"When I came to study at the U of A, I [was] always eager to bring the authentic Chinese food here," said Nan "Shaun" Xu, owner of China Bamboo. "So, when I graduated from the U of A, I opened an authentic Chinese restaurant called Zing Zing's near the campus and it became really popular after opening. People from all over the world love our food, which encouraged me to expand my business."
As a result, he took over ownership at East Tucson Chinese restaurant China Bamboo.
"I think food is not only about eating, but also about attitude and culture," Xu said. "I hope to bring the authentic Chinese food culture to more people in the world. Now we've added authentic Chinese food to the original menu and it's worth a try."
While the restaurant still offers a leather-bound menu with the American Chinese offerings, we skipped it altogether to sample as much of the new Sichuan menu instead. With a combination of Sichuan standards and a few new items, here are our thoughts.
Also known as fuqi feipian, this popular Sichuan dish features thinly sliced beef and tripe served at room temperature in a pool of chili oil. The portion size is the most generous I've encountered in Tucson — thankfully, it's enjoyable out of the fridge straight from the container.
Also swimming in magnificent chili oil, the cold, juicy bone-in chicken features a supple, soft skin. This requires a fair amount of nibbling and gnawing, so don't order this if you're trying to look pretty while eating.
These pork wontons feature a delicate, thin wrapper. Stir them around in the mixture of chili oil, black vinegar, scallions, and peanuts for one of the most addictive snacks both sides of the Mississippi.
The name makes no sense and doesn't yield any Google search results, but I can tell you that it is a blend of lotus root, snap peas, carrots, and wood ear mushrooms in a light (probably chicken broth-based) sauce. Take a bite with some rice when you need a break from all the chili oil.
This is not the Kong Pao chicken you get at Panda Express; this is an authentic Sichuan rendition focused more on the chicken with a sauce that isn't cloyingly sweet. No zucchini filler here.
This looks like soup, but it isn't. This potent oily broth is packed with different types of chilis and spices. Rather than the common red Sichuan pepper, this uses the green version with an overall grassier flavor profile for the dish. Beware, it still packs quite the numbing punch.
Also infamously known under the translation "water-boiled fish," this is one of the most flavorful dishes you can order. Fall-apart chunks of fish swim in the Sichuan-spicy broth with bean sprouts and a generous hit of garlic.
Start by choosing a broth:
Then choose two meats:
Then choose four vegetables:
Lastly, choose a heat level ranging from none to flaming spicy. We ordered the Savory Hot in medium heat and it was plenty hot without being overwhelming.
Personal favorites include:
If you're feeling adventurous, order some Chinese bottled soft drinks. The one on the left is a plum juice with medicinal flavor (too much for our tastes), but apparently works well to balance the Sichuan heat. The center one is a sweet and sour green tea. The right one is a mango drink with milk, our unanimous favorite of the three.
China Bamboo is located at 6910 E. Tanque Verde Rd. For more information, call (520) 203-8126 or visit chinabambootucson.com.
Jackie Tran is a Tucson-based food writer, photographer, culinary educator, and owner-chef of the food truck Tran's Fats. Although he...