August 26, 2010

Szechuan Beef at The Wok

Rating: □□ 3.0 / 5 ”Is this really beef?”

Whenever I have Chinese food, I always find myself wondering how authentic it is. How does the Szechuan Beef made in America, for example, compare to how they make it in China’s Szechuan province? I suspect ours is fairly Americanized, but even so, the version I had today (for around $7) at The Wok was pretty tasty.

First of all, I have to give them props for their willingness to customize an order. I asked if they could make it more spicy, and the waitress informed me that they can make it as mild or as hot as you like. A few minutes later, I heard the waitress calling out to the cook in the back, “one Szechuan Beef; extra, extra spicy!” They lived up to their word: the dish came out spicy and steaming hot with generous portions of beef and vegetables served on top of steamed white rice. The presentation was top-notch and the vegetables were stir-fried excellence, but it’s really the beef I want to focus on here. 

The beef was cut into wide strips, that tended to curl upon itself, which is not all that bad, since it serves as a good way of scooping up more sauce. However, the cuts were almost too big for one bite. The meat was exceptionally chewy and difficult to break-down. Either it was cut along the grain giving it a tougher texture, or it wasn’t 100% beef. It almost felt like some questionable beef hybrid that you would expect from fast food, not a dine-in restaurant. And certainly not from the apparently oxen-rich Szechuan province! 

Ignoring those complaints, I left The Wok feeling full and satisfied (and with a pleasantly burning mouth). As far as what the story is with that beef (and the other question regarding authenticity), perhaps ignorance is bliss.