Musings of a bon vivant in Hong Kong

Spice up your Life

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If Yu Chuan were a song, it would be “Spice up your life” by the Spice Girls, and its mascot would be the Red Hot Chilli Peppers.

Off the beaten (tram) track and hidden away down a side street in Wan Chai, this unpretentious, cheerful private kitchen is dedicated to serving up delicious classic Sichuan dishes. It’s fun, it’s cool and it’s a haven for those chilli junkies out there. Rumour has it the friendly proprietor is the sister of the lady who runs SiJie, the other famous private Sichuan kitchen in Wan Chai. If true, then competition was never this “heated” (get it?). This family style kitchen is run smoothly and service is polite and efficient. The decor is also a bit more “up-market” compared to SiJie.

The doorway is marked by a bunch of Sichuan chilli peppers and when you step into the establishment the spicy aroma hits you immediately. It’s small but cosy inside and great for groups of friends who really appreciate this cuisine and enjoy sweating and “spicing up their lives” together! Booking is a must as there are only 6 tables.

The quality of the food is excellent (essential ingredients are imported from Sichuan), and there are some outstanding dishes.

Making a quick buck is clearly not on the agenda and this is reflected in the price. At $168 per person (excluding service charge), you really do get your money’s worth and it’s evident the owner and chef pride themselves on providing their customers with a traditional Sichuan dining experience. The menu is well organised (identical to Sijie) and there is a clever system: 2-3 people can choose 2 cold dishes and 3 hot dishes, 4-5 people: 3 cold, 4-5 hot, 5-6 people: 4 cold and 5-6 hot etc.

What is fantastic about Yu Chuan is the balance of spice and chilli. As much fun as it is to burn your tongue off, you want to be able to taste the flavours and the chef achieves this brilliantly while still giving your tastebuds a good kick!

There are lots of fantastic dishes to try including the “fish slices in fiery broth” and the chilli prawns but out of those we ordered, the standout cold dishes were:

Sichuan cold noodles: a wonderful, delicate play of flavours from the garlic, chilli oil, vinegar and peppercorns tossed together with wheat noodles.

Spicy and sour eggplants: firm yet soft, perfectly prepared slices of eggplants coated in a mildly spicy sauce.

Best hot dishes of the night:

Ma Po Tofu: beautifully spicy and addictive, one could happily eat the entire dish. Could have done with a bit more pork but than that- excellent!

Chongxing deep fried hot chicken: love the presentation, small nuggets hidden in a gigantic heap of dried Sichuan chillies and peppercorns.

Poached beef in hot chilli oil: tender slices of beef bobbing gently in a huge vat of chilli oil broth. Amazing to look at, even better to eat!

Other good dishes were the Cucumber in garlic sauce, the Chongxing steamed chicken meat in hot pepper sauce and the Fish in broth with preserved vegetables. The most interesting dish was the Duck and purple yam in beer, which took several bites for me to decide if I liked it or not.. turns out I liked it, but it is a bit of a strange taste.

Chopstixfix rating: 4.5/5

1/F, B, Hundred City Centre, 7-17 Amoy Street, Wan Chai. Tel: 2838 5233 Opening times: 11am-11pm

$$$$$$$$$$ ($168 per person excluding drinks)


Author: chopstixfix

Michelle Ng is a Brit born Chinese-Malaysian who has loved food since time immemorial. She is a firm believer in "Live to Eat, not Eat to Live".

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