When Sara Lu and her chef husband Jin Tan opened Red Chilli Szechuan in 2013, it was out of necessity.
“My grandfather is from Sichuan province,” says Lu. “I’ve always eaten this style of food but couldn’t find it anywhere here.”
Fast forward three years and the landscape has changed, certainly on Albany Highway, anyway, where diners have various Sichuanese options to choose from. In late February, the couple opened eatery number two, Noodle Combo, just a stone’s throw from Red Chilli Szechuan. Like its elder sibling, Noodle Combo concerns itself with the hearty, often spicy flavours from China’s Sichuan region, only in a more customisable (and customer-friendly) format.
“As a noodle lover I’ve always felt your options are limited at most places,” says Lu. “If you want spare ribs, it’s only available with one dish, or you can’t just add vegetables if you feel like it.”
The decision-making starts with the soup base. The deep flavour of the chicken broth belies its light, clear appearance. A concentration of pig bone and trotters, the pork broth sports a reassuring milky-white sheen. Both soup bases are left to simmer overnight. Diners can opt for either a white egg noodle or a version made with spinach. Both are made in-house and a machine, not unlike a commercial pasta maker, rolls out serves of fresh dough.
Finally, take your pick from a dozen toppings including pork mince and shiitake mushroom; crispy chicken tenders; and excellent house-made wontons.
The rest of the menu borrows extensively from the Sichuan cannon. Dandanmian – peddler’s noodles named after the street vendors who historically sold them – is classic Sichuanese and features noodles topped with ground pork, chilli and peanuts. The hot-and-spicy beef brisket noodle soup raises the heat level again and should be approached with caution. Both dishes have that distinctive pool of numbing chilli oil.
Spice fiends will appreciate the condiment offering. While most Chinese restaurants serve a single chilli oil, Lu provides two to cater for northern and southern Chinese tastes (the northern-style chilli is lighter in colour due to the absence of dried prawn). Pickled green chillies are a nod to the restaurant’s Malaysian diners. House-made beverages such as iced lemon tea, a sweetened Asian-style coffee and plum drink offer relief from the spice.
806 Albany Highway, Victoria Park
Thu to Tue 11am–2.30pm, 5pm–9.30pm