Chen Du Tian Fu, the stall that lies at the bottom of the stairs of Flushing’s Golden Shopping Mall has been my favorite Sichuan spot for more than 10 years. I’ve even taken such luminaries as Sichuan food expert Fuchsia Dunlop and Anthony Bourdain there and once ran into Mission Chinese founder Danny Bowien and his staff.
I’ve tasted tremendously good cold noodles, fiery water poached fish, and superb ma po tofu, along with many, many other specialties from the vast menu. There’s one dish that never appeared, kung pao chicken, or gong bao ji ding as it is known in Chinese.One day about a month ago I saw the ladies from the stall doing a photo shoot of a chicken and pepper dish with peanuts. I recognized it as gong bao ji ding and knew I’d be back to try it. The verbiage describing what is now No. 14, “spicy diced chicken with peanuts,” doesn’t quite do it justice. Of course neither would the words “kung pao chicken,” as the uninitiated might associate it with the American-Chinese version of the Sichuan classic.
It lands on the table still steaming from the wok, the chunks of chicken glazed in a sauce that tastes of Sichuan peppercorn and chili. Despite all the dried peppers much of the dish’s warmth though comes from slices of ginger. There’s a bit of garlic too, and just a hint of sweetness. It’s spicy, but balanced and great over rice.
It’s nice to see the folks here showcasing another this shade of Sichuan flavor along with ma la, fish fragrant and many others. I just wish it hadn’t taken them so long, it’s proved to be a favorite of guests on my food tours.
Cheng Du Tian Fu, No. 31, Golden Shopping Mall, 41-28 Main St., Flushing