A few weeks I ago visited Hunan House with a crew of ravenous foodies. As soon as we were in the door encountered my pal Colin Goh. “Try the steamed eggplant with salted duck eggs,” he exclaimed. I couldn’t convince anybody to order the eggplant, but we did discover the amazing beef with crispy pepper. It’s a dish so good we ordered two rounds.
This past Saturday I ran into to Colin, his wife, Yen Yen, and their little girl, Kai Kai at the Lunar New Year celebration at Flushing Town Hall. When given a choice between a homestyle Korean place and Hunan House, young Kai Kai chose Hunan House. And that’s how I fell in love with xian dan huang qie zi, or steamed eggplant with salted duck egg yolk on Valentine’s Day.
“It takes a long time to make,” Colin said as we ate our way through some lovely steamed pork belly with mustard greens and the aforementioned beef with crispy pepper. So we waited, and waited some more. Finally four long purple eggplant sitting in a lake of amber sauce blanketed with golden duck egg yolk and some ground pork landed on the table.
I scooped a little bit on to my plate. It was savory, salty, and entirely unexpected. At Colin’s insistence I tried it over my rice and it was simply amazing. I even ordered a second bowl of rice. Rather than a fiery showstopper it was subtle, enveloping me in rich layers of umami. A funny Valentine of a dish, if you will.
Hunan House, 137-40 Northern Blvd., Flushing, (718) 353-1808