How to Taste Chinese Szechuan Food in San Francisco, of course, to take out
After all, San Francisco is the city that popularized Chinese food in the Western world. Almost unparalleled, Chinese cuisine varies greatly from region to region except for India and Mexico. Also, considering a global country like China, we’re either seeing mostly westernized versions or just a few of the hundreds of dishes that make up the regional category.
In November, in that now distant world before COVID-19, I had the privilege of visiting Chengdu, the heart and home of Sichuan/Sichuan cuisine, which most of the world thought was just spicy and numbing, but was actually a complex cuisine of 24 bases individual taste. My digestible research, from home-style restaurants to cracked hole noodle shops, is guided by some of the best chefs and palate in the area.
At Bob Cut, we especially want to support our Chinese friends and neighbors right now and thank the local Asian American heroes.
Delivery/takeout is a small but heartfelt gesture of support. Supporting our local small businesses – and our rich Chinese heritage and population – is an act of solidarity and joy when you know where to go. As with most Chinese restaurants (or anywhere with an extensive menu), it’s crucial to order the right dishes, as some can be great and some are terrible.
Some Sichuan favorites:
A longtime favorite SF Sichuan attraction has been the Chili House in Inner Richmond – where the Sichuan red pepper oil/douban side shines (douban is a type of bean paste that is one of the most critical elements in creating Sichuan flavor) .exist normal Sometimes, occasionally on weekends, you’ll watch a performance by a Sichuan tea master that includes long pours and masks.
Order this: Highlights of the dishes include their spicy chile ravioli, tan-tan noodles, noodle noodles and live fish cooked in burning chile oil. They even cook the fillets in hard-to-find green pepper chili oil.
detail: Delivered via Caviar and DoorDash; pick up and save 15% on your meal. 726 Clement Street; chilihousesf.com
Since 2011, the sweet staff of the Michelin Bib Gourmand-recommended Sichuan House have been keeping things real in the humble space. Pickled cabbage and mustard fish (usually cod) is delicate and firm in the heat of Chile, yet bright, acidic, and vibrant.
Order this: Besides the fish, they also use garlic eggplant and the chef’s special chicken, even if their dan dan noodles are a bit of a let down.
detail: Delivered via DoorDash. 5037 Giri Avenue; Sichuan Home Furnishing Network
Palette Tea House
An elegant dim sum destination, Palette Tea House in Piazza Ghirardelli starts with the painter’s dipping sauce palette, and their Sichuan sauce is a lesson in the right balance of spicy and numbing.
Order this: Their dim sum, seafood and noodles shine, but on the Sichuan side, they make Mapo Tofu with top-notch Sichuan sauce (douban, red chili oil).
detail: Delivery via Uber Eats, DoorDash and Grubhub; takeaway menu here. 900 North Point Street, Suite #B201; Palette Tea House
Spices’ original location was a Taiwan-Szechuan mashup, but served thinly sliced beef tendon and mapo tofu that Sichuanese love.
order this: Beef tendon slices, Mapo tofu, hot and sour soup, dan dan noodles.
detail: Order by Caviar; pickup menu here. 291 Sixth Avenue; spice net
Z & Y Restaurant
Z & Y Restaurant serves dishes other than Sichuan cuisine, but it is SF’s first Sichuan restaurant under the helm of the former Executive Chef of the Chinese Consulate General of SF Express. Z&Y is also a newer “Asian fusion” restaurant Z&Y Bistro recommended by Michelin Bib Gourmand, and also offers takeaway/delivery service, best paired with Sichuan cuisine.
Order this: Try Sichuan dishes such as green pepper tripe or tiger skin pepper; chicken with “explosive” peppers.
detail: Deliver via Uber Eats & Caviar; pick up and save 15% on meals. 655 Jackson Street; zandyrestaurant.com
Thank you to our vibrant Chinese population who truly feed us from your family heritage. See you at the Sichuan table when this ordeal is over. Meanwhile, cheers from our house to yours – over a bowl of Mapo Tofu.
// Read more about my adventures in China and about the 24 essential flavors of Sichuan cuisine perfect place. Feature photo by Mae Mu.