Chong Qing Chicken and Pea Shoots at Grand Sichuan
My favorite meal to eat at Grand Sichuan consists of a fiery hot meat dish and a non-fiery vegetable dish. During my last visit, my friends and I shared the Chong Qing chicken, whose star isn't the chicken as much as the mound of dried red chiles dotted with slightly crisp chicken nubs, Sichuan peppercorns, scallions, and thick slices of garlic. The first time I ate this dish I made the mistake of eating one of the chiles and paying the price with a seemingly never ending burning sensation in my mouth, on my lips, and any other bits of skin that were exposed to the chile's wrath. The chicken and chiles are similarly colored—don't bite into the wrong one. The chile content may be excessive, but combined with the peppercorns they infuse every morsel of chicken with addictive fragrant, tingly spiciness.
We mellowed out the heat of the chicken with sautéed pea shoots with garlic. Sautéed pea shoots are my favorite Chinese vegetable dish, right before string beans. Pea shoots have a subtle sweetness that meshes perfectly with garlic (admittedly, garlic probably makes all vegetables taste better) and, cooked to the right degree, they have a pleasant texture that is slightly crunchy and soft. I would happily eat this all day, all night, and in my sleep.