Welcome to the fifth installment of C+M’s ongoing series of audio guides on how to order authentically spicy food in ethnic restaurants. As a service to C+M readers Anne Noyes Saini has been compiling a series of audio guides demonstrating phrases in several relevant languages, which can be used to navigate ordering situations fraught with tricky cultural and language barriers.
Today just in time for the upcoming Chinese New Year festivities, a primer from Rain Yan Wang on how to order spicy food in Mandarin. At most of my favorite Flushing haunts, like Lao Cheng Du and Cheng Du Tian Fu, they don’t pull any punches when it comes to fiery chili heat and tingling Sichuan peppercorns. That’s not the case everywhere though. Click through to learn how to get real deal spicy Chinese.
“Once you start eating eating spicy food you’ll think that every other food is so bland [with] no taste at all,” Rain says. I’ve certainly found that to be true! I’ve been adding roasted chili oil to Chinese food since I was nine years old.
In her primer Rain calls out shui zhu yu, or Sichuan water poached fish. The version at Cheng Du Tian Fu packs plenty of ma la heat and has become something of a go-to for me during this especially frigid winter. In addition to the aforementioned spicy Flushing spots I also dig Little Pepper, Xi’an Famous Foods, and Biang! Wishing you all good things in the Year of the Horse.