Chongqing and the Cheburekis (remastered, with bonus gherkins)

Hey, gang.  Sorry about the lack of update yesterday, but this week has been a “greatest hits” of sorts – took my roommate to Cheburechnaya, where we sampled some of the things I loved before, along with the potato and cabbage chebureki (I’d recommend only the latter) and the skirt steak kebab (which easily outpaces the beef).  They also have the better of the two versions of chak-chak I’ve had: fried bits of cracker dough sewn together with honey, which may or may not be named after a Zoroastrian pilgrimage town in Iran.  The other dessert was a mildly camphor-tasting pistachio pastry with the consistency of marzipan – my roommate liked that one a lot.

Of course, I spent nearly as much as we did on the meal at one of the Russian deli-groceries on the way back.  They had open pickle and olive vats in the back, from which I selected some full sours (haven’t had a chance to try them yet, though).  Some yummy frosted things packed in a Ziploc turned out to be (probably) tea biscuits, which made my roommate quite happy.  Also some black and mint tea, gingerbread cookies with strawberry filling, and a slab of sugar wafers called “Prince of Chocolate,” – the wafers were coated with chocolate and peanuts.

Last night I met my engineer buddy at his studio in Hell’s Kitchen; we grabbed some dinner at the Grand Sichuan on 9th between 50th and 51st.  This was my first time to this location, and I was surprised to find that they didn’t have my usual ma la pork dish.  I put myself in the hands of the waitress, explaining that I wanted something as hot and with as many Sichuan peppercorns as possible.

I ended up with Chongqing chicken from one of the additional menu pages tacked on to the back.  The presentation of the dish is impressive – served in a vegetable steamer placed in a bowl, the dish is probably more than half dried red chilis.  The chicken contained therein acquires such a powerfully potent spice that my friend, upon tasting it, was shocked at my ability to consume it (guess I’ve trained myself right).  I didn’t eat too many of the chilis, but the one I ate didn’t seem too much spicier than the chicken.  Not many peppercorns, alas, despite my request for them.

His dish was no slouch – the spicy diced chicken contained a normal-person level of spice, as well as diced cucumbers and chicken in a sauce I’d swear was vinegary.  Good, but hard to evaluate rationally while your mouth is on fire.  Making matters worse, I poured the run-off from the bowl under my steamer onto my rice and ate that last.  Let’s just say I drank a lot of tea and water.

We retired afterwards to a nearby diner, where my friend ordered an Oreo milkshake to wash down his cheesecake, much to the waitress’ bemusement.  Now THAT’S a dairy bomb.          

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