Can a year that begins with mapo tofu as excellent as the one pictured at left possibly be bad? Of course it can. We ate Grand Szechuan’s mapo tofu several times last year and it was a shit year anyway. So while I am very happy to have started 2021 with Grand Szechuan as our first pandemic takeout meal I’m not taking this as a portent of anything. Cheerful bastard, aren’t I? But a thing to be very happy for, regardless of your outlook, is that Grand Szechuan is still in business and that, if the number of people arriving for pickups while I was waiting outside this Sunday is any indication, they are not in danger of closing any time soon.
Usually, I don’t report on our Grand Szechuan meals over the course of a year—since we eat there so often—and just do a yearly roundup at the start of the next year. But as I did pandemic takeout reports through the year I’m not going to be redundant [“For a change,” Ed.]. This therefore is merely an account of our first takeout meal of 2021. That said, this actually works very well as a recommended first order for anyone in range who has unaccountably never eaten at Grand Szechuan. It’s not a list of all our favourite dishes there—that list would run well over 12 entries and would include a number of things that don’t survive a 35 minute drive so well—but it’s a well-rounded order that will give you a good sense of the range of dishes they put out. On the other hand, if you are a Grand Szechuan veteran and believe a first order—even in takeout conditions—has to include dishes not in this report, please add them in the comments.
So, what did we get?
- Couple’s Beef: The classic Sichuan cold dish of thinly sliced beef and tripe in a chilli oil dressing. Very good.
- Mouthwater Chicken: Another classic cold dish of poached chicken bathed in chilli oil. This is one of my particular favourites among their various cold dishes.
- Dan Dan Noodles: For the kids but enjoyed as well by adults who managed to sneak a few bites.
- Fish and Lamb in Claypot: Well, as this was takeout there was no claypot involved but this lovely soup of fishballs in a delicate broth (which probably has some lamb involvement) was a great counterpoint to all the heat on the table.
- Crispy Duck: This was a fallback order as they don’t currently have the tea-smoked duck and we quite enjoyed it. I gave it a 2 minute whirl in a hot wok to crisp it back up after the drive home. Also a very mild dish, served with a sweet dipping sauce.
- Diced Fish with Chopped Dry Chiilli: I think we somehow only got this for the first time this year but it has quickly become one of our favourite dishes. Ask for it to be made hot and it will make you sweat.
- Garlic Pork Ribs: Another dish on the mild end of the spectrum.
- Fish-Flavoured Pork: A classic Sichuan dish, this does not involve fish in any way; just pork cooked with seasonings often used with fish. A sweet, sour and spicy dish that our kids now love as much as we do.
- Chengdu-style Sauteed Pork Belly: Another favourite that we don’t order as often as we should. The pork belly, sliced thin is basically like extra-meaty bacon and the flavour of the onion, bell pepper and fermented black beans is just excellent.
- Eggplant in Sweet Bean Sauce: Redundant to get the fish-flavoured pork and the fish-flavoured eggplant and so we got their other eggplant dish. Another excellent relief dish from the heat.
- Szechuan Green Beans: The dish that is always on the table when we eat at or from Grand Szechuan.
- Mapo Tofu: There was a time when we didn’t order mapo tofu so much at Grand Szechuan. That time thankfully ended some years ago. This is just an excellent rendition of the iconic dish (made here with ground pork). As for it spicy if you can handle some big heat.
For a look at the food launch the slideshow below. Scroll down to see what’s coming next.
No, we did not eat all of this by ourselves. It’s not that we don’t usually do that but with the governor having relaxed Minnesota’s restrictions a little we have resumed occasional in-home interaction with the friends (just one family) we are podding with. They are being as careful as we are with contact with the rest of the world and so we feel safe doing it. I will say that it’s good to not have to now eat the leftovers for the next four days in a row—not because they’re not delicious but because it’s not healthy to have quite that many chilli oil bath-positive meals in a week.
Okay, what’s next? The younger brat has demanded tandoori chicken again this coming weekend. I think we will hit up Indian Masala again for lunch. And this time we might get more of their North Indian dishes.