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The Nummy Files: Super secret Chinese |


The Nummy Files: Super secret Chinese

WONDERBLOG - Ping Medina -

To start off “The Nummy Files”—a personal list of charming places that serve the nummiest chow, I will be reporting on an authentic Chinese place known in its locale, but generally uncharted to the nummy food trekkers out there.

The food in this place is something I imagine I’d be having in some province in China, waking up to a sunny morning for the day’s work, walking out onto the streets to sit down with friends and family, chatting over locally inspired and utterly original dishes. But I wake up from that dream realizing I don’t have enough for airfare to China, so that’s why I try to look for places like these in Manila.

Supremely Secret Restaurant

A friend of mine told me about this “super secret Chinese restaurant” that had no name. It had a menu that consisted of nothing but 3R-sized photos of its dishes. When deciding on what to eat, you had to flip through the photos — none of them had names by the way — and you point to which dish you wanted to eat.

So with my curious cat, I went to this place that looks like an ordinary townhouse apartment. It didn’t even bother for signage to announce its culinary existence. The only clue was a “Wanted: Waitress” sign stuck to this incredibly wonted glass door.

Inside, it was all bare white walls and simple wooden furniture. The air-conditioning was not enough so there were wall fans installed everywhere. The first thing they served me was a 1.5-liter cola bottle filled with cold water — none of that hot teapot rubbish — which I found quite charming.

Authentic Szechuan Cuisine

Gong Bao Chicken has Chinese cuisine so genuine you’ll feel like a character in Mulan.

Their bestseller is Gong Bao Chicken (P180), a mishmash of tender chicken bits, peanuts, leeks and chili, all shallow-fried then cooked in soy sauce and what I could only guess as Chinese wine. It’s one of the most affordable dishes on the menu.

The cold beef (P280), which is actually served warm and oily, is thin slices of fried beef sitting on top of such flavorful oil — it doesn’t taste like anything I’ve had before — which made me wonder if they’re importing cooking oil from China.

One thing caught my eye, beer duck (P380), which turned out to be a thick dark soup of boiled duck. Its flavors are layered and robust — the perfect spicy tang (not too little, not too much) that jumps at your tongue, the broth of duck and herbs floating around, and that lingering flavor of beer cutting across the middle.

Hot pot duck (P400) doesn’t follow the popular understanding of hot pot so don’t expect any broth. It’s actually a dry dish of duck, boiled first, and then deep fried in bay leaves, garlic, and chili. For those feeling a little adventurous, there’s the fried kidney (P180) and hot pot intestines (P380).

The owner was speaking in Mandarin, so fearing an awkward moment with a different tongue, I asked the floor staff instead where their bosses hail from. As I suspected, they’re from Szechuan, a province famous for their fiery flavors and the fabled Szechuan peppercorn.

Nameless No More

After around a year, the place has finally been christened as You Jie Xiao Chao. They have added another wing to expand their domain. The prices have gone up so I had to come back for an update. And yes, they now have a proper menu, labeled names in English and Mandarin, with two contact numbers posted on every page.

But no, the facade is still as elusive as ever. When trying to locate the place, just think of it as playing sleuth: uniformly white walls, frosted windows with barricades, a door covered up with white paper, two giant air-conditioning condensers bordering the sidewalk. Still no signage.

There is absolutely no sign of life from outside, whether it be the alive or cooked variety, which reminds me of how the Great Wall used to discourage anyone from invading their lands. So happy hunting to you, guys.

You Jie Xiao Chao is the closest experience you can get of the simple wonders of Szechuan cuisine without spending for airfare to China. It is located somewhere in “Backwell,” supposed to be a witticism on the outskirts of Rockwell, specifically occupying the space of 6404 Camia Street. Remember, the place has no signage so it’s best to ask around.

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