Tasting in Color

2 March 2007 at 0:21 3 comments

Celery and Tofu SaladI can’t remember when I first heard about synesthesia. Maybe it was in an art history class or a book about music. I’ve always been curious about it, though. And just a little envious of people who can hear in colors or see in music.

Finally, I got a taste, literally, of what synesthsia might be like thanks to the dry bean curd and celery salad at Chilli Garden, the Sichuan restaurant in the next town over. I know that Chinese cooking is supposed to rank right up there with French and Italian as one of the world’s great cuisines, but until I ate at Chilli Garden, I don’t think I was ever entirely convinced. (Of course, this is less a statement about Chinese food than about Chinese restaurants in the U.S.)

The salad blends pleasantly chewy matchsticks of tofu with thin stalks of green onion and faintly anise-flavored Chinese celery in a dressing with finely chopped scallion greens and a bracing dose of ground Sichuan pepper. Along with the wontons in chilli sauce and vinegar and the minced chicken with Sichuan pickles, this salad is one of the Chilli Garden dishes that I could happily eat everyday.

The past few times, I’ve eaten this salad, I’ve been absolutely certain that it tastes silver. I don’t know that I can explain quite why, but I think it has something to do with the Sichuan pepper and the way it manages to be both bright and cool at the same time. It makes my mouth tingle, almost like chillis, but at the same time, the merest breath of air makes my lips feel icy, like menthol.

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Entry filed under: Food.

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