The 5 Best Szechuan Restaurants to Experience "Mala" in New York City

Looking for an authentic Szechuan experience? New York City has it all.

If you've never tried Szechuan peppercorns, there's good reason. For 37 years, the spice was banned in the U.S., when food inspectors (falsely) feared that their plants would spread citrus canker to American flora. It wasn't until 2005 that the FDA approved the peppercorns for import, allowing spice fiends to chase the unique sensation called mala on Western shores.

Unlike capsaicin, the irritant in peppers that causes the sensation of hotness, the active ingredients in Szechuan peppercorns interact with our touch sensors, causing both spiciness and a tingly numbness (ma: tingle, la: spice). According to a 2013 study at University College London, the peppercorns literally hit nerve receptors with a jolt of electricity, causing your lips to vibrate with the same frequency as a 50 Hz power grid. Your body not only tastes, it feels too.

When done right, the spiciness of Szechuan peppercorns isn't straight up hot but a slow, pleasant burn that's warming instead of alarming, the perfect sensation to match the comforting, family-style home cooked meals you'll find at many Szechuan establishments. If you're in New York, where the majority of the city's Chinese population hails from Szechuan Province, be sure to check out these top 5 picks offering the tingle-iest, tastiest mala around.

Hot Kitchen

Hot Kitchen is a bright, friendly spot with remarkably efficient service. The restaurant is known for its hot pot, a crowd-pleasing dish that consists of a huge pot of rich broth, vegetable skewers and your choice of meats or fish to cook right in the piping hot liquid. Hot pot is an ideal order for a group (of which there are many at the student-friendly East Village location), but the real gems at Hot Kitchen—authentic favorites with a distinctive flair—can be found elsewhere on the menu. The mung bean noodles—thick, translucent blocks of cellophane served in chili oil with a sweet-hot garnish of crushed peppercorns, spices, and peanuts—are some of the best in the city, as are the sweet potato noodles, which are served boiled in a tangy savory broth. This is a great place for newbies to try classic Szechuan dishes without making the trek to Flushing.

Recommended dishes: mung bean noodles, sweet potato stew, mei shan beef, fish in peppercorn broth, pickled eggplant with garlic or peppers

Address: 104 2nd Ave. (East Village), 251 E. 53rd St. (Midtown)


Little Pepper

Little Pepper is for the fully committed; to get there from Manhattan, you will need to take the 7 train to the end of the line followed by a 15-minute bus to a quiet suburban street. But it's a journey for which you will be rewarded. There are some incredibly spicy dishes to please those seeking mouth- and mind-numbing pleasure—the Chong Qing chicken wok-fried with a bouquet of blistered peppers is not for the faint of heart—but one of Little Pepper's most impressive virtues is that it is not confined to what one might expect from an "authentic" Szechuan restaurant. As usual, the more Americanized dishes like Lo Mein are bland, but you should absolutely order the crinkle fries in hot sauce, a very satisfying accompaniment to lamb bathed in cumin and peppercorns, served in a foil pouch with stir fried onions and green chili peppers.

Recommended dishes: preserved egg with green pepper, smoked tea duck, dried sautéed string beans, chicken Chong Qing, fried potato in hot sauce, lamb in hot and spicy sauce

Address: 18-24 College Point Boulevard, College Point

Málà Project

Málà Project might look like another trendy East Village haunt, but its tasty, down-home cuisine is competitive with Szechuan veterans throughout the city. Málà's dry pot, a dish not commonly seen on New York menus, is a must. Choose 3-5 items from a list of over 50 meats and vegetables that range from classic (such as taro, beef tendon, and bok choi) to adventurous (frog legs, chicken gizzards) to highly adventurous (rooster testicles, say), and your picks will be tossed in a wok with a signature 24-spice and Chinese medicinal herb blend according to your preferred hotness. (The "super spicy" is just that; I have on multiple occasions enjoyed a dry pot through a veil of tears.) The small dishes are equally as delicious as the dry pot, especially the vinegary fried pepper with thousand-year-old egg (preserved for days or months in clay, ash, salt, and lime, these eggs are the "cheese" of Chinese cuisine). Expect to wait for a table downtown, where there's also a lovely patio in the summer.

Recommended dishes: dry pot, fried pepper with thousand-year-old egg, gold and silver mantou, scallion pancake

Address: 122 First Avenue (East Village) and 41 W 46th Street (Midtown)

Spicy Village

A narrow, no-frills restaurant on the edge of Chinatown, it is impressive that the food at Spicy Village, which comes served on Styrofoam plates under the restaurant's otherwise unbecoming fluorescent lighting, still looks mouthwatering. The must-try here is the spicy big tray chicken, a signature dish that has inspired a loyal following. Served with wide hand-pulled egg noodles, white and dark meat chicken is lovingly slow-cooked in an oily, rich sauce swimming with Szechuan peppercorns, star anise, and whole chilies. The smashed cucumber with garlic and steamed pork dumplings are also excellent—if you can find room. Come hungry and BYOB.

Recommended dishes: spicy big tray chicken, smashed cucumber, steamed pork dumplings

Address: 68 Forsyth Street, Chinatown

Guan Fu Sichuan

Tucked inside a courtyard on a quiet, newly upscale street in Flushing, Guan Fu Sichuan garnered big-time attention when New York Times food critic Pete Wells graced the restaurant with an almost unheard of 3 star-review. Yes, it's that good. Where many Sichuan restaurants are modest, Guan Fu is grand, with an imperial dining room and cuisine that would have only been available to Chinese royalty. The family-style plates are enormous and meant to be shared, but it can be difficult to pare down your order amid a 40-page frenzy of unique dishes like eggplant with iron plate (slices of eggplant stuffed with pork and then battered and fried) and cuttlefish salad with charred green chili sauce. The real stand-outs though are those you have likely heard of—mapo tofu and boiled fish with pickled cabbage, for instance—but have never tasted this good before. A flexible BYOB policy that seems to not include a fee (we kept a bodega bag of beers beneath the table) is the cherry on top. Well worth the wait to sit.

Recommended dishes: mapo tofu, boiled fish with pickled cabbage and chili, eggplant with iron plate, bean jelly salad, Guan Fu style cuttlefish salad, homemade roasted fish

Address: 39-16 Prince Street, Flushing

RUNNERS-UP

China Café: A trendier, Michelin-starred restaurant in East Midtown that won't break the bank.

Legend: A Chelsea landmark. One of the first restaurants to introduce New Yorkers to the tingle of Szechuan peppercorns.

Han Dynasty: Don't be fooled by this chain with branches in NY, NJ, and PA—spice is not muted for the masses.

Szechuan Gourmet: A modest spot with a sprawling menu and locations in Midtown and Flushing.

Land of Plenty: An Upper East Side white-table establishment that doesn't skimp on spice.

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Travel Tips

Best Jobs for People Who Love To Travel

If you want to travel but have a job that is currently holding you back, here are a few of our suggestions for the best jobs for people who love to travel.

For many people, traveling is an amazing experience, but traveling is not always feasible because of responsibilities to work.

One way to get around this roadblock is to get a job that will let you travel and see the world. Here are some of the best jobs for people who love to travel.

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Translator

A translator is a wonderful job for those who want to travel. It will bring you to many places as you work, so long as those places speak the language you can translate. The great thing about translating is the variety of work you can get by translating for specific clients or just translating for tourists in the area. You can choose what type of scene you wish to work in very easily.

Pilot

A pilot fits the definition of a job that gets to travel perfectly. Now, whether you are a private pilot or a commercial pilot, you will still get to fly all over the planet. The only major problem with this job is the requirement of flight classes. But once you get your license, you can fly freely around the world while making yourself money to fund your trips.

Travel blogger

Being a travel blogger is a temperamental job but, if done correctly, it will allow you to visit anywhere you want. Writing to fans as you travel the world can be a fun and exciting way to engage with the planet. This job can be difficult to do, though, as you must be able to write consistently and capture your audience with each post.

English teacher

This may not sound like a job that allows you to travel, but schools all around the world are always looking for more people to teach English.

In this career, you would move near the school that you would teach at and live there over the course of your time there. The interesting thing about this job is that it does not necessarily require a teaching degree, depending on the school and country in question. You also get to live in a new country for an extended period.

When it comes to the best jobs for people who love to travel, these are just a few of our suggestions. There are plenty of jobs where you can travel around the world, but these ones are far-reaching and cover a lot of different lifestyles. They might seem like pipe dreams, but hey, you never know!

Seattle, Washington is a rainy, coffee-fueled, coastal town often referred to as the "Emerald City."

Located against the ecological wonderland of Puget Sound, this cosmopolitan, seaside city is a mishmash of arts, culture, history, nature, and, of course, cloudy weather. Thanks to its proximity to nature, its greenery, and its culturally rich, big-city atmosphere, the city is becoming increasingly popular, both for tourists and those looking for a change of scenery.

The Big Stops: Tourist Seattle

If you only have a few days to visit Seattle, you'll probably want to check out the area's most famous attractions.

For nature lovers and summit-chasers, there's the imposing, wildflower-shrouded Mt. Rainier.

Mt. Rainierthebesttravelplaces.com

Mt. Rainier

For foodies, there's the popular Pike Place Market, a giant patchwork of food-sellers and friendly chaos where you can purchase everything from giant crabs' legs to bottomless amounts of coffee (more on that later).

Pike Place Marketseattle.eater.com

And finally, there's the iconic Space Needle and the Sky View Observatory, which will give you extraordinary views of the city.

Space Needlegetyourguide.com

Seattle Arts and Museums

For arts and culture lovers, Seattle has plenty to cut your teeth on. Don't miss the Chihuly Garden and Glass, a collection of extraordinary blown-glass sculptures by Dale Chihuly.

Chihuly Gardensfodors.com

Chihuly Gardens

For art, there's the giant Seattle Art Museum Downtown. Seattle also offers the Museum of Pop Culture, a nonprofit that features all your favorite icons from history, and plenty of other options.

Museum of Pop Culturesmithsonianmag.org

For some history, there's the Klondike Gold Rush Museum, which commemorates Seattle's history as a gold rush hub.

There are plenty of quirky attractions—like the giant Fremont Troll, the 18-foot sculpture in the Fremont neighborhood that cuts an imposing figure.

Fremont Trollsillyamerica.com

You could also take in the city from a boat—marine enthusiasts might enjoy visiting to the Hiram M. Chittenden Locks to explore the history of this port city.

Seattle, of course, also has a gritty underground side—you may know the city from its time at the heart of the '90s grunge movement.

It also has a long, storied history that has left more than a few scars. You can literally see its underground through one of its underground tours, which will take you on a walk through the "buried city," the remnants left over from before the Great Fire of 1889.

Seattle Undergroundpinterest

Natural Wonders

Seattle is notorious for its natural wonders. For a close-up view, there's the Seattle Aquarium, a marine experience that showcases the best of what Puget Sound has to offer.

For more exposure to the beauty of Seattle's nature, try the Washington Park Arboretum, a 230-acre showcase of Seattle's wetlands and natural wonders.

Washington Park Arboretumtriposo.com

You might also pay a visit to the Alki Beach for some time with the ocean waves.

Alki BeachMetropolitangardens.blogspot.com

Or consider taking a more exhaustive adventure to Discovery Park, a giant and labyrinthine natural park at the edge of Puget Sound.

Discovery Parktrip savvy.com

Food and Drink

Food tours are also popular options for those who want to get more intimate with the city's cuisine, and Seattle is often ranked as one of the best cities for foodies.

It's also a great place for coffee-heads. You might also pay a visit to the Starbucks Reserve Roastery, AKA Ultimate Starbucks, a tasting room that features a coffee library amongst other treats for coffee addicts.

Sarbucks Reserve Roasterydesigner.com

Moving to Seattle

If you're planning on moving to Seattle, locals say there's a few things you should know. First off, it is most definitely overcast the majority of the time, though the rain is rather like a mist. That makes the rare sunny day shine even more, though, locals say, in addition to fostering natural abundance.

The city is generally very congested with traffic, which can be noisy, though it offers great public transportation options, from buses to rail—regardless, you'll want to get an Orca Card for that.

Like every city, Seattle has a number of diverse and charismatic neighborhoods. For example, there's the beachy, more laid-back West Seattle.

West SeattleWest Seattle

There's the vibrant Capitol Hill, a hub of arts, culture, tech bros, and nightlife (during non-COVID times).

There's the historic and artsy Pioneer Square, featuring plenty of museums, shops, galleries, and pubs.

Pioneer Square SeattleExpedia

Fremont is a more bohemian area. Belltown is a trendy waterfront neighborhood that's close to everything.

In general, Seattle residents love the city for its proximity to nature, from beaches to glaciers, and its abundance of arts and cultural attractions. As Kimberly Kinrade said, "Seattle is for people who love culture, but refuse to sacrifice their wild nature to attain it." Residents dislike the steep cost of housing and all things that come from rising prices, including the city's large homeless population.

In general, the city is known as environmentally conscious, liberal, and dog-loving. The people are often referred to as nice but possibly a bit standoffish and cold (the "Seattle Freeze" is when you make plans to hang out and then bail, which is apparently very common). The rain can certainly get depressing, but the proximity to nature helps.

Remember, if you do happen to move: umbrellas are dead giveaways for tourists.


What's your favorite part about Seattle? What did we leave out? Let us know at @thejourniest on Twitter!

Travel

Weed World Candies Exist to Prey on Gullible Tourists

Weed is still illegal in New York, but scamming tourists is not.

You wouldn't know it walking around midtown Manhattan, but marijuana is still illegal in New York.

It does seem strange to think that perhaps the most metropolitan city in the US would be lagging behind so many other parts of the country that have legalized possession, production, and sale of cannabis and THC products, but it's true.

New York's decriminalization of marijuana has led many smokers to be more brazen with their public consumption in recent years, and Governor Cuomo recently announced plans for limited legalization for recreational use at the state level. But for the time being the sale of products containing THC is still very much illegal.

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Adding to the confusion is a company that has sprung up to prey on tourist's uncertainty. Weed World trucks have multiplied at a staggering rate since they first started appearing in Midtown and the Village a few years ago. Easily a dozen RVs and vans now line the tourist-dense streets of Manhattan, advertising Girl Scout Cookies and Gorilla Glue, clad in marijuana-leaf decals and occupied by employees who are paid either to be stoned out of their minds, or just to pretend they are.

With eyes nearly in slits and an air of relaxation that suggests that customers are temporary interludes from a permanent nap, they will promise you as much as they can get away with while letting their branding do most of the work. They will sell you four lollipops for $20, which would seem like a great deal if not for the fact that they will not deliver on the strong implication that they'll get you high.

They have a Twitter account where they celebrate the supposed availability of weed and claim to "have New York locked down." They'll even sell you vape cartridges that advise you to "get medicated," and which are packed with potent doses of… flavor?

weed world truck

An employee once assured me that their candies do contain THC—maybe they wouldn't be so brazenly dishonest today—and in a drunken state I coughed up $5 to test that claim. There is a faint weedy taste to their candies, and you may find trace amounts of CBD inside, but that's it. It's a scam. There is no THC. Nothing that will give their customers the experience they're selling.

Worse than the trucks is the Weed World Candies storefront that opened in midtown in 2019. Just walking past you would swear that people were passing a massive blunt inside.

The smell is unmistakable and overpowering, except that it's fake. Whatever chemical fragrance they pumped onto the street, it was not connected to anyone smoking weed. Inside, the psychedelic wall art complemented shelves lined with suggestive candies and boxes emblazoned with pot leaf insignia.

Whatever the venue, they are all too happy to sell you overpriced hemp products and CBD creams and chocolates made to look like nugs. And if you're a tourist, or a moron like me, you might believe the scam long enough to give them money, but nothing they sell will get you high.

weed world store Hiroki Kittaka

The owners of Weed World, Judah Izrael and Bilal Muhammad—who prefers to go by "Dro Man" or "Doctor Dro"—will defend their products by claiming that they serve to promote legalization and decriminalization efforts by normalizing the idea of public sale of marijuana. But at no point in the purchasing process is the illusion that their candies will get you high broken. At no point are their customers offered literature explaining the mission of Weed World.

On their website's FAQs page, there is no mention of THC or its absence from their products, but the first question, "How much should I eat?" is answered, "It's all based on your tolerance but there's no limit." Tolerance for what? Sugar? The company—which originated in Alabama and has spread to cities around the country—mostly seems like a very profitable way to sell candy to gullible adults.

weed world wall art Nicole Mallete

The best thing I can say in their defense is that one of their trucks was recently busted by police in Saraland, Alabama, with products that "tested positive for marijuana." Assuming this isn't a screw up or deliberate frame-job by the police, it's possible that some of the Weed World trucks are using their faux activism as a front for selling actual drugs. If so, that would be the most honest thing about this company. Until that's confirmed, ignore these trucks and maybe just ask a friend for a hookup.