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Lunch at Sam Lok, SF

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Foiled in our attempts to check out Naan ‘n’ Curry on Wednesday, we headed a block up hill to Sam Lok for some Szechuan fare. Each of our platters of sichuan pickled vegetable salad, dan dan noodles, steamed pork rib with rice flour, and ma po tofu glistened with red chili oil. However, ordered medium spicy, the dishes were not flaming hot, leaving but a warm afterglow.

The pickled veggies had a nice fresh snap to them. The noodles were too mushy for my taste and could have used a bit more juice from the sauce. Not a peanut in sight and the noodles were redolent with szechuan peppercorns leaving behind that numbed palate feeling. The rice powder coating on the pork ribs lent an interesting texture contrast to the finely spiced meat, but, I like the version at Little Sichuan better. Ma po tofu was my favorite dish with silken soft cubes of tofu, ground pork and an unthickened complexly spiced sauce that was so good with steamed white rice.

Lunch for three was $32 with enough leftovers to make the significant other left at home happy.

Sam Lok Restaurant
655 Jackson St.
San Francisco
415-981-8988

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  1. When I visited Chengdu, the provincial capital of Sichuan province, in 1988, I was looking forward to trying the authentic version of a noodle dish I'd eaten countless times in Taipei. With great surprise I found that what was called dandan mian in Taiwan bore little resemblance to the dandan mian of Sichaun, which is a fiery "mala" (numbingly hot) dish served in a small bowl. The Chengdu noodles had few, if any, peanuts saucing them.

    3 Replies
    1. re: Samo

      Ooh, that's very interesting, Samo. I wouldn't have thought that the Taipei version would have evolved so far from the original. Just based on my impression of Taiwan's adherence to traditional Chinese culture. Could you say a little more about the differences?

      I've linked below an earlier discussion on dan dan mian which has a link to a Japanese website with some pictures of the local versions.

      Sam Lok's version looked very plain when plopped down on the table in a small white bowl. A small amount of browned minced pork was on top of the white noodles and the thin hot sauce was on the bottom of the bowl. We combined everything before stirring. Still, I thought the finished product was too dry.

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      1. re: Melanie Wong

        The version I had in Sichuan restaurants in Hong Kong consisted of very thin flour noodles in a mind-blowing hot and numbing broth, topped with a scattering of chopped peanuts.
        Does the Taiwanese version have soup?
        In Boston, restaurants serve egg noodles dry with a sweet thick peanut sauce. After trying those a couple times, I had to quit ordering dan dan noodles in Boston.

        1. re: chibi

          The thick peanut sauce style is pretty common around here too. That's why I was so interested in trying it from a restaurant that prides itself on being genuinely Sichuan (Sam Lok) to see if it would go peanutless.

    2. the tofu was my favorite dish as well. i found the noodles lacking in that joyous freshness i have found other places. but all in all i had my share of seconds!