Eating ChongQing Grilled Fish at Li China Grill on Kingsway
Our waitress places two butane “hotpot” burners on our table to signal the imminent arrival of our order. Within minutes, she comes back with two sizzling hotel pans emitting that unmistakable aroma of Sichuan food – garlic, toasted Sichuan peppercorn and dried chilies. We had ordered two fishes with two different toppings – one with red fermented chilies, and the other – “ma la” (our favourite) where the fish is covered in a dry dressing of Sichuan peppercorns, dried chilies and peanuts. We proceed to peck away at the dish with our chopsticks until we are left with only the bones. This is beer drinking food – salty, spicy, and bold tasting.
Originating from Wanzhou (formerly WanXiang) in Chongqing municipality, this specialty is popular in Mainland China, but a rarity here in Vancouver. This dish is often called by its old name: Wanzhou (WanXian) Grilled Fish – from the city that was ultimately subsumed by the rapidly expanding Chongqing. In the “authentic” method of preparation – the cooks will first grill a freshwater fish (often Grass Carp) over charcoal prior to topping it with condiments and fillers that you select from the menu. And of course – you order and drink beer. Countless restaurants all over China serve this specialty. Beijing – where Sichuan dishes and Northern Chinese cumin lamb skewers often share menu centerfolds – is dotted with these specialty joints.
Li China Grill is the new kid on the block in Vancouver’s Chinese Spice Route – the section of Kingsway from the corner of Joyce Street all the way into Burnaby to Imperial Street. It is right next door to one of my favourite spicy Chinese restaurants – Lucky Noodle Hunan. I now count four good spicy Chinese joints in this cluster alone. (This inspires another post).
After our meal, we stroll over three doors down to get my favourite antidote to spicy food – Bubble Tea.