Gordy's Sichuan Cafe
501 E. 30th Ave., Spokane, gordysspokane.com, 509-747-1170
Open Tue-Sat from noon-close for takeout only
One of the most popular menu items at Gordy’s Sichuan Cafe, gan pung chicken is the perfect middle ground between a sweet-and-sour chicken and something that packs more of a spicy punch.
Characteristic of Sichuan cuisine, the recipe, in addition to its preparation, was taught to the restaurant’s original owner Gordon “Gordy” Crafts by chefs at O’mei, a now-closed restaurant in Santa Cruz, California, says current owner Alicia Riendeau.
“It’s been one of our most popular dishes since I started working here,” Riendeau says. “Gordy taught it to us over the years, until he sold the restaurant. I would say the significance of the flavor profiles are really indicative of Sichuan cuisine. It’s heavy with Sichuan peppercorns, which gives you the numbing, kind of tingly feeling. And then it’s got some chili pods in it that give a little bit of heat.”
Combined with citrus notes and the crunch of its battered breading — Riendeau says their breading is never soft and mushy — Gordy’s gan pung chicken ($15) keeps lots of local customers coming back for more.
“I think it’s kind of a mashup” of cuisine styles, Riendeau adds. “Because we do it in a sweet-and-sour kind of style, so you could also compare it to General Tso’s chicken, but it doesn’t taste anything like that.”
For diners looking to branch out beyond mildly spicy versions of Asian-style breaded chicken and pork dishes, Reindeau says gan pung chicken is an approachable next step.
“It’s kind of a middle ground between sweet-sour chicken, for people going for something a little more exotic, and getting a little bit more into the actual Sichuan style,” she says. “But it’s still palatable for people who are more used to eating sweet-sour pork and things like that.”
While the tingly feeling of Sichuan peppercorn might be a surprise at first, Riendeau says most customers find it to be a pleasant trait of the dish.
“It’s a good prep for people to initiate themselves and see if they’d enjoy something a little more spicy or a little more peppercorny.”