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Jan 23, 2011 11:38 AM

Birmingham - Red Pearl Hot and Spicy Fish Fillet Soup

Went yesterday and had the s&p squid and hot and spicy fish fillet soup. The bowl of soup is huge and easily enough for 4 people ($9.99). Interestingly, the "hot" is not hot per se and I would not be surprised if the actual translation was more along the lines if ma la, as this soup was chock full of ground sichuan peppercorns and had a few full husks as well - talk about numbing. Lots of white fish fillets, some thick-sliced ginger (more crisp hotness), and a few other vegetables (scallions maybe) plus some chili oil. It was interesting and something I would try again, although might try the beef version next time with more people to help me eat the giant bowl. The S&P squid was awesome although the portion was a little small. Nice bit of julienned ginger, onions and raw jalapenos too. Different server who was anything but efficient and plates were piled high on the tables there.

Oh, they have tons of blue crabs right now and the whole roast ducks looked amazing.

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  1. I have had the crispy squid at Red Pearl and thought it was delicious. I also really like the beef with jalpenos.

    1. Had the Manilla clams with rice cakes, bok choy, and ma po tofu last night. Clams were excellent and am surprised I've never encountered the pasta-like rice cakes before. The bok choy was good. Like most spicy things I've tried in Birmingham, I was disappointed by the lack of heat in the ma po tofu. Found it a bit surprising since I doubted a place like this would be catering to the local palette.

      Definitely like the food. Just wish it were closer (or there were fewer traffic lights).

      1. They have a newer (to me, and not on my really old menu but it is on the current menu on their website which suggests it's been there at least since 2010) dish there - ground pork with chili and beans and it's an instant new favorite. Crumbled ground pork fried with fermented black beans and jalapenos and scallions. Simple but delicious and somewhat spicy. I also really liked the pork with Chinese watercress soup which is fairly simple and not too wowing except the pork broth was excellent.

        2 Replies
        1. re: Dax

          I'm thinking it's time for another Chowdown.

          1. re: Dax

            Dax, thanks for the recommendation! I wouldn't have ever gotten around to the ground pork otherwise.

            When I ordered dinner yesterday, I looked for the soup the original poster mentioned but didn't see it on the menu. Is it still there?

          2. I went to Red Pearl today, specifically seeking out something, anything with Sichuan peppercorns. I've never had them, but have read of their lip and mouth numbing quality, much as you described, Dax. While there, and in somewhat of a rush, I couldn't find the soup you mentioned. I do see a "Fillet in hot chili oil soup."

            I asked my server if there is anything on the menu made with Sichuan peppercorns. He replied, "No." I asked again, just to make sure that I was clear. Again I got a "no." I didn't push it. Service was great, and I didn't want it to change.

            So what gives? Dax, I'll take your word for it that the soup does contain the peppercorns, but my server was unaware of it. Is there anything else on the menu with the Sichuan peppercorns? I'll probably go back early next week to find something else. I'm never disappointed with Red Pearl, but I'm itching to try these peppercorns.

            9 Replies
            1. re: G200

              I definitely got the ma la numbing from the soup (in January) and perhaps it was called fillet in hot chili oil soup. When I ordered it, it was pictured on the wall but not sure it was on the actual menu. However, I doubt there would be two similar soups.

              Also, they sell the peppercorn husks there so you can make something yourself to try them.

              Maybe it is time for a big group family style at Red Pearl.

              Oh, as for the ground pork, the waiter guy (who is always there) advised the prep is different than it has been because they have a new chef. Apparently his preparations of some of the dishes are different than prior incarnations.

              1. re: Dax

                I know for a fact that they had Scechuan peppers (actually an oil extract from the peppercorns) on the cold beef tendon. The woman who runs the market even brought me a bottle of the schchuan pepper oil when I asked about it.
                I hope the new chef doesn't mark a downward turn to the bell curve that seems to have marked the evolving quality of Red Pearl over the last decade.
                But I agree on a Chowdown there. The last one there, we only had three people.

                1. re: Big Daddy

                  I thought my meal there Sunday (with the new chef) was excellent.

                  1. re: Big Daddy

                    I like the idea of a Chowdown. Their menu is so varied and fairly expansive, but my stomach is only so large. I'd be more than willing to meet even just a few for lunch or dinner who would like to order 9-10 different items.

                    I will look for the pepper oil as well as the peppercorns.


                    1. re: G200

                      I would definitely be in for the chowdown. There are so many things I want to try on the menu but can't because again my stomach is only so large. I will say this about a past comment about rice cakes. I thought they were chewy, starchy, and tasted like nothing with a hint of frying oil.
                      I would really like to try the snails.

                      1. re: G200

                        G200: Penzy's also is a good source for (probably better quality) Szechuan peppercorns.
                        Salgal: I agree on the snails; I've been wanting to try them, too. I think if we Chowdown, each of us should order something that person never has had. I liked the rice cakes, and thought they did a fairly effective job of soaking up the sauce. But yes, they can be chewy and starchy without sauce.

                        1. re: Big Daddy

                          The Penzy's peppercorns are definitely more powerful/numbing.

                          Rice cakes? Do you mean the radish (daikon) cakes? If so, they were a bit on the bland side but not bad. They do not taste pan fried but more like they were dumped in a deep fryer. They were so uniform I would not doubt they come straight from the freezer like the scallion pancakes.

                          Does anyone else have a hard time NOT stopping at Guzman while you're out that way?

                          1. re: Dax


                            I think the ricecakes they're referring to are the ones that are served with the manilla clams (and other things). They're not deep fried - at least not any of the times I ordered them.

                            1. re: mahalan

                              Ah, I have not tried the clams so assumed they were talking about the daikon cakes. I've never ordered anything accompanied by a rice cake there.