Little Szechuan's bamboo tips with chili sauce: 100 Favorite Dishes, No. 81

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Danielle Lenz
Spicy, refreshing, addictive.
Think appetizers at a typical Chinese restaurant, and egg rolls and cream cheese wontons probably come to mind, maybe a cup of egg drop soup. At Little Szechuan, however, they're doing things just a bit differently. If you're ready to get out of your comfort zone with something deliciously spicy and seriously addictive, start your meal off with the bamboo tips with chili sauce, a dish guaranteed to raise your eyebrows, numb your lips, and make you reach for more.

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Danielle Lenz
The heaping strands of bamboo are doused in a neon-orange chili oil that's salty, slightly nutty, and, oh yeah, hot. If you're used to Szechuan cuisine, the spicy oil probably won't make you jump out of your seat, but it will make the edges of your mouth tingle and the sides of your tongue numb. Swallow the slick, fiery oil wrong and you'll feel it behind your eyeballs. The bamboo provides a lovely contrast to the fragrant oil; the delicate green and cream-colored tips are cold, crunchy, and tender, bearing no resemblance to the soggy, bland bamboo shoots found in most Americanized Chinese dishes. Intertwined with the tips are long, tubular slivers of sliced green onions that add to the sweet, sweet burn. Despite the heat, this is an invigoratingly fresh dish that pairs perfectly with a cold Tsingtao. Who needs egg rolls when you've got this?

LITTLE SZECHUAN
422 University Ave. W., St. Paul
651.222.1333; website

Hungry for more? The dishes in our countdown thus far are linked below:

No. 82: Oceanaire's Jumbo Lump Crab Cake
No. 83: Aperitif's Nonni's Meatballs
No. 84: Christos's Saganaki
No. 85: Seven Stars' Sesame Bagel
No. 86: Hell's Kitchen Lemon Ricotta Hotcakes
No. 87: Blackbird banh mi
No. 88: Tank Goodness chocolate chip cookies
No. 89: Sole Cafe's gal bee
No. 90: Porter & Frye's El Pelon
No. 91: Coffee News' fish and chips
No. 92: Bread & Chocolate's Fabulous Fudge Bar
No. 93: People's Organic Panna Cotta
No. 94: Sea Salt Eatery Crawdad Po' Boy
No. 95: Fuji Ya's Tofu Don
No. 96: Ike's Food and Cocktails The Weekender Bloody Mary
No. 97: Punch's Toto pizza
No. 98: Stockholm Pie Company's peanut butter fudge cream pie
No. 99: Dogwood Coffee Co.'s macchiato
No. 100: Al's Breakfast buttermilk pancakes

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