Spicy Szechuan Food At Hong Kong Palace In Falls Church

Hong Kong Palace reinvents fried chicken

Finding a Chinese restaurant's true specialties usually means searching beyond the Americanized kung pao chicken and egg rolls for the hidden gems.

Hong Kong Palace–which, despite its name, specializes in spicy, peppery Szechuan food instead of Hong Kong's Cantonese cuisine–usually features its best dishes not on the menu, but written in Chinese on bright paper cutouts tacked to the wall.

The dishes include cold spicy beef and whole fried fish, but the best item is the Italian-sounding chicken with stuffed peppers ($13).

The dish is a fiery blend of flavors and textures that relies on the ingredients–rather than a heavy sauce–to power the dish. Bite-size pieces of battered chicken are wok-fried with crunchy peanuts, chilies, garlic and ginger. The dish also gets a tongue-tickling tingle from a generous sprinkling of Szechuan peppers.

But stuffed peppers are the real star here. Co-owner Melanie Qing imports Cantonese peppers–they aren't sold on this continent–from her hometown in China. The kitchen stuffs the finger-size red cones with sesame seeds and peanuts, then fries them until each one becomes a crispy, slightly spicy take on a sesame stick.

With peanuts, fried chicken, and peppers posing as sesame sticks all on one plate, the dish is China's aromatic answer to bar food.

Hong Kong Palace, 6387 Leesburg Pike, Falls Church; 703-532-0940 or hkpalace.webs.com