Squirrel Hill Landmark How Lee Serves a Variety of Chinese Fare (Mon., 10/23/23)
How Lee restaurant is a frequent stop for my wingman (brother), Howard. How Lee is on a corner situated at Forbes and Shady Avenues. A great spot for watching the passers by. I asked our usual friendly server, Shelly, about the seafood chili pot ($21.95) from the Szechuan section of the menu. She said it was pretty hot and made a less spicy suggestion. I proceeded at my own risk and ordered the seafood chili pot.
The seafood chili pot was served in a silver covered dish with a fire below boiling the liquid above containing the seafood and veggies. Flaming/boiling liquids on the table that can be knocked over give me apprehension so I asked her to extinguish the flame. The chili pot had pieces of squid, breaded fish, and shrimp, along with mushrooms and other vegetables. It also contained cilantro, which I don’t care for, so I picked out those pieces.
The seafood was fresh and flavorful, especially the shrimp. The seafood chili pot was spicy hot, but I enjoyed it. One unusual occurrence was that after eating some of the dish it seemed like my tongue was numb! I asked the server what the liquid in the dish was and she said Szechuan peppercorn oil. Thank God for the cool plain white rice that came with it.
In researching the Szechuan peppercorn oil for this story I saw that the peppercorn are prickly ash tree berries and are a member of the citrus family. What is used in cooking is actually the husk of the berry. The Szechuan peppercorn is often combined with chili peppers to create a flavor known as málà which has a numbing-spiciness. Good to know what was causing my tongue numbness!