I love Sichuan food and I have not found a good restaurant in Orange County which suits my palate. So whenever I get the chance to visit San Diego and there are friends who want to eat Sichuan food, I always want to visit Ba Ren.
They have a display of cold appetizers and I like to choose the 3-item of bamboo shoots, seaweed and the spicy beef. The flavors are all perfectly seasoned — not overly salted — so you can even eat it without rice.
One of the things I love here are the dan dan noodles. It is very authentic and very numbingly spicy! This is the most authentic I’ve tasted outside of Asia.
We also ordered kou shui ji — or saliva chicken. The chicken was tender and the sauce was again, very spicy. I’d have to say, this place does not skimp on the Sichuan peppercorns. Most places tone it down, but not here. This is the real deal. Without the Sichuan peppercorns, it wouldn’t be real Sichuan food.
Word of warning…. authentic Sichuan cuisine will basically have the ma la flavor in every dish which is noted as spicy. Ma la is the numbing spiciness which is the result of the Sichuan peppercorns. If you don’t like this numbing effect, then stay away from Sichuan cuisine.
Mi xien is a non-spicy chicken broth noodle dish with strips of chicken and picked mustard greens. It’s not a dish I ordinarily order, but it is one of the most ubiquitous Sichuanese dishes around. The reason why I don’t order it is because most places screw it up.
This is one of the best mi xien I’ve ever tasted. It was a wonderfully refreshing finish to the spicy dishes. The mi xien (special noodles) were cooked perfectly al dente and the chicken-based broth was rich and hearty.
Another word of warning: Sichuan peppercorns sometimes give people the after effects of MSG in that you get this ‘high’ which sends you into a frenzy often associated with MSG. However, the difference is the sensation you get on your tongue.
The Sichuan peppercorn ‘high’ sends me into this frenzied weirdness. I usually feel like I need a really long nap after eating Sichuan food.
If you’re looking for authenticity, this is definitely the place to get it. Comatose or not, this is THE place to get your peppercorn high from.
Ba Ren Szechuan
4957 Diane Avenue
San Diego, CA 92117