"It was fiendishly hot. So much that Hell Chicken might be a better moniker."
It’s been far too long since I partook in the fiery fare at stall No. 31 in Flushing's Golden Shopping Mall. The last time I visited Cheng Du Tian Fu Xiao Shi, or "Chengdu Heavenly Plenty Snack Restaurant" there was no picture menu. One of these pictures drew me back to this temple of Sichuan cuisine. As I was leaving the food court with some out-of-town guests who I'd turned on to spicy lamb face salad and lamb burgers I noticed a dish labeled “Heaven Chicken.”
I insisted we try it, but my friends demurred. At that very moment I knew Heaven Chicken would be my next Golden Shopping mall meal, if only because the name sounded like an inversion of a fried chicken joint.
Like many of the dishes here, Heaven Chicken ($8), or tian fu ji, is served in a lake of chili oil. I couldn’t really ask the proprietor how it was prepared, but my guess is that the bird had been poached. The chopstickful had a soft, silky texture. It reminded me of Hainanese chicken, with one exception. It was fiendishly hot. So much that Hell Chicken might be a better moniker.
It's not just the chili oil that makes this dish so hellish, er, heavenly though. There's also loads of minced garlic, ginger, green onion, and cilantro. Since it's essentially a poached chicken that's been hacked up and then bathed in a delicious yet incendiary sauce, there are also plenty of bones, many of which take the form of tiny shards. Not that I'm one to let such pitfalls keep me from trying a new dish.
I've eaten at No. 31 dozens of times. And, I can count the number of times I've been offered or eaten rice: once. Usually I have to struggle to polish off a bowl of rice, but this one vanished in no time. No doubt this was due to the fact that Heaven Chicken is both incendiary and delicious.
Cheng Du Tian Fu Xiao Shi (aka No. 31)
Golden Shopping Mall
41-28 Main Street, Queens NY 11355 (map)