In formal traditional authentic Sichuan cuisine, fried rice has almost no place. If you have ever been in a formal occasion, you probably would have noticed fried rice is more like an after-thought. Basically, it is not something you are proud to make for your respectable guest.
It is more often cooked at home. When parents got home after work, they want to fix a quick dinner. With eggs, vegetable, left-over rice, voila, there is fried-rice for whole family.
So that is secret number one for good fried-rice: left-over rice. Or, you need to cook rice with texture like left-over from last night first.
Secret number two: pork lard. It is very hard to find good pork lard in New York. And a lot of customers don’t like pork lard, so we use vegetable oil instead in Legend 72. But if you ever traveled to Sichuan, or you happen to date some hardcore foodie from Sichuan, challenge the person with pork lard. You will get very nice surprise, not just tasty fried rice, but much more other dishes you would enjoy tremendously.
Lastly, good fried rice needs creative ingredients. You can experiment with a lot different things, from regular minced meat, small-chunk vegetable to innovative pulled pork shoulder, Italian salami etc. Fried rice is for creative mind to improvise. Just don’t be afraid of trying new things.
Stir fry is one the the most popular cooking method in Sichuan. Here are the tips to a wonderful stir fry.
- Chop the food material, prepare the ingredients before you turn the stove on.
- Always heat the wok for a couple of minutes before pouring oil. Make sure the surface of the wok is completely dry.
- Heat the oil to a temperature high enough. The oil temperature is critical for food taste. Make sure you know what temperature is the optimal for the food you cook.
- Add the meat first. Then add the vegetables after the meat is 80% done. So you won’t overcook the vegetables.
- Use a good spatula to stir the food regularly.
- Use a little starch. It helps the taste, and makes food prettier.
Enjoy your stir-fry!
Holiday is one of the busiest times of a year for our restaurant Legend 72. People from the neighborhood, from other boroughs, from all over the country, from the whole world, come to visit us. Our chef and his staff work so hard on our gourmet food they almost forget holiday for themselves. The kitchen alchemy is floating in the air. Just like the past days of the year culminate into the wonderful holidays at year end, many ingredients combine to form something more delectable than the sum of their parts. Fancy ones are not required; simple, made-up are usually better.
Our chef doesn’t like food too carefully arranged. He is afraid to spend too much time arranging and not enough time cooking. He grew up with his grandma who cooks, never went to culinary institute. It just started in his blood. But first he had to be a craftsman, a technician. Like a jeweler, or a surgeon, he learnt to know his trade in his hand. Through endless repetition, it finally became part of himself. Even nowadays, he cooks every day. Repeat, repeat, repeat. And the technique burnishes. In this tasty cadence, another new year comes to knock at the door.
Year 2016 has been a wonderful year. Legend 72 gained a great reputation. There is a steady group of customers following us, and the group is getting bigger and bigger. In the new year, Legend 72 will continue to create new dishes and flavor combinations that brings our customers pleasure from far-away Sichuan. This is our job and we love. We wish you a Happy New Year!
Christmas in Sichuan is time to party. Night clubs, restaurants, bars and karaoke places are all booked and crowded. You can find the most extravagant parties of the year on Christmas Eve. Some of the parties charge well over one thousand US dollars for an entrance ticket. But there was one thing no one expected and had become a tradition for several years until being banned by the government: Christmas street party. Years ago, for some mysterious reason, a large group of young people started gathering on street with balloon toys in hand on Christmas Eve. They quickly drew more and more people, then it became a phenomenon that everyone had to go and join. Every Christmas Eve for several years in a row, hundreds of thousands of people poured out on the street to celebrate, and nobody can explain why. From the picture you can see that it is just like Time Square on New Year’s Eve.
In New York City it is the other way around. Legend 72, like all the other Sichuan restaurants here, is full of Jewish families. It is a well-known Jewish tradition of eating at Chinese restaurants on Christmas or Christmas Eve. Historian can trace this tradition back to the end of 19th century. It is intriguing to think, at this time of year, how people find different ways to (or not to) celebrate Christmas, and they are connected by the global culture link in tandem, even when they are thousands of miles apart, barely knowing anything about each other.
Chinese contemporary artists have enjoyed a phenomenal popularity in recent years. Top museums like Met and MoMA collect their works; galleries are rushing to create exhibitions for them; some of their best works were sold for hundreds of millions dollars. If you take a close look at these artists’ resume, the chance is high that the artist was from Sichuan. Actually, those artists were called Sichuan School by critics because they all more or less associated with Sichuan Fine Art Institute. After its opening, Legend 72 has quickly become Chinese artists’ hang-out place in New York. Hot pot is a major attraction, so does the authentic Sichuan cuisine. The other night we saw a well-known artist come with his wife and friends. He was having a solo exhibition in Guggenheim. The exhibition lasted for a whole month, and hot pot was the best cure for his craving of home-town spicy food. Another artist brought everyone from his studio for late dinner after a documentary movie about him debuted in Sotheby’s. Apparently people worship him so much that the 10-person table had 16 person squeezed around it, and some fans had to wait outside. One performance artist, who was on Hugo Boss Prize shortlist, loves Chinese hard liquor (baijiu). He could finish half bottle of it and still talked about art history and philosophy with impressive details.
Everyone working in Legend 72 admires those artists, and feel connected with them, not just because we all came from Sichuan, but also we share the camaraderie of the same creative occupation. “Cooking is an art, but you eat it too.” In art we trust.
As President-Elect of the United States, Donald Trump has roused unexpected sensation in Sichuan, China. PEOTUS, who was born and has been living in New York almost for his entire life, and never showed particular affection for spicy Sichuan food, quickly started flooding the websites and social media in the region well-known for its delicious cuisine with over 100 million people. The reason: one popular version of the translation of his name is Chuan-Pu (川普）, which also literally means “Sichuan Mandarin”, a term to describe the spoken Chinese mixed with local dialect and official Mandarin (Pu Tong Hua, 普通话）. Sichuan Mandarin has been a reliable source for funny jokes and witty humor as the dialect spreads all over the country along with Sichuan cuisine. No matter what their view toward politics in the United States, certainly Sichuan people feel a little amused by the coincidence. Many more new jokes based on it are the testament to this comic spirit. As anywhere else, there have been heated debates on the election in Legend 72, especially among Chinese students and intellectuals. Some were definitely carried out in Chuan-Pu. We hope in the end the delicious cuisine and good humor can bring people back together, whether in Sichuan or New York.
Kung Pao Chicken is a ubiquitous Sichuan dish. It can be found in almost every Chinese restaurant around the world. It’s also one of the most common items on family dinner table. According to folklore, Kung Pao Chicken first emerged in Qing Dynasty around 150 years ago. Originated in Sichuan, it was named after an admired Mandarin’s posthumous title. Kung Pao Chicken has complex combination of flavors and texture. For a good one, the chicken should taste tender and juicy; peanut fresh and crispy; the pepper and peppercorn dry and aromatic. You can always tell whether the chef has solid basic skills from a Kung Pao Chicken. One common mistake is to treat the dry red chili pepper as mere garnish in Kung Pao Chicken. People add it in toward the end of cooking. In fact it should be put in the cooking oil at the beginning before anything else so that the high temperature oil can quickly bring out its unique aroma. Chef Yang in Legend 72 strictly follows the traditional way to cook Kung Pao Chicken. You probably can still savor how Kung Pao Chicken was like 150 years ago, in thousands miles away Sichuan.