If you have not yet visited Spicy Bampa, a spicy food-lover’s paradise in the heart of 18th Avenue, you haven’t experienced the full range of Bensonhurst’s diverse Chinese food options.
One of the most complex, sophisticated cuisines in the world, Sichuan food – which originates from the Chinese province of the same name – is distinguished by liberal use of tongue-numbing Sichuan peppercorns and garlic, as well as bean curd, sesame, peanut, and ginger. Various cuts of chicken, pork, lamb, fish, and even frog come rubbed down or battered in a heat-packed spice mix, then deep fried – bone and all – to crispy, burn-y perfection. The flaming fare pairs well with cool veggie appetizers, such as the garlic-drenched cucumber salad ($4.25) we tried on a recent visit to Spicy Bampa.
For the main course, we ordered dan dan noodles, tea-smoked duck, deep fried chicken, and the ribs. Unless you are a huge fan of the flaming batter, you may want to skip the king’s spare ribs ($13.95) which were battered so thickly that the sparse bits of meat were overwhelmed by the spicy crust. Fortunately, each table comes with a complimentary thermos of soothing jasmine tea, which acts as a sort of palate cleanser between dishes, or we wouldn’t have been able to taste a thing.
Not all Sichuan foods will burn the tongue, though. The delicious, maroon-colored, tea-smoked duck ($13.95) was extremely smokey and fatty. Similarly, the dan dan noodles ($4.25) – one of the restaurants more popular dishes – was more savory than spicy, bathed in a chili oil and bean paste, and topped with spinach leaves and ground lamb.
People also come to Spicy Bampa for the hot pots. Hot pots offer a slower paced, more social dining experience in which two or more friends split a giant bubbling caldron of Sichuan-flavored water over a tabletop flame – like a fondue. Just $15 or $18 can purchase a massive platter laden with unlimited raw meats, seafood, and veggies to be waved around in the red-hot, boiling stew and dipped into cooling garlic, sesame, and bean curd condiments. But we will save our hot pot lesson for another article.