Karl Palma, the jovially brawny dude behind Karl’s Balls, a takoyaki stand that can be found at the Queens Night Market among other places around New York City, has been trying to get me to eat Sichuan food with him for at least three years.
“You gotta come with me to this place, it’s me and my wife’s favorite,” he would crow about Szechuan House, and I would say, “Yeah sure,” while thinking, “I’m a Chengdu Tian Fu man myself.”
I finally caved in. I don’t know why I waited so long. Karl and I ate there a few weeks ago and I’ve been back several times with different friends to try at least a half dozen items, but there is one particular dish that has become the very stuff of my Sichuan food fever dreams, shredded fried beef.
It’s a heap of crunchy tendrils of salty beef riddled with bits of garlic, shatteringly crisp matchsticks of preserved veggies that I suspect to be radish, and enough Sichuan peppercorn and dried red peppers to outfit a small hawker stand. Perhaps I exaggerate about the twin engines of ma la—the berry like Sichuan peppercorn and the dried red pepper—but only slightly. Despite the spice level it is remarkably well balanced.
The Chinese name gan bian niu rou si, or dry-fried beef threads, is somewhat more poetic. Don’t bother looking for this spectacular item on the menu though. For whatever reason, the chef took it off, but people in the know, like my pal Karl, still order it. Thanks again for turning me on to Szechuan House, buddy. Sorry it took me so long to take you up on your offer.
Szechuan House, 133-47 Roosevelt Ave., (718) 762-2664