Chongqing Chicken Obsession
When Sietsema's review of Grand Sichuan House (8701 Fifth Avenue, Bay Ridge, Brooklyn) ran accompanied by a gorgeous shot of what looks like a plate mounded with dried red chiles and nothing else, I ran right down to Bay Ridge to try the dish. The preparation, called Chongqing Chicken, involves small nuggets of fried chicken buried under an avalanche of browned, dried red chiles and spiky Sichuan peppercorns, which numb your mouth and make water taste disconcertingly like Sprite. The dish is named after its native home, Chongqing, municipality bordering Sichuan province that Fuschia Dunlop describes in Shark Fin and Sichuan Pepper as having a "filthy magnificence."
Grand Sichuan House's version is fantastically tasty, and will leave you embarrassingly flushed and a little high. Fish around for the succulent bites of chicken, and pop the chiles like candy. The peppers are delicious, smoky and incendiary--if you eat them one after the other, you don't notice exactly how hot they are. When you stop eating them, you notice.
I've never had the dish at Grand Sichuan St. Marks ( no relation to Grand Sichuan House, Bay Ridge). So today I went for lunch to check it out. Although the version served in Bay Ridge is better overall--spicier, crisper, more aromatic--the Chongqing chicken on St. Marks is delicious, too. The bits of fried chicken are bigger, and there are fewer chiles, as you can see above. Bay Ridge is a hike for some people, so this is an excellent alternative.
Grand Sichuan St. Marks
19-23 St. Marks Place