image from thedailypage.com
Fugu entered the Madison dining scene last year, filling a serious void in high-quality Chinese fare. And although my guess is that my vegetarian diet has significantly limited my exposure to the most authentic dishes on the Fugu menu (the ones that aren't even translated into English, and that involve things like organ meats and frog parts), it's still been a culinary revelation, introducing me to flavors and spices (like the Sichuan peppercorn!) that I'd never known before (read this really interesting article about the peppercorn and its ecological role).
Although I don't currently have great photos of my favorite Fugu dishes, here are the ones that have been clear winners so far, among the vegetarian offerings, along with some photos of our best attempts at recreating these beauties at home.
Sweet, toothsome eggplant cooked to the perfect balance of soft but not falling-apart soft:
Stir Fried String Bean
Simple, bright, fresh green beans with garlic and just the right touch of spice serve as the perfect balance to the heavier dishes at Fugu:
Ma Po Tofu
The classic Chinese dish, here made with a deep red sauce, hot chilis, scallions, and the crucial Sichuan peppercorns. Salty, but delicious.
Mushroom Hot Pot
Basically the same style as the hot pots I wrote about before, but with a particular mix of beautiful, unknown mushrooms (fat brown ones! long skinny multi-pronged white ones! wrinkly black ones!) and some bright sweet peppers to balance it out (oh, and of course lots of Sichuan peppercorns!).
Basically, the Sichuan-style dishes are the best (they have their own menu), and way more adventurous and rewarding than the regular Chinese-American or Thai offerings. Try something new!
See all my "Restaurant Week" posts: Vientiane, Maharani, Fugu, Lao Laan Xang, Dayton Street Grille