Saturday, January 12, 2013

Return to Sichuan Gourmet in Billerica

Sichuan Gourmet, Billerica
My favorite Sichuan restaurant in Massachusetts is Sichuan Gourmet in Billerica. We don't get over there all that often due to one "not good enough" reason or another, but when we do, we make sure to try to order wisely from the menu. With that in mind, and with you, fine reader, already being well aware of some of the greatest hits from a prior entry about the same eatery, we've got a few more recommendations for you from this unrealistically delicious and unassuming little restaurant located in a random strip mall in Billerica. My friends, we return to Sichuan Gourmet with three new entries.
Sichuan wontons
Sichuan wonton with spicy chili sauce: Wontons like these don't grow on trees. The delicate, handmade wontons have a tender and stretchy noodle outside, perfectly paired with just the right amount of succulent tender pork meatball on the inside. Each slippery, warm dumpling swims in a mixture of soy, sugar, and spicy chili oil that coats the dumplings with a spicy, sweet, savory kick to awaken your taste buds. 
Fish filets with tofu and black
pepper sauce
Fish filets with tofu and black pepper sauce: This is a generous portion of food, and a good choice if you want something with bold Sichuan flavors, but don't necessarily want to numb your taste buds to the point of no return. Whole fish filets, we believe Tilapia, are lightly breaded and fried together with silken tofu, and smothered in a light sauce speckled with loads of black pepper. While very spicy, the delicate nature of flaky fish is not overwhelmed. The sauce is a touch sweet, and tastes (though it could be my imagination) a tad lemony to round out the harmony of different punches that you would expect at a Sichuan restaurant. The Sichuan peppercorn is front and center in this dish... in other words, giving you what you came here for.
Old Sichuan chicken
Old Sichuan chicken: What a misleading name for something so delicious. While I can't be sure whether "old" refers to the age of the recipe, the age of the dried herbs, or the school of thought... I'm pretty sure it doesn't refer to the age of the bird. All that being said, it was explained to us that a number of herbs and spices are ground up and placed into a dredge for each morsel of meat before the pieces of chicken are fried to reveal a crispy, vibrant red-tinted coating, and a tender, succulent center. The coating is where all the flavor lies. Each piece has a kick, but as the heat melts away, you are left with a downright nutty batter, what must be the product of a heavenly combination of cumin, cayenne, and Sichuan peppercorns. I wouldn't be surprised if there was a touch of cocoa powder in there too, because it does have that delightful earthy flavor at the end. The pile of chicken pieces is served with a little side of shredded cabbage in a sweet soy based sauce similar to that of the wonton dish above. They make for a seriously addictive chicken popping experience.
Well, if you haven't made it to the Sichuan Gourmet in Billerica or one of her sister restaurants, I think you've got a few more reasons to take the plunge. Get going, and whether you're on board with the dan dan noodles, the Sichuan wontons or the unfortunately named old chicken, you're sure to love what you order.

Sichuan Gourmet
502 Boston Road
Billerica, MA 01821

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