Kuala Lumpur - A taste of Qian cuisine at Guizhou Garden Restaurant (贵州苑)
Guizhou (or Qian) cuisine is a close cousin of the more renowned Sichuan and Hunan cuisines. The cuisine's trademark characteristics are the spicy and sour flavours of most of the dishes. The tongue-numbing chilli levels in Guizhou's trademark dishes easily match those of the most fiery Sichuanese and Hunanese renditions.
Guizhou Garden is one of the few restaurants in KL offering Qian cuisine, and a couple of my KL-Cantonese friends decided that we'll test our stomachs' constitution this evening. After all, being Singaporean/Malaysian, used to consumption of chillis from the time we learnt to walk, how much fear can the spiciest cuisines induce in us? Quite a bit actually - as I was to find out.
What we had this evening:
- Pickled cucumbers, spiked with explosive, tongue-searing birds-eye chillis, and roasted ground nuts to go with the Chinese tea were served as we perused the menu.
- Sliced pork belly, cooked with sauerkraut-like pickled cabbage, dried and fresh red chilli peppers, coriander, Chinese prickly ash, ginger, scallions, sesame oil and copious amounts of chilli-spiked oil. The pork belly slices were rich, but the overall flavours of the dish seemed rather "one-dimensional", and lacked the subtlety and sophistication of Cantonese, or even Fujianese cuisines.
- Pan-fried batons of tofu, stewed in a spicy-hot-sour sauce and topped with fresh-cut red and green chillis. The lack of strong aromatics like garlic or onions made this dish seemed "bland" to our Southern Chinese palates.
- Stir-fried snow peas, lotus root, carrots, celery and black wood-ear fungus. This vegetable combination is common across most Chinese regional cuisines, but the version here seemed to lack the meaty richness, or otherwise the scallop or shrimp-inflected versions one finds in Cantonese renditions. The vegetables' fresh crispiness was a redeeming feature somewhat.
- Steamed carp dressed in a dark sauce spiked with chillis and vinegar, topped with enough minced chillis to put hair on one's chest, and generous amounts of minced ginger, chopped coriander and scallions for added flavours. Bean thread noodles were also served on one side of the dish, to soak up the spicy gravy and lend an additional textural dimension to the dish. It was one of the spiciest dishes I'd ever had in my life! Each sip of the spicy gravy had the effect of a scorpion's sting on my tongue!
Overall, a sweat-inducing chilli spice-rich meal, but a bit of a let-down taste-wise. I guess Guizhou cuisine is somewhat of an acquired taste.
Guizhou Garden Restaurant (贵州苑)
57, Jalan Changkat Thamby Dollah
Off Jalan Pudu
55100 Kuala Lumpur
Tel: +603 2148 5950
Guizhou folks love the Huaxi Beef Rice Noodles which is flavoured with pickled cabbage and spices - it's very popular. Have you tried that?
Those chefs you mentioned may or may not be from Guizhou, which is a smallish province in China with less than 35 million people - but many Chinese chefs from other provinces will actually seek to master Qian/Guizhou cuisine as it's recognized as one of the 8 main regional cuisines in China.