Killer Chicken at the Jing Cheng Restaurant in Halifax
The now defunct Jing Cheng Restaurant in Halifax was a delightful little ‘hole-in-the-wall’ place run by a couple from Sichuan. I had a number of dishes there that were very memorable, not just because of the excellent quality of the cooking, but because they captured the fiery tradition of Sichuanese cuisine. The ‘Spicy Chicken Leg’ I was served there was a prime example.
I have previously mentioned Jing Cheng, but, just by way of a more detailed introduction, the name, which means ‘Cheng Capital’, refers to the city now known as ‘Chengdu’, and, as the menu explains, the restaurant specialized (very ably and well, as it turned out) in the spicy cuisine of Sichuan’s capital.
As already mentioned, Jing Cheng is very small and is clearly what one would call a ‘Mom and Pop’ operation. When I arrived during the noon-hour, the distaff half of the management was seated at one of the restaurant tables processing a HUGE bag of dried chilies while her young son ‘helped’ and chattered enthusiastically about everything. It was she who served me when I was first seated but sadly, the language difficulties were a bit too difficult to overcome (I wanted to ask questions about the dishes rather than just point at items on the menu) and so her husband (who also doubles as the cook) took over.
The ‘Spicy Chicken Leg’ was advertised as being available at $4 apiece and spiced with Cumin, which turned out to be a deceptively innocent description of the spice quotient, and I should have been more careful. When I ordered a couple of legs, the chef asked how hot would I like them and, in a moment of carelessness (perhaps lulled into false security by the first couple of dishes I ate there), responded with a casual ‘Oh, pretty hot’.
I have to say, first, that the legs that arrived were beautifully cooked with a terrific crispiness and a depth of taste with the cumin chili and salt was excellent. Unfortunately for yours truly, the blast of chili heat was enough to curl my nostril hairs and, I am pretty sure, left me with a faint tan. In any event, for the first time in many, many years, I had to admit defeat in the face of blinding culinary heat and couldn’t finish the dish.
I should like to be able to report, or at least give my assessment of all the spices used, but the sheer fiery heat precluded my being very discerning. Despite that, I thought this dish to be excellent.