Ring in the Lunar New Year with a plate of this spicy firecracker dish

SAN FRANCISCO, Calif. -- The name on the menu can seem intimidating: Chicken with explosive chile peppers.

"The dish looks very scary," admits Michelle Zhang, co-owner of Z & Y Restaurant in San Francisco's Chinatown.

Imagine a plate with cubed chicken smothered in a mound of red peppers. It looks like a plate of firecrackers, and that is what the dish is called, Firecracker chicken, in Sichuan province, where it is one of the most popular dishes.

"This is a traditional dish that has been popular for hundreds of years. The color is red and bright," says chef Li Jun Han, who was executive chef at the Chinese consulate before opening his restaurant. Han says traditionally the dish includes eggs and bones, but he leaves those out for Western tastes.



"It is an authentic dish," adds Zhang. "But it is not very spicy. The chicken is very crispy and tender. It is very good."

"We saw another table have it and it looked so crazy and exotic that we just had to try it," said customer Josh Jeong. " It has like this numbing feeling. It is not the spiciest, but it tenses up your mouth. And it's addicting."

Z & Y Restaurant specializes in Sichuan cuisine, which was designated an UNESCO city for its gastronomy. The restaurant also has traditional performances for guests. One is a face changer that changes masks with the swipe of his hand to reflect different moods. Face changers traditionally perform in the Sichuan opera. Another is a Kung Fu tea server who combines martial arts and tea service.

Z & Y Restaurant is located at 655 Jackson Street in San Francisco.