Slow Food Hong Kong was again immersed in Sichuan, the land of flavour for an encore dinner with Chef Deng on February 6, 2018. The diverse and multiple flavours the province is known for, sometimes all in one dish, is what makes it the land of flavour above all others. So it was no surprise that it was another sold-out dinner, with 60 guests, double the participants from the first dinner in September 2017.
When you think of Sichuan food, the first thing that comes to mind is ‘hot & spicy’, but mouth numbing heat isn’t the main characteristic of true Sichuan food, nor is it that simplistic. Chinese food, like western food, has similar basic tastes. Sweet, sour, salty, bitter and umami. In Sichuan food there are two others, the ‘ma’ (numbing) and the la (hot). In Sichuan cuisine, hot can be expressed many different ways. There are dried whole chilies, ground dried chilies, pickled chilies, chilli oil and fermented chilli bean paste. The Sichuan fraternal twin of la, the ‘ma’ flavour comes from the small hua jiao pepper. For such a tiny pepper, it invades your taste buds like nothing else. The experience is a mix of candy pop-rocks, soda and pins & needles in your mouth, all with a subtle lemon flavour. A delicate touch is needed to bring out the proper amount of punch here. No worries on that front, we were in the hands of a true pro!
Chef Deng excelled by skillfully combining different flavours within each dish, for example using sour to balance sweetness and heat to balance the prickly ma flavour so nothing overwhelmed here and the tastes were varied and interesting as you tried to identify all the elements.
The land of flavour, as created by Chef Deng, lived up to its reputation and offered an opportunity to experience something more than just the often talked about chilli peppers.