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Good food has a mysterious way of bringing people together…
Families around the dinner table; old friends catching up over a meal; or in our case, strangers becoming friends as we dined on the amazing flavors of Mala Sichuan Bistro at the most recent Good Eats Houston private tasting. After stepping through the heavy wooden door, guests were greeted by a colorful floor to ceiling wall mural and contemporary fixtures. The upstairs dining area had slightly dimmed lighting, which added a touch of intimacy to the experience.
Our evening hostess, owner Cori Xiong, welcomed us and immediately created an air of excitement as she explained the menu. She focused on the spicy flavor and unique numbing effect on the tongue created by the peppercorns used in many of the dishes. The sensation is called “mala” and it would prove to be an experience in and of itself.
We were treated to several appetizers including: Funky Cold Noodles. Don’t let the name fool you! Funky simply means 7 specific flavors in Sichuan cooking. Appetizer standouts included Garlic Bacon, which consisted of cool cucumber and bacon rolled and covered in sweet garlic sauce with just a touch of heat. Next were the dumplings; which were tender with just the right amount of bite to their texture. The dumplings were filled with well-seasoned pork and topped with a zingy red oil sauce.
Our main dishes were passed around the table again and again until the plates were literally scraped clean. We simply couldn’t get enough! Favorites included the Spicy Chicken, Water Boiled Fish, Salt and Pepper Prawns, and Eggplant in Spicy Garlic Sauce. The Spicy Chicken was prepared with peppercorns and chilies. The meat was crispy outside and tender on the inside. The Water Boiled Fish was braised white fish, which was well-seasoned and served over leeks and cabbage with a bean curd sauce. Both of these dishes provided the anticipated mala numbing. The Salt and Pepper Prawns were deep fried goodness! And finally, the Eggplant in Spicy Garlic Sauce proved to be so tender and flavorful that it even converted those among us who typically dislike eggplant.
Too often dessert becomes an overlooked and understated course within a meal! But that’s not the case at Mala Sichuan. The Mille Crepe Cake is rave worthy! When you see this treat headed to your table you will immediately understand why. Twenty layers of handmade crepe and smooth creamy filling, which is painstakingly created over the course of two hours and chilled to perfection. No overbearing sugar flavor here! This dessert is intentionally created to be just sweet enough. You can choose from four flavors: Tiramisu, Green Tea, Caramel, and Nutella. They make them fresh and sell out often. We were lucky to try the Tiramisu, Green Tea and Caramel. Our group was split on which was the best, but that is because they were all divine! The perfect ending for our evening.
After conversation, a few cocktails and amazing cuisine; our group of Good Eats Houston members were happy, well fed and looking forward to a return visit! Mala Sichuan is authentic, inviting and delicious!
Good Eats Houston Tasting Menu…
Chilled bacon and cucumber rolls slathered with a tasty sweet and spicy garlic sauce, garnished with green onions
Garlic Cucumber Salad
Funky Cold Noodle
Red Oil Dumplings
Handmade dumplings mixed in red chili oil, grinded garlic, and sweet and spicy soy paste, topped with sesame and green onions
Aromatic and Spicy Chicken
Crispy dark meat chicken sautéed with hot red chilies, whole Sichuan peppercorns, and Sichuan bean curd sauce
Soft tofu cubes braised to perfection with fresh leeks in mala spicy bean curd sauce
Green Peppercorn Beef
Eggplants in Spicy Garlic Sauce
Braised Chinese eggplants with spicy garlic sauce
Water Boiled Fish Fillet
Braised flounder fish fillets in spicy bean curd sauce, poured onto steamed Napa cabbage and leeks, finished with boiling oil splashed over red chili powder and whole Sichuan peppercorns on top
Salt and Pepper Prawns
Battered and deep fried jumbo shrimps sautéed with onions, Serrano peppers, and black peppers
Mille Crepe Cake
Pichot Vouray Chenin Blanc
Huber Gruner Veltliner
PHOTOGRAPHY: MIKE PUCKETT