Did I wake up to know I was going to be eating frogs and snakes that day? No. Did I think it would be one heck of a meal to cherish till the end of time? Yes.
Let me rewind. We were meeting this friend of my husband in Singapore. This friend turned out to be a food lover and a local who knew about hole-in-the-wall places serving mind-blowing food in Singapore’s alleyways. Would you believe my sheer dumb luck? I nodded like mad at the mention of spicy food, and probably with a slight hint of caution, nodded some more at the mention of frog legs. Entrusting the well being of our taste buds upon him, we headed out to Lao Sichuan at the relatively ungodly hour of 1.30AM.
Lao Sichuan restaurant is famous (read notorious) for its extravagantly flavorsome, inhumanely spicy dishes. With red furniture, cushioned sofas, and remnants of the Christmas décor hanging here and there, the ambience was of a modest dining spot, giving away not much clue on the cuisine it serves. The server spoke chinese and if we didn’t have our Chinese-speaking friend with us, we would have had to resort to the sign language. The iPad menu was detailed and included English (hurray!) along with the pictures of the dish (whoop whoop!).
A quick exchange between the server and our friend enabled us to take a walk into the pantry where in a tub sat the frogs croaking about. It was not the best feeling knowing couple of these were going to end up in our plate in a short while, but seeing them fresh and feisty in the kitchen was an experience.
Let me tell you about our order. Spicy frog in Sichuan style (ordered the very spicy way), Snake head sliced fish in hot & spicy sauce, Sichuan style sliced pork in spicy sauce and Stir fried shredded potato with chili padi. Yes, I realize that’s a lot of chilli and spicy in one line.
The first to arrive was the Snake head sliced fish in hot & spicy sauce.
The “water cooked fish” dish looked dangerous with a truck load of red chillies and Sichuan peppercorns dotting the entire surface of the bowl. The ladle comes up with the chilly oil infused broth, fragrant sliced fish and oodles of soybean sprouts.
If you have been bred Sichuan from anywhere else other than where the cuisine is originally from, understand that you have been living a lie. Be prepared for an assault on your senses. With the first spoonful of the curry, all those doodles and animations on breathing out fire and shooting smoke from the ears suddenly made sense. THIS was the real deal. Minimum artificial sauces. Maximum powerful chopped chilies. Need I say that the rest is history?
Despite ordering the medium spicy version, the dish was SPICY even by a South-Indian standard. We thought we were the undefeatable ones when it comes to spicy food. But this was beyond all that. WAY BEYOND. So much for our severely misplaced notions!
The Sichuan style sliced pork in spicy sauce caused eruptions of appreciation from our friends, so we could easily judge the dish was an above average beauty. It looked gloriously infused with chilly oil and the vegetables seemed to be drenched in all sorts of sautéed flavors, making it almost impossible to dig in!
Spice level was a 6/10 for this dish.
The heat got turned up by a zillion notches as the Spicy frog in Sichuan sauce was brought in. We have nobody to blame but our selves, as we had arrogantly ordered the very spicy version of the dish. Look here to see what the dish looked like!
This was intimidation of the finest order. Our friend explained the battle strategy: Scoop out only the meat, avoid the Sichuan peppercorns and pass the chillies as if our life depended on it!
It was a mind-blowing dish. I cannot begin to put the spiciness of this dish into words. The oil, the chillies, the meat– it was a parade of spices. The peppercorns numbed my tongue even as the chillies performed masochistic things to my palate. We were using up the tissues fast – our noses were sniffing, eyes were watering and the ears were screaming. And YET, we COULD NOT STOP! So enrapturing was the gravy, that despite the inexplicable heat, we were tempted to take some more till all the meat was consumed. It is STRONGLY advised to stay away from the Very Spicy version unless you know what the deal is. Amateurs and soft-tongued diners, please stick to the non-spicy (no, not even medium spicy), to build a base before you venture into the wilderness! All said and done, WHAT A DISH!
Amongst the entire hullabaloo, one dish remained to give our tattered tongues some comfort. The stir fried shredded potato with chilly padi was not considered much while ordering. It was after all “just a side”. But how wonderful a simple potato can taste when simply shredded and tossed with some chillies (hardly a surprise now). It’s spice level was quite very low as compared to the other deadly dishes, and hence provided us with much reprieve as we struggled to soothe our senses from the heat. Completely recommendable for its raw flavors and healthy crunch!
Lao Sichuan will not be kind to your sensitive palates. If you are touchy about shocking your tummy with the real flavors of Sichuan cuisine, it is recommendable to steer clear. The food is “amazing” in one word, “insanely spicy” in two and “Can’t stop eating!” in three. That should give you a fair idea!
Lao Sichuan: 24 9# Outram RD Tel- 62229489/ 268# middle RD Tel- 93956808/ 197 New bridge RD Tel- 64231068/ 50 Serangoon north ave 4 first centre #02-08sg 555856.