At Orient London, we focus on Szechuan and Cantonese cuisine only, which reflects the heritage of our families and the many favourite recipes that were handed-down from generation to generation.
Szechuan (sometimes spelled “Sichuan”) is China’s spiciest style of cuisine. It requires generous use of fresh hot chilli peppers, ginger, garlic, star anise and mouth-numbing Szechuan “flower” peppercorns. Cooking techniques often involve pickling or drying the ingredients and Szechuan cooks also use lots of dried mushrooms and fungi. One such authentic ingredient is featured on our Chinese New Year menu, black moss.
In the fascinating BBC TV series, “Exploring China: A Culinary Adventure” , the chef Ken Hom refers to Chengdu city, in the Szechuan province of China, as “the mothership of spicy Szechuan food”. This TV series is well worth a look (via BBC iPlayer) for its insight into the people, history and landscape that have inspired such spicy and flavoursome food.
Preservation of Szechuan food culture is a major economic and tourism priority in China. Chengdu’s Szechuan Cuisine Museum opened in 2007 and among its collection are Chinese cookers made with bronze, pottery, porcelain and wood, some dating back 2,000 years. Unlike the western-style gas stoves or electric ovens, Chinese ovens are typically very dense wood-fuelled fires over which a wok is placed in a metal stand. Sometimes with the old-style Chinese ovens, the wok is in-built within its stand and cannot be removed. However, the contemporary equivalent is the industrial gas burner with a removable wok. Wok cooking is commonly used both in commercial and domestic kitchens in China. The gas burners generate exceptionally high heat and the wok soon smokes, flaming when ingredients are added. Everything cooks quickly and this retains both flavour and texture.
Although the most well-known Szechuan dish in Europe is probably Kung Pao Chicken (also on our menu), by far the most popular meat for Szechuan cooking is usually pork, followed by beef. Whilst the Western palate typically focuses on meat being “tender”, Chinese people tend to prefer more in the way of texture and we eat every part of our meat, from ears -to-tail, so there’s very little food waste!
Orient London opened at 15 Wardour Street in London’s Chinatown in 2015. It quickly established a reputation for fine and authentic Szechuan, Cantonese and North Chinese dishes, specialising in seafood and freshly made Dim Sum. Queues often form at peak lunch and dinner times.
Booking is recommended. Call 0207 989 8880 to reserve your table. Private Dining and party facilities are also available upon request.