Beijing Style Shredded Potato Salad is the English translation of what's often called in Chinese "suan la tu dou si" (酸辣土豆丝) or maybe "qing jiao tu dou si (青椒土豆丝) depending on the type of preparation.
But however you label it, Beijing Style Shredded Potato Salad (or BSSPS for short) is essentially shredded potatoes, quickly par-fried in a hot wok so that they are half-cooked, and then tossed with any number of ingredients, but usu. at a minimum some combination of sesame oil, rice wine vinegar, dried red chili, horseradish powder, salt and pepper. And of course some matchsticks of red carrots for color and contrast.
How best to describe the taste? Sort of like soggy salt and vinegar potato chips? Yeah, sounds disgusting. But then so does salt and vinegar potato chips (the crunchy kind). So go with an open mind ...
But I digress, because this isn't the Home Cooking Board, this is the Los Angeles fora.
So, as luck would have it, I've sort of had a tour de force of BSSPS over the last couple of days in and around the SGV.
So, here's a quick run down of the in's and out's of BSSPS.
Odd finding a Beijing style dish here, but there it is in the cold chafing dish display case. The BSSPS here was probably the worst of the bunch -- soft, mushy and worst of all, tasteless. It was like eating crunchy undercooked mashed potatoes that somebody forgot to season with salt, pepper, or any kind of butter fat. Just blah. Saving grace? You get the most per dollar. Go figure.
Canton Gourmet and Bakery
Known for is xian bing this place does the BSSPS real justice. Crunchy, still al dente, finely shredded potato matchsticks are tossed with a deft hand in a mixture that can best be estimated to be a combination of sesame oil, horseradish powder, red chili, rice wine vinegar, and probably a bit of five spice powder. Good stuff. Best in show and class.
Chuan Yu Noodle
You come here obviously for the dan dan mian (and rightfully so) and perhaps stay a minute or two more for the mung bean jelly, but don't over look their BSSPS. Not always available (not sure why), but when it is, it's worth the extra carbs in addition to that bowl of dan dan mian you're stuffing your face with. Not as refined as the one at Canton Gourmet and Bakery, but leagues better than what's found at Yunnan Garden. Slightly crunchy, but still a tad chewy, it's garnished with diced garlic and some white pepper, and it's obviously borne from a clumsy handed chef with a soy sauce bottle as a play-toy. The entire effect is not entirely appetizing on its own, but for some reason, maybe because of what else is on the table, it seems to go down rather nicely in-between mouthfuls of dan dan mian.
Yun Nan 168
Everything that I've here has been sub-par, and while the BSSPS doesn't necessarily fall into that category in whole, it certainly doesn't stand out. The most defining characteristic of Yun Nan 168's version is its overt use of vinegar. It's definitely on the sour side. Certain mouthfuls I almost wanted to pucker up and lip-smack that nice looking lady peering across the room to see what we had ordered for our table.
Chung King (San Gabriel Blvd. location)
Preface this by saying this review was from my visit nearly 2 years ago, so it may be a bit dated, but I though I'd throw it in here for the sake of completeness. Pretty standard fare stuff -- crunchy, salty, vinegar-y (not sour, but vinegar-y) and of course tossed with plenty of fire-roasted dried red chili peppers. Good stuff, not oily like many of their dishes. Almost clean tasting I would say, maybe because it's so vinegar-y? Who knows.
So, there you have it. In case you ever get a BSSPS hankering, rest well knowing you won't be unguided in your journey ...
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