Sunday, 18 September 2011

Review - Red n Hot, Shangri La (not so red n hot)

I hate travelling. I hate hate hate it. I like the idea of seeing lots of places in a big whirlwind of foreign culture but I know in actuality, I'd hate it. Even the twelve hour long, short haul, not-delayed, only-slightly-inconvenient journey from Dubrovnik to Birmz stressed me out no end. This was mainly because there was a lot of walking to and from inns of courts to borrow keys, followed by dragging a suitcase with my things/life from the past month in it. I'm very bad at being competent with baggage. My travelling companion dragged my suitcase at the same time as carrying his bag over his shoulder because I looked so pathetic struggling with it. In the middle of the twelve hour mission, we had a wait of about two hours where I wanted to be near Euston station. THE PERFECT TIME TO TRY OUT RED N HOT.

There my love of dan dan noodles began. I was torn between those and the twice cooked pork belly when I ordered. When the noodles came looking rather limp and forlorn in a bowl of watery orange broth, I was sad. But then I took my first few bites. Struggling, again. I only recently learnt to use chopsticks and up until this visit I hadn't dared try eating noodles with them. It was messy and hot. That sounds dirty. But it was! And the soup was FIERY. My chin was flecked with patches of sting by the time I was done. I understand why dan dan noodles are so popular. Although I don't remember my mouth tasting of much but numb, it was such good numb. Addictive and sour. I suppose that's the feeling of the chemicals rushing to repair my tongue or something.

Anyway, I loved Red n Hot in Euston and have made a mental note to go back when I next have to wait for a train. The reason that I bring this up is because when I googled 'sichuan Birmingham', another Red n Hot comes up. My obsession with oriental food plus my good experience at Charlton Street made it the perfect choice for a meal with my family. My family are a stressful bunch. From my mother, I inherit my stubbornness and shrillness. From papa, I inherit my short fuse and boundless ability to make passive aggressive comments. Of course, we're all lovely really and these traits only reveal themselves in any particularly troublesome way around each other. The only thing we have in common is that we all love spicy food. So I figured that if our tongues were too numb to move, we'd manage to enjoy a meal together. Unfortunately, Red n Hot don't do takeaway and this review coupled with my 'neche' means that I didn't want to go there to eat. The only other result that comes up for sichuan food in Birmingham is Shangri La on Hurst Street. So we settled for there.
Dan dan noodles - not so hot. Literally. Also, I know cucumber doesn't taste of much at the best of times but this was ridiculous.
Sichuan special beef - I could see the chilli seeds in the sauce yet this barely touched me. It was so bland in that horrid MSG generic crappy Chinese kind of way.
Fish flavoured aubergine - see above.
Shredded potato and peppers - interesting. I liked the texture and the waxiness of the potato. I often see recipes calling for waxy potatoes and can always imagine at the time the waxiness of that potato but later, when eating the finished product, I always mean to watch out for the waxiness and forget. This was super waxy. They were like very strange noodles. I think I keep talking about the waxiness because this dish was all about texture, not so much about taste. Isn't waxy a strange word?
Overall, this meal was a terrible disappointment. But hope is not yet lost. As a reward for spending two hours with mother dearest at the dressmaker's and not exploding even when she chipped in with unnecessary, unhelpful, unasked for comments about a dress she won't a) be wearing or b) be paying for, I asked her to take me to Red n Hot in Birmingham.
Every welt that will appear on my tongue from biting it (at the dressmaker's, not at the restaurant) is worth it. Dan dan noodles with braised beef were even better than the original Red n Hot experience. I was initially apprehensive at the sinewy appearance of the appetisingly titled 'boiled beef' but it was soft, tender and flavoursome. I will be going back to eat much more as soon as the trauma from the mother-daughter day has been forgotten.

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