Web Original: Critic’s Notebook: Craving Sichuan

Chinatown’s Szechuan Tasty House serves up authentic Chinese cuisine that pair perfectly with some authentic summer reading.

As if the Beijing Olympics weren’t enough to put a foodie in the mood for Chinese food, I’m currently reading an engrossing food memoir set in China, Shark’s Fin and Sichuan Pepper by Fuchsia Dunlop. Unfortunately, Philly’s Chinatown — like most others in the country — offers little in the way of authenticity, and most of the real Chinese cooking offered here is Cantonese — not the Sichuan style written about so temptingly in Dunlop’s book.

One exception is Szechuan Tasty House. While the menu includes all the Asian-American standbys like spring rolls and General Tso’s, there are some menu items that remind me of the foods that Dunlop describes in her book: the twice-cooked pork and Fu Qi Fei Pian (which translates to braised cow lungs). And, many other dishes are seasoned with the distinctive, hot-and-numbing Sichuan pepper that Dunlop writes about with such enthusiasm.

If you’re all out of summer reading material, pick up a copy of Shark’s Fin and Sichuan Pepper, but make sure to put Szechuan Tasty House on your speed dial first; takeout will probably be in order.