03 September 2007

Burn Baby Burn

Sometimes I can be a glutton for punishment. On one of the hottest days of summer, I couldn't resist the siren call of a Sichuan restaurant that my cousin, C.P., mention to me the day before, so I drove out to Monterey Park to meet her for there lunch.

One of the joys of Los Angeles, and there are nice things about living here even though I rail about the traffic daily to friends, is that not only can you get good Chinese food, but you can also get very specific, very authentic, good Chinese food: Cantonese, Hunan, Shanghainese etc....

Sichuan cusine is all about heat. It's a given the food will be fiery hot, either rolling with chili peppers, smothered in chili oil, or doused with chili flakes; and many times it has all three of these elements working over the meat, seafood, vegetable, or tofu.

So let the fireworks begin—Boiled Fish Slices in Hot Sauce or #1 on the menu. More precisely, it's fish fillets atop a bed, or mound since it's a huge serving bowl, of Napa Cabbage buried in garlicky hot sauce and topped with more dried, pepper flakes and cilantro. This is a classic Sichuan dish according to C.P. who was told by a classmate who's from China and appears to be in the know. The white fish was light and delicate in texture, but made bold in flavor by the chili oil and garlic. I was swooning from it's heady heat—fantastic.

Dish #2 for C.P. and I and dish #8 on the menu, Fried Chicken Cubes with Hot Pepper. The lightly breaded and fried chicken was a nice change of texture for me during lunch when our other dishes were braised or boiled. The chicken was light and crisp, and I pop these bits in my mouth between helpings of other dishes as a palate cleanser. My only comment is that I wished more of the chicken pieces were in bigger cubes so I could taste more of the meat with the coating—more popcorn size vs. broken kernels at the bottom of the bag.

Our dish #3 isn't on the menu, but you can order it anyway (and many customers do)—Eggplant braised in Chili Sauce. This dish had a wonderful acidity to it that cut through the heat and oil. Not being in the kitchen to see, I'm going to guess the eggplant got a good hit of thick black vinegar in its sauce.. This and the boiled fish were my two favorites on the table.

Our fourth and final dish was the Homely Bean Curd, or #80 on the menu. It was the least spicy of all the dishes even thought it was big bowl of tofu in garlic and chili sauce. It was certainly tasty, but didn't meet the high bar of stimulating heat and flavor set by the fish and eggplant earlier. I doubt I would order it again on another visit.

And I do plan on coming again. There's something wonderfully intoxicating about hot 'n spicy foods. It a stirring mix of pleasure and pain that leaves you begging for more; it's food you can not only taste, but also feel. Like the sensation of a lustful kiss that still linger after mouths have parted, your lips still tingling from the memory of the hotness that pass through them minutes before.

If you can take the heat and want to feel the burn, then try Chung King Restaurant. They make it hot 'til it hurts so good.

Chung King Restaurant
206 South Garfield Ave.
Monterey Park, CA 91754
Phone: (626) 280-7430

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Anonymous henrychan said...

hi blue plate,

Awesome that you like chung king too! I love Chung King. Last time I went, I ordered the Mabo Tofu and it kicked my butt. Szechuan peppercorns are punishing. my tongue was sooo numb, my ice water even tasted different. I have to order the fish and the eggplant next time. Thanks for the tips :)

9/04/2007 1:57 PM  
Blogger Blue Plate said...

Totally, Chung King rocks--you gotta love the hot stuff! : )

I'll have to try the Mabo Tofu the next time I'm there. The tofu dish I got was good, but I want to try other things.

9/10/2007 2:44 PM  

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