All of Baan Tao was full. Street food was being served. It takes place every Thursday. Pan Asian street food is what you are served on this day at Baan Tao. And of course the discussion we had at the table dispelled any doubts we had as to what is Pan Asian. Seeing the number of people present was enough for us to know that food served at Baan Tao is of exquisite quality and taste. We were to embark on a journey to Sichuan!
Well the banter continued as all of us at the table have a mind that ticks all the way! Containing thoughts becomes a challenge. The time had come when we had to seal our lips to seal our bellies with the appetizing dishes that were laid out in front of us.
We were served with some street food comprising of grilled prawns, fish, and chicken. The international Chef ‘Sun Wenlin’ had contributed to this fare as well as the specials laid out for the Chinese festival. We were during the evening transported to East Asia with its street food, and to Sichuan (China) with the specials for the Chinese festival curated by the chef of international fame… Chef Sun Wenlin.
We barely had tasted the grills than we were served with one of the specials of the Sichaun province…a soup that chef churned out made of shiitake mushrooms, pakchoy and tofu. A clear soup that had much character to it, and the flavours you could not help but fall in love with this soup. It was aromatic and brimming with goodness. You could taste the mushrooms, the pakchoy; and the tofu cut in thin slices just melted in your mouth, and pretty to the eyes were the artistically cut carrot pieces.
Sichuan cuisine, Szechwan cuisine, or Szechuan cuisine originates from the Sichuan province in China. It is known for its bold flavours and spiciness. And yes garlic and chilli peppers are used quite liberally. Not forgetting the famous Sichuan pepper flavor. A typical Sichuan meal does contain a dish or two that is not spicy…like the soup!
We were next served some dumplings …street food…lamb, chicken, and vegetable. The lamb and chicken were impressive with the meat being succulent. I felt the covering could have been thinner, however the flavors made up for all else.
Some more starters kept pouring.
Tofu grilled with a chilli sauce that had a hint of tanginess, and some Dou Ban Jiang string beans were served. Dou Ban Jiang is a fermented bean sauce, an essential ingredient in most Sichuan fiery dishes. The string beans were stir fried to perfection. I loved the sweetness, the saltiness, and the spiciness I tasted. It was laced with a hint of cumin.
The crispy kalamari came along, and what surprised me was the coriander that was used not just as garnish but the dish was also stir fried with onions and coriander, and yes I did taste a hint of cumin. In fact I felt this was more Indian than Chinese. But yes it did taste good to the taste buds. I could have finished the entire dish.
We were now being served the main course …all Sichuan delicacies
Scallops with garlic and spring onion sauce. The scallops were poached with onions and spring onion sauce first. Laid on a plate where the spring onion stock that was thickened a bit was poured on to it lending it a nice glazy look.
The mushroom and spinach dish had a picked flavor to it. I got to know the secret of the pickled(fermented) Mongolian chilli that was used for it.… a dish I had to develop a palette for.
Sea Bass was served coated with a combination of light and dark soya. The light sauce as the name suggests is light in color and saltier as compared to the dark soya sauce that has a richer, sweeter taste to it because of the long aging period and yes sometimes molasses and caramel are used. It sure adds that punch to the dish.
Crispy eggplant with sweet chili sauce and Barbequed chicken rice followed. Taste buds although smothered with the flavours of Sichuan could not resist the rice. The barbeque marinaded chicken, grilled and added to the rice made it very aromatic.
The wok tossed I felt lacked a little flavor. The bite though was good as they were well cooked.
The surprise element was the zucchini that was dipped in batter fried and stir fried in sweet and sour sauce made of sweet chilli and bean and it was a little heavy on garlic . I would have had a hard time detecting it to be zucchini.
We wanted now to meet Chef Sun Wenlin to compliment him on his magical fingers that gave every dish a different flavor. Every dish spoke of Sichuan like I had never tasted before. Language barrier made it difficult for us to express in words of our delight, however the expressions on our faces said it all. I decided to capture this moment and asked for a picture to be clicked with him. A moment of pride to be seen with the internationally acclaimed chef.
The evening could not have ended without the desert that chef had made for us.
Banana fritters with coconut ice-cream was a lip smacking option along with the Orange Crème Brule, the sugar torched and caramelized at the top also tasted of the orange as all the juices had seeped in.
Satisfied and full till the seams almost burst I now had to return to my abode afraid not to dose off in the ola. Sichuan called the ‘heavenly country’ had sure transported me to heaven that evening.
The festival is on till the 12th of May.