Let me start by saying that I don’t profess to be any sort of food expert. I enjoy different dishes from around the globe but perhaps some are slightly more familiar than others. Take Chinese for instance. I know there are dishes that I like and growing up there were definitely some firm take away favourites from the local – sweet and sour pork, fried rice, lemon chicken….Truth be told I would probably tend towards these familiar dishes if I were to be out at a Chinese restaurant. So when I recently received an email asking me to head along to try some Szechwan cuisine, I was definitely keen to do so because it’s nice to try new things and I wanted to improve my tolerance for spicy food.
Szechwan Zen Chinese Restaurant is located in Northbridge at the Chinatown end of William Street and it is actually quite a vast restaurant, set back from the road in a small shopping complex.
We were greeted by the friendly staff and shown to a table near the window. They offer a fairly extensive menu that’s split into your standard sections – chicken, beef, seafood, vegies, etc – and most helpful is that one of the menus has pictures of the dishes. From where I sit I find this helpful because while I often stick with what I know, I am willing to be slightly more adventurous if I can see what I’m ordering. Like jumping into a pool with floaties.
We asked our friendly waiter for some guidance on what to order and he kindly listed several dishes that he recommended we try. We took his advice and went with
- Panfried Pork Dumplings
- Crispy Garlic Lamb Ribs
- Kung Pow Chicken
- Sautéed Shredded Pork with Sweet Chilli and Ginger
- Prawns with Broccoli
- Steamed Rice
The first two dishes arrived swiftly and we kicked off with the lamb ribs. These were presented with an end wrapped in foil which was needed because they were pretty darn hot! They had a lovely garlicky flavour and the meat was very tender and I enjoyed that there was what looked like a sprinkling of crunchy noodles on top. We polished them all off and really enjoyed them.
Next up were the dumplings which had a pleasant filling, almost like a pork sausage, which had lots of flavour and paired well with the accompanying sweet chilli dipping sauce. And I quite enjoy dumplings, so these four disappeared in a flash.
The mains followed not long after and it was a flurry of dishes, one after another appearing on our table. There was plenty of steamed rice which paired well with our first dish, an elegant mountain of prawns with vibrant green broccoli. Plump prawns and they had been wok fried in an abundance of wonderful, delicious garlic. I just love garlic. I also love the crunch from the broccoli.
On to the shredded pork and I just loved the flavour of this dish. The pork was so tender and I’m a big fan of ginger and sweet chilli and so the sauce was always going to be a winner for me! There were a few greens adding some more crunch but there was a really generous amount of pork in the dish. Heat wise, there was a fair bit of spice but I really enjoyed the taste and so my fork kept reaching for a little more and a little more…
Since I was now well and truly on board with things on the spicy side of life, I felt I was ready to embrace the Kung Pow. Was I daunted by the large chunks of sliced red chilli I could see through the dish? Sure I was, but I was ready to give it a red hot go! There was actually quite a sweetness to the chicken pieces, almost like there was honey in the marinade but it was a really lovely contrast to the in your face, punchiness of the chilli. I swear I ate one piece and I thought my mouth was going to explode! But it was a great dish and not something I had tried before, so look at me colouring outside the lines.
We had officially gotten our Szechwan on and had really enjoyed it. The kitchen here is cooking up authentic dishes and it really expanded my culinary horizons. There were a bunch of other choices on the menu that I was really keen to try too so I suspect I’ll head back in the future, especially for the pork hock that looked like it would be red hot with this ample sprinkling of both red and green sliced chilli! I’ll give this a go next time when I have my big girl spicy boots on.
So if you are heading into Northbridge and want to give something spicy, flavoursome and Szechwan a try then you know where to go. Thanks for giving me the chance to enjoy something new!