Anyone in the vicinity of the Upper East Side with a craving for mala flavors should head to Hui on East 70th Street. The dry pepper chicken is a reimagined (and slightly more tropical) Chonqqing chicken that’s reliably crisp and loaded with snipped red chilis and sweet pineapple to balance out the spice. The dry pot stir-fries here are also excellent and come with your choice of protein, plus potatoes, lotus root, mushrooms, and an abundant amount of numbing spiciness. Bigger groups should also opt for the whole fish with chopped chilis, which comes with plenty of sauce that you’ll want to coat all over your rice and noodles. Hui also has a small, shaded outdoor area out front, which is a welcome perk that not many Chinese restaurants in the area have.
Cold Spicy Chicken with Hot Chili Oil and Minced Peanut Topping
The Chinese name for this classic appetizer, kou shui ji, literally means “mouth watering chicken.” And true to its name, the substantial portion served here with its numbing, savory chili oil sauce will make you drool. Order lots of white rice to soak up the sauce.
Dry Pepper Chicken with Pineapple
This dry pepper chicken is a reimagined (and slightly more tropical) Chongqing chicken that’s reliably crisp and loaded with snipped red chilis and sweet fresh pineapple to balance out the spice. It’s one of those dishes that you know is tweaked to appeal to an American audience—but the pineapple feels like it belongs. The chicken stays crisp even with the added fruit, which seems like a miracle.
Fragrant Boiled Fish with Chili Oil
Also known as Sichuan shui zhu yu, this dish will make you a firm believer that boiling white fish in chili oil broth is by far the best way to prepare it. When sharing this with a group, a round of cold beers is a requisite.
Dry Pot Beef / Fish Fillet / Chicken / Pork
Any of the dry pot stir-fries here are excellent and come with your choice of protein, plus potatoes, lotus root, mushrooms, and an abundant amount of numbing spiciness. They’re served in mini woks with little flames underneath, so they’ll stay hot the longest out of all your dishes—but we wouldn’t blame you if you scarf yours down first.
Sauteed Pea Shoot with Garlic
It’s easy to forget about the humble vegetable side when faced with a menu of spicy, fried, and sweet options. But when you see pea shoots on a menu, order them. These pea shoots are lightly flavored with garlic and maintain some crunch, and they’re a great palate cleanser between bites of spicy entrees.