From one home to another

Flower Pepper offers authentic Chinese home cooking in Boulder

Susan France

This is different. When I order takeout from the new, small Chinese shop Flower Pepper on Broadway, I’m excited not only to taste what I got, but also to find out what half of it is.

Flower Pepper touts authentic homemade Chinese cooking, and it’s easy to believe. The menu is small, written on a chalkboard, and it contains things like stewed pork belly over rice, Chinese crepes, DanDan noodles, tiger food and dumplings.

To be honest, Flower Pepper’s reputation preceded my visit. In just a few short months of business, Flower Pepper has already amassed dozens of emphatic reviews online. The story of the restaurant’s owners is also intriguing: Jeff (Tao) Gao ran two restaurants in Beijing, with one (Little Yunnan) winning best new restaurant at the 2012 Beijing Dining Awards. He and his wife Jennifer moved to Colorado, a place he’d always wanted to live, with plans to set up this shop.

So admittedly smitten and ignorant about the concept of Flower Pepper, I dove in on the menu. (And just a note on the takeout: You’ll probably want to take this food home; the dining space is really narrow and not good for anything other than a solo lunch or an afternoon dumpling.)

I brought home the famed DanDan noodles, a cup of wonton soup, pork and cabbage dumplings, Taiwanese stewed pork belly over rice and a dish ominously called tiger food.

The dumplings were hand rolled and sealed, and were very bright and citrusy. The pork and cabbage were tender and warm. You can also get leek and egg dumplings or the daily special dumpling. They were thinner than other dumplings, and refreshingly less chewy.

The DanDan noodles came in two parts: a tray of thin and fresh wheat noodles and a cup of sauce, which is made of ground pork, chili, pickled vegetables and chili oil. The noodles by themselves again had a bright lemon character, while the sauce alone could’ve been a soup. Together, the dish was magnificent. The noodles wrapped up the chunkier bits of the sauce and the chili stuck to each fork and ladleful to carry a bite throughout the consumption of the dish. There was such a deep, rooty flavor in the sauce that you might not expect from something that is 80 percent broth and oil.

Now speaking of hot, when I ate my first bite of tiger food my face nearly melted off and my lungs nearly jumped out of my mouth. I like spice, but there is nothing likeable about getting the brunt of a full raw jalapeno when you’re not expecting it. Tiger food is a salad made with thin slices of raw carrots, bell peppers, cucumber and jalapeno. It’s dressed minimally in a savory sauce. It truly is refreshing if you mitigate the amount of jalapeno.

The Taiwanese stewed pork belly over rice was the dish I found myself shoveling in. The pork belly bits are cut into small cubes and stewed in a soy broth overnight. You really get the salty, rich flavor of the broth in each bite. The rice was fluffy and warm, and the dish came with bits of steamed baby bok choy, which added a helpful slightly bitter flavor. There was also a yellow-brown stewed egg hanging out, which was a lot like a hard-boiled egg. The whole dish was actually reminiscent of corned beef hash oddly enough.

The wonton soup was light and herbaceous. The slick, soft wontons were filled with beef meatballs and the cilantro and green herbs in the soup took center stage on the palate.

The best part about Flower Pepper though is that it straddles multiple worlds. It brings Chinese home cooking to Boulder, and whether you’re looking for an authentic experience or just affordable take out, you’ll get it.