A Barcelona food blog
I consider myself somewhat a ‘woman of the world’ and open-minded to other cultures and tastes. However, when it comes to Chinese cuisine, I instantly reel out all the negative stereotypes. Bland, gloopy, overly salty, adjectives that are indelibly etched in my mind even though I know deep down this is a cuisine more interesting and complex than that.
Thankfully we sometimes have experiences that challenge our stereotypes and eating at L’Olla de Si Chuan was one such occasion. It first came on my radar via a Catalan colleague who had lived in China for his degree and he’d told me it was one of the most authentic places in the city. I’m very much inclined to believe him.
Located where C/Enric Granados meets C/Aragó, what strikes you when you first walk in is that, well you could be in China, most of the diners appeared to descend from there, always a good starting point when looking for the genuine article. More accurately though, most were probably Chinese Catalans, which reminded me of this very interesting article I read a few years ago about the strong Chinese identity in the city.
What also strikes you is how many people are eating surrounding a steaming bowl of broth and progressively making their way through a trolley of raw ingredients, known in Mandarin as Huo Guo. Now I’ve only eaten dishes off the menu here but the small plates of raw seafood, vegetables, dumplings, all being lovingly dipped into the broth (made in house with meat, fish or even ginseng) with chopsticks and then transported to the mouth is so enticing.
Foolishly, I believe, the stock pot it was not to be this particular evening, instead the first plate of vegetable rice landed on the table and by sight I jumped to the same old conclusions, yet the vegetables were all crisp, fresh and their individual flavours sang out as well as being distinctly lacking in grease as so often my experience has been.
Beautifully butterflied prawns, no dirty veins lurking here, nestled in chow mein amongst more crunchy vegetables, beansprouts, fronds of kelp with the pleasant saltiness of oyster sauce.
The indulgence of fat was saved for the crispy fried noodles which crunched and buzzed with garlic, ginger, crunchy beansprouts and firm bamboo.
Garlic fans get their pungent hit from the beef with garlic, the thinly sliced spring onions providing sharpness and the whole dish perfect spooned over that vegetable rice.
Not only authentic, L’Olla de Si Chuan also seems to be an impossible place to run up a bill. I’ve eaten here three times now, some rather boozy affairs with the house wine flowing, and yet it seems impossible to exceed the 15€ per person mark.
I’d go as far as to say that L’Olla de Si Chuan didn’t just challenge my stereotypes, frankly it shattered them and it’s high up there as one of my favourite places to eat in the city. Maybe next time it’s the turn of the Russian kitchen and an attempt at shattering my fear of beetroot and dill.
L’Olla de Si Chuan, Plaça del Doctor Letamendi, 12, Eixample Esquerra