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.
We put Noodle Soup with Braised Beef on our menu cover because it is one of our most delicious dishes, and it could be the best of its kind in town, well, at least some customers say so. Many restaurants offer Braised Beef Noodle Soup. But Sichuan style is very unique. The key is how to cook the Braised Beef. To cook it right, you need to heat the oil and put in dry chili pepper. Wait for about 15 seconds, then put in Sichuan chili bean paste, Sichuan peppercorn and the rest of ingredients. Stir-fry it for 10-20 seconds till the aroma comes out, put in the beef and add water to braise it. The result is the complex spicy flavor, in which several layers are combined, yet they enhance each other to give your taste bud and olfactory sense the best simulation. The noodle is immersed with the braised beef and soup, soaking up the taste. It has become the vehicle carrying the flavors so you can enjoy it with every bite. You may sweat over it, yet the satisfaction is addictive.
Dan Dan means carrying pole in Chinese. The pole was made of bamboo or wood. A single person balances the yoke over one shoulder, with one large basket being suspended from each end. It was widely used in Sichuan before people could afford modern transportation. The anecdote says that Dan Dan Noodle was invented by a hawker in mid nineteenth century in Sichuan. Of his two baskets, one carried the stove and pot, another the noodle and ingredients. People were impressed by its mobility with the carrying pole. They started calling it Dan Dan Noodle.
After 150 years, there are some fixed rules about Dan Dan Noodle. First, it has to be in the small bowl about the size of your fist. If in anything bigger than that, you should know it is not authentic. The reason is simple: the bowls were used to be carried around in a basket on a carry pole. They have to be small. Second, there can’t be soup in it. For the same reason: no space. Third, there has to be chili oil and minced pork or beef. Chili oil is for the spicy flavor, while the minced meat was loved by the manual laborers when protein was expensive to get in old days. The rest are up to the chef. But you have to follow the three golden rule, otherwise it is not Dan Dan Noodle.
Unlike the rest of China, Wonton is not called Wonton in Sichuan. It’s offical name is Chao Shou. Chao Shou is usually stuffed with pork (Shanghai Wonton has vegetables). The dough is very thin, thin enough that one variety is called Glass Chao Shou because eater can almost see the stuffing. There are two type of tastes available: spicy, or not spicy. The non-spicy one comes with soup; the spicy one is covered with spicy sauce and ingredients but no soup. In Legend 72 Chef Yang makes the traditional Chao Shou. It is simple and it tastes great.
Get a free ice cream if you caught a Pikachu!
Chef Yang and his wife Mary, who also works in Legend 72. Together they opened Legend 72 three years ago. They have been striving to provide the best authentic Sichuan food to Upper West Side neighborhood.