New Menu Items Coming to Chengdu Gourmet in Squirrel Hill
Executive chef/owner Wei Zhu is fired up after a month-long trip to China.
photo courtesy Wei Zhu
Wei Zhu, executive chef and owner of Chengdu Gourmet in Squirrel Hill, has returned from a month-long trip to his native Sichuan Province and he’s set to step up his game at his already outstanding restaurant. "I've learned a bunch of new dishes. Some are traditional Chengdu-style food, and others are more contemporary. I want to introduce people to those dishes,” the two-time James Beard Award Best Chef: Mid-Atlantic semifinalist says through a translator.
Zhu traveled to Chengdu to train with Li Wan Min, a celebrated chef who lists vice-president of China Cuisine Association, Sichuan Cuisine Association vice-chairman and Chengdu Gourmet Association secretary-general among the honors on his business card. "He's famous in China. He's a master of cooking Sichuan food,” says Zhu.
photo by hal b. klein
Zhu is in the process of overhauling Chengdu Gourmet’s printed menu. In the meantime, he will introduce some of his new dishes as specials listed on the restaurant’s front board. Look for the following items: steamed fish finished with sesame oil, cured ham, soy sauce and ginger; braised beef cheeks and bok choy; pork kidneys with tripe, scallion and peppers, a dish that Zhu says takes hours to prepare; eggs with scallions cooked without oil, a recipe from Zhu’s childhood; an earthy, homestyle stew of chicken feet, organ meats and vegetables; chicken "tofu,” chicken breast blended with chicken stock, egg whites and potato starch, seasoned with salt and white pepper and finished with nutmeg, sesame oil and chicken stock.
At a tasting last week, Zhu also demonstrated refinement in a number of his already popular Chengdu Gourmet dishes. For example, kou shui ji, mouthwatering chicken, benefits from the additional pungency of shallots and pop of jalapeno peppers and eggplants with dry-fried green beans was more nuanced in both preparation and flavor. He also will update the restaurant’s interior with new booths and tables.
While in China, Zhu wrote in his notebook (in Chinese characters), "The war of Sichuan food was started by Chengdu Gourmet.” When asked to clarify what that means, he said, “It means we can also eat the best Sichuan cuisine in Pittsburgh.”
5840 Forward Ave., Squirrel Hill; 412/521-2088