Friday, July 23, 2010 at 08:00AM
*Post by Angela.
I think I've asked Twitter about good Chinese delivery half a dozen times - as much as I love this city, its Chinese food offerings leave something to be desired. But I think I've finally found my go-to in Great Wall Szechuan House on 14th Street. Now, the restaurant itself is kind of a hole-in-the-wall, and the regular menu is nothing to write home about. I've had better AND worse Chinese in the District. But Great Wall has something of a special weapon: their (secret-ish) málà menu. According to Wikipedia, the term málà is a combination of two Chinese characters: "numbing" (麻) and "hot (piquant)" (辣), referring to the feeling in the mouth after eating the sauce, which is caused by the inclusion of Sichuan peppercorns. I've never had anything quite like it - it's definitely not "burn your mouth" hot - it's a more...tingly sensation. Normally I don't do reviews of food I get delivered because I feel like it isn't quite fair, but in this case, the dishes are just as good delivered as they are in the restaurant (they consistently deliver within 20 minutes of when I order).
I started with the málà wontons. These are HUGE. In fact, a couple of orders of these could serve easily as a meal. And even better, they are DELICIOUS. The tender noodles enfold tasty morsels of meat, and are drenched in the oily, spicy, garlicky málà sauce. The numb tingly sensation is strange at first, but once I got accustomed to it, it became addictive. The amount of oil may be off-putting to some (and was to me as well, the first time around), but it really does add a whole lot of flavor.
I continued on my tongue-numbing tour with the mapo tofu, which offered soft, melt-in-your-mouth cubes of tofu couched in the same mouth-watering sauce. Despite the use of tofu, this is no vegetarian dish - there are little chunks of chicken, along with black beans and scallions, distributed throughout (you can order it without the meat, but you need to specify that to the person taking your order).
I think it's safe to say that with its málà menu, Great Wall has usurped the my former delivery champ, City Lights of China. While it may look like most other Chinese delivery places dotting D.C., the ma la menu makes Great Wall a diamond in the rough.