When you need a little spice in your meal – if not your life – then Little Chilli in North Point can really hit the spot. Located halfway between the Fortress Hill and North Point MTR stations, Little Chilli is a casual venue with a local feel and no frills. Here, you may very well share tables with strangers at peak times but with advance notice the restaurant can accommodate larger parties – great before a night of karaoke in nearby Causeway Bay or clubbing back in Central.
Spicy food triggers our pain receptors and thus prompts the release of the same calming endorphins that our brains release to deal with pain. This effect helps explain our addiction to chilli-rich cuisines and I personally seek out spicy food if I’m ever feeling down.
Little Chilli offers straightforward Sichuan cuisine without any pretense. Food trends aren’t reflected in the menu, which is rife with dishes that fresh-off-the-boat foreigners may find scary: Sizzling Bullfrog, Spicy Tripe, and Boiled Big Fish Head in Hot Chilli Oil to name a few.
On the other hand, Little Chilli won’t look into the mirror and win the award for who is the spiciest of them all. The heat has been adjusted for a more Cantonese palate and the net result is authentic flavour that will lift your mood but won’t have you feeling it too much the next day. Since being introduced to Little Chilli by a lifelong resident of the east side of Hong Kong Island more than five years ago, the food’s been consistently good.
On my last visit, we had the aforementioned Spicy Tripe (HKD48), which consists of a bowl of truly cold and chewy pork tripe, thinly sliced and mixed with chilli oil, and finally blended with chopped garlic and scallions – a solid start to the meal.
Cold Cucumber with Garlic
To start, we also had the Cold Cucumber with Garlic (HKD35), which contains roughly chopped, crisp and brightly green cucumbers with the skins still on tossed with relatively large chunks of crushed garlic. The fresh taste of the cucumber provides a good counterbalance to the richer taste of the tripe dish.
For mains, I recommend trying one from each of the “Spicy Hot Fried Dish” and “Spicy Hot Boiled Dish” categories on the menu. The dishes in the former can all be described as some sort of protein in a large bowl of dried red chillies stir fried with garlic, peanuts, and green onions. Most people like ordering the chicken for the former category, but I prefer getting the prawn version (HKD118). The prawns are stir-fried with the shells on to such a crisp state that they can be consumed from head to tail without the need for peeling, with the shell a crunchy counterpoint to the hot and juicy meat within.
Spicy Boiled Frog
For the spicy hot boiled dish, I departed from my usual beef order and went for the frog (HKD108), which was delicious. In general, these dishes consist of a large bowl of soup stock spiced with chilli oil, chilli peppers, scallions and Sichuan peppercorns, and containing bean sprouts and konnyaku noodles to complement the boiled meat. The frog meat had been washed with Chinese wine, removing the sometimes fishy taste that can otherwise remain, as well as bringing out the subtle and clean taste of the frog meat rather than overwhelming with the pungent mix of chillies.
Little Chilli Fried Rice
To finish, we ordered the Little Chilli Fried Rice (HKD45). A good value, this large plate of fried rice is mixed with sliced ham and a variety of minced peppers amply spiced with chilli powder. Though it’s nothing fancy, it’s a good way to fill you up and settle your stomach before heading out for the rest of the night or wherever your good mood may take you.
There are definitely fancier Sichuan restaurants in Hong Kong as well as ones more likely to overheat you. But for simply solid Sichuan at the perfect price point, I am certainly sure to keep making the trip out to Little Chilli in North Point.
About the Hungry Lawyer: Marc Rubinstein, born in Baltimore, USA, has been in Asia for nearly 20 years with 13 of those in Hong Kong. He has split his career between banks and law firms, and is currently the general counsel of an Asia-based real estate and alternative energy investor. Marc is a co-founder and co-chair of the Hong Kong Gay & Lesbian Attorneys Network, and previously chaired the Nomura Gay & Lesbian Network, Asia. In addition to being a hungry lawyer, he has run three marathons, eight half-marathons and completed the Hong Kong Oxfam Trailwalker.
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