Chinese eateries have long been stuck between a wok and a hard place: hew to the Americanized hit parade, or risk alienating the crowds craving kung pao. Thankfully, a coup is afoot, with renegade restaurateurs positing fiery Szechwan as a sexier alternative to Cantonese lite. Fragrant camphor-smoked duck, velvety beef braised in mouth-numbing neon-orange peppercorn oil—all safely segregated, menuwise, from more broadly palatable fare. The newly chili-head-friendly New Shanghai wins points for Chinatown proximity and the addictive chung qing spicy chicken. Yet we’re irresistibly drawn to Malden for FuLoon’s haunting home-style bean curd, the entire ‘Wok Baked’ series, and the bottomless pitchers of soothing H20.