Sichuanese Cuisine's Mapo Tofu Puts Electricity In Your Mouth, Fire In Your Belly
Like many suburban Chinese restaurants, the dining room at Sichuanese Cuisine isn't much to look at. The decorations are sparse and say nothing of Chinese culture, and the tables are clad in thin, plastic coverings that will quickly get stained with drips of rusty red oil after you order this Mapo tofu, or many other dishes from the menu.
The heat and characteristic color comes from red chilies as you would expect, but an electric sensation on the tongue (like licking a nine-volt battery that's on it's last legs) comes from the Sichuan peppercorn.
The name is misleading: it's not a peppercorn but the husk of a tiny seed that causes a characteristic numbing sensation that plays beautifully with spicy flavors. A small amount of ground pork gives this jiggling tofu dish some body, and the intensity builds with every bite.
If you'd like to temper the heat with beer, you'll need to bring your own. Sichuanese Cuisine is BYOB. Try a hoppy IPA or a crisp lager to cool the inferno. You'll thank me.