Chen Du Steamboat is another outlet in Alor Setar which is riding on this ma la dining wave. It is a restaurant focused on Sichuan food. Chengdu is a city in China known for its unique street food. This restaurant attempts to give local diners here that Chengdu experience.
Background of Cheng Du, Sichuan, China
I’ve never been to Chengdu but was told that it is located in Central Sichuan which is supposed to be where you get a gastronomical food experience. Sichuan dishes are well known for their flavors. Many of us are familiar with the sweet and sour dishes that are associated with this region. But in recent years the spicy Sichuan dishes made popular by the Sichuan peppers are gaining popularity too.
A distinction must be made here between dried chilis and Sichuan peppers. Dried chilis are basically red chilis which have been dried. Sichuan peppers, on the other hand are more like dried berries. They look like peppercorns more than anything. Read about the benefits of Sichuan peppers here.
The ‘ma la’ taste which is often found in many restaurants today is associated with the Sichuan peppers used to flavor the dishes, its signature mark being the lip and tongue numbing sensations after a few bites of the Sichuan food. In Sichuan peppercorn the cousins of capsaicin, sanshools and hydroxyl sanshools are believed to induce a phenomenon called paranesthesia in the eater.
Go into the etymology of the word and paranesthesia basically means abnormal sensation. In this case, the abnormal sensation is caused by the chemicals in the peppercorn. So, your tongue and lips basically go numb or ma because of the spiciness or la feeling which is induced by these chemicals. And there you have it, ma la dish or soup.
成都串串香 Chen Du Steamboat Restaurant
Chen Du Steamboat is this restaurant found in Pekan China, Alor Setar. Pekan Cina has become a chic place to hang out for food in recent years. I’ve blogged about a few of them. One of them is the quaint Little Yellow Breadstry and another is the famous Midnight Curry Mee. Chen Du Steamboat was quite empty when we got there at 9.00 p.m. Incidentally, this place just opened not too long ago.
When I walked in, it felt like I was walking down the street. Guess maybe the food served here are the sort of food that you would find in the streets of Chengdu. The way the lights were hung were meant to recreate that Chengdu street feeling. The walls were quite fun to look at because they had all these interesting cartoons and pictures on them, which is a great way to keep patrons entertained while waiting for their food to be served. So, I think Chen Du Steamboat has done quite a nice job given the limited space in the shop.
I sat and let my friends do the ordering as the menu was mainly in Chinese. It would have been good if Chen Du Restaurant made the menu bilingual for people who don’t read Chinese well.
You get to see your food and they are kept fresh in the fridge. You can walk to the fridge to pick the sticks of choice. There were meats like pork, beef, mutton and chicken, as well as vegetables, sausages and hams. Once you pick them, you can have your choice of soups for these sticks to be served in. This is definitely one of the nice touches offered here at Chen Du Steamboat.
The Makan Experience
The first of our orders to arrive were the barbecued meat on wooden sticks. These are basically like our local satay sticks, minus the peanut gravy. The barbecued meat are not as tasty as our satay for sure. Because of that, you actually get the taste of the meat. Hence, the freshness of the meat is important. I can see why Chen Du Steamboat decides to keep all their food in the fridges for patrons to choose.
Subsequently, came the beef tripe with bean sprouts served in spicy soup. The tripe were cut in square pieces. They were very chewy. Needless to say, the soup was numbing. It made my throat so itchy. During such a time when Omicron is still raging, trying to stifle a cough is torturous with such a spicy soup.
We ordered their barbecued ribs too. Its taste was similar to the meat on sticks. Did I like it? Well, it was so-so.
Oh ya! You get to pick your own drinks from their fridge too. We were told they boil their own hawthorn drinks. I have forgotten what hawthorn berries were till I took a sip of the drink. Hawthorn berries are used to make a childhood snack which many Malaysian kids would have been used to. Known as shān zhā (山楂) many of us would have taken the flat round pieces of titbit that came in a small stack.
The drink has a tangy taste, a little sweetness that went along with it too. Most berry drinks usually leave a pleasant aftertaste and hawberry is no different. It’s had a nice amber color when poured into the cup. The restaurant used plastic cups which I think is not a good practice, though.
We also tried the sticks of snacks. After the numbing ma la, we opted for something less fiery and tried their herbal soup. This one was a winner with all of us because the soup was not only tasty but had an appetizing and fragrant herbal taste. As there young people in our group, we decided to order another dish. We tried their la mien in clear broth with pork slices. This soup was not as nice as the other clear soup but I might go for it again. The pork slices were tender and had its natural sweetness. It’ll be quite a soothing meal on a cold night.
Meal for a group of 4 at Chen Du Steamboat came up to slightly under RM100 with drinks in. Suffice to say also, the spiciness lingered on throughout the night too. One of the reasons why Sichuan food is spicy is the Chinese believe that the spicy food will help to mitigate the effects of humidity on the body. Also, the sweating that is induced by the spiciness is also supposed to play a role in expelling toxins from the body.
It makes sense to me why that particular region’s food is spicy. We, Malaysians love our curries too. The spiciness added with the fragrance from the spices make food more appetizing. And it is probably the same reason why Sichuan food has gained so much traction in Malaysia in recent years too – the irresistible pull of the chilis.
You may also be interested in:
- Wet Fried Koey Teow @ Iman Koeyteow Kerang, Alor Setar
- Best Putu Mayong @ Alor Setar, Kedah
- Art Nature Cafe @ Alor Setar, Kedah
75%: Price (value for money)
70%: Location (ease of parking)
75%: Overall Rating
Open daily from 5 PM – 12 AM