La Vie en Szechuan a la Keens
Ok, so this is the best thing I've eaten in a long time:
Last week, I met a friend for lunch at Keens, where I ordered the chicken under a brick. Being a typically large Keens portion, I ate half and brought half home.
Earlier this week, craving spicy Chinese, I ordered delivery from La Vie en Szechuan, including my favorite Sichuan dish, cumin lamb (which, ironically, La Vie en Szechuan calls cumin mutton). I've had a hard time finding a version of this dish that I really like in NYC (my gold standard of this dish comes from Sichuan Gourmet, in Framingham and Brookline, Mass.) and La Vie en Szechuan's version has been my favorite so far. I ate about half, and stuck the other half in the fridge.
Tonight I came home to consume my leftovers. I started by nuking and consuming the leftover lamb. When I was done and ready to turn to the leftover chicken, I came up with the brilliant idea of combining the leftover chicken with the remaining peppers, hot oil and other spices from the cumin lamb, and can I tell you it was frickin' amazing, a fusion dish worthy of Mission Chinese. (I had ordered the cumin lamb extra spicy. Not sure if this is how they normally make it, but it included red, green and yellow hot peppers of a variety I typically associate with Southeast Asian food, not Chinese food, and it was good, and sweaty-brow-inducing spicy.) Maybe it's the two Six Point Bangali Tigers I've just consumed doing the talking, but I'm telling you this is worthy of recreation!
There should more cumin everything in this world...
Re:Boston-area versions of cumin lamb - I really liked the version at Zoe's which was super thin so it was crispy and tender, served in a cast iron pan, and loaded with cilantro - at least the version at the Brookline incarnation of Zoe's at Harvard+Aspinwall, I think.
I do find it odd that there were peppers in the cumin lamb, I feel like a more traditional version would be just lamb, cumin+spices, lots of cilantro and onions perhaps. I find the addition of peppers, to be jarring texturally in this dish, especially if they're not cooked down enough.
I always link the presence of peppers with the onion and pepper heavy version, 'cong bao' yang rou, 葱爆羊肉 instead of 'natural' lamb - 自然羊肉.
I'm used to the more simple version, but my preference is for the more tender and less crispy lamb. What I like about the Sichuan Gourmet and La Vie en Szechuan's versions is that both appear to use a better cut and more delicate preparation of lamb. (Haven't tried the version at Zoe's yet, but certainly will.) And while I hear you on the peppers, I really, really liked the addition. Not a ton of them, diced finely and cooked down well, but enough to nicely enhance the heat level.