China 46 restaurant, which was called “House Special Saute” and consisted of ground pork with finely chopped Chinese green peppers and pressed tofu, in a spicy Sichuan hot bean sauce. The China Palace version here is excellent, using julienne pressed tofu and shredded pork, but it is not the same — the China 46 one was drier and less saucy and a much finer dice.
Once I had this dish, I was committed to faithfully replicating the China 46 version, at least as close as to it I could recall. I don’t have original photos of the dish I am trying to replicate, so I am just going from memory here.
Spicy Sichuan Capsicum Saute, fondly remembered and re-created from the late China 46 restaurant in Ridgefield Park, NJ.
Re-Create this fantastic Sichuan dish in your own home. Click on the “Read the rest of this entry” link below for more.
China 46 Spicy Capsicum Saute
12oz of Ground Chicken, Turkey or Shredded Pork Tenderloin
8-10 Chinese “Long Hot Green” Peppers, or 6 Cubanelles or 8 Hungarian Green peppers, seeded and finely diced
3 Scallions, whites and greens separated, chopped.
1 Package of Pressed or Baked Tofu, Finely Diced
8-10 dried Chinese red chiles or other dried red chile
1 Thumb of Ginger, minced
6 Cloves of Garlic, minced
1 Tbsp Fermented Black Beans
1 Tbsp Sichuan Chile Soybean Paste
1 Tsp Crushed Sichuan Peppercorns (or more if you like this flavor a lot)
1 Tbsp Sesame Oil
White Pepper to taste
3Tbsp Soy Sauce
Here’s the type of Tofu you’ll need. It comes seasoned in Five Spice marinade, or plain. Either type is fine.
You will need Chinese Fermented Black Beans (left) and Hot Soybean Paste (right). In the middle is Korean Fermented Chili Soybean paste, which is similar to the product on the right. I used a tablespoon of all three in combination, but you could use just the type on the left and the right.
Slice your Chinese long green chiles lengthwise and remove most of the ribs and seeds, and chop into a medium fine dice.
Here’s your mise-en-place: Chopped pressed tofu, Garlic and Ginger, Scallions, dried Red Peppers, Chopped Chinese long green peppers, and your ground/chopped chicken or turkey. Obviously, you can use shredded pork if you want to be totally faithful to the original.
Saute the hot peppers, scallion whites, and about half the ginger and garlic in about half the sesame oil for about 3 minutes. Wok in the Ground or Shredded meat, with the Black Beans and Hot Bean Paste with the remainder of the oil. Season with Soy Sauce and ground white pepper. Wok in the crushed Sichuan Peppercorns and the Scallion greens. Serve immediately over Brown Rice.
Here’s to you, Cecil. I hope you come back soon.