Sichuan cuisine wins food lovers

By MAY ZHOU in Houston | | Updated: 2017-05-27 00:14

Sichuan cuisine wins food lovers

Soft Bacon is a popular dish with customers. PROVIDED TO CHINA DAILY

I was invited to taste the dishes the two tables ordered. To me, a native Sichuanese, all the dishes retained the original Sichuan flavor with lighter touch on oil and spice. The dishes are not Americanized to compromise the authenticity of Sichuan cuisine as many other restaurants outside of Chinatown often do.

Tofu and fish were so tender they almost melted in my mouth. Chicken and pork were delicious, succulent and flavorful. The toned-down spiciness allowed more room for appreciation of other flavors and texture.

To my pleasant surprise, I found green fresh Sichuan peppercorn in the dish "Pepper Twins Fish Slices", a sight I have never seen outside of Sichuan. The fresh numbing sensation mixed with spiciness on the tongue was exquisite.

"We cook the dishes as if we are doing home cooking for ourselves. We only use the best quality of ingredients," said Yang Yunan, founder of Pepper Twins and a medical professional by training.

Yang said that all the meat comes from free-range pigs, cows and chickens raised on US farms. All ingredients are organic. Her professional training made her keen on healthy ingredients and her passion for food heightened her taste.

Pepper Twins regularly imports the spices essential and specific to Sichuan cooking — such as fresh and dried Sichuan peppercorns and pepper sauces — directly from Sichuan.

Popular with local food lovers who gave rave reviews on Yelp, Pepper Twins opened another restaurant in the affluent River Oaks area nine months ago. It soon become a favorite for many customers nearby. Now, the third Pepper Twins is under construction in the Museum District on Kirby and is scheduled to open in mid-June.

Pepper Twins is run by a young management team with fresh ideas and love for food. Four of them graduated from the Hilton College of Hotel and Restaurant Management at the University of Houston.

On the menu, one finds creative English names for some of the classic Sichuan dishes: "Fish Loves Tofu", "Broken Heart Jelly Noodle", "Dancing Squid" and more. The classic appetizer fuqi feipian — literally "lung of husband and wife", is called Mr and Mrs Smith, borrowed from a movie starring Brad Pitt and Angelina Jolie.

"Sichuan cuisine is rich with history and culture, and we want to promote our authentic cooking and culture to the public while feeling at home through our tongues in a foreign land. This is why we only cook authentic Sichuan dishes, and when we translate the classic dishes, we try to give the names some cultural connotation when possible," Yang said.  

GQ magazine's food critic Brett Martin recently named Mr and Mrs Smith "Appetizer of the Year" in its April issue. "The dish is a numbing, burning, textural masterpiece, and the kind of thing a budding empire is built on," Martin wrote.

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