Friday, December 21, 2007

Little Szechuan - St Paul, MN

Little Szechuan offers two categories of lunch specials 1) the usual Chinese food Americanized for the western palate at $6.50 including the main entree, salad, and soup and 2) the Noodle Soup with a choice of meat for $5.95.

We ordered the Pork Rib Noodle Soup and the Braised Beef Noodles Soup. Both soups came with a heart warming heavy spicy orange reddish broth base filled with noodles topped with a general dollop of chopped green onions and fresh cilantro. I'm not certain what the noodle is - maybe dan dan, about 1/8 inch in diameter- but it had the right bite. The spicy broth was just below my tolerance level. Of the soups, the Beef was better with moderately tender and flavorful bits of beef brisket alas skimpy on the quantity. Some of the pork ribs tasted rancid. It wasn't significantly noticeable but it was there. There was an abundance of ribs in the soup.

The menu with colorful glistening pictures of entrees broke down our will. There were so many to choose from and our stomachs so small. What should we choose? We finally ordered the Chung King Chili Shrimp ($12.95) and Cumin Lamb ($12.95).

I had reservations about the Chung King Chili Shrimp, a one red pepper rated dish. Chung King I feared would be a westernized dish. When the dish arrived at our table, we were disappointed with its small size. After one bite, we were believers. The outside batter was mildly spicy crispy with a hint of honey sweetness. The inside of the batter was a pleasant gritty mushiness. The shrimp was perfect with butterfly shrimp overtones. We agreed this was the best dish in the excellent to world class category, and finding it better than Cantonese shrimp dishes.

The Cumin Lamb, also a one pepper rated dish, was served on a bed of chopped cilantro. The lamb didn't come out glistening like shown in the menu and the lamb pieces were small. It appeared as if the lamb would be tough. So how did it turn out? The lamb wasn't fall apart tender but was neither rough nor tough. I've never had lamb with cumin and cilantro but the result was a perfection trifecta. It didn't have the mainstream appeal of the Chili Shrimp but it is a winner and it had my mind scrambling to recreate it in our kitchen. The leftovers tasted even better.

This is authentic good food. Now if they would only lower their prices...

Little Szechuan on Urbanspoon

Little Szechuan
422 University Ave W
St Paul, MN

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