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On what must have been my thirtieth or fortieth visit to Chung King, the redoubt of ma po doufu, smoked chicken leg and house-smoked Chinese bacon stir-fried with fresh chiles, I was introduced to a new dish, beef in small pot. Or rather, the dish wasn't new - it had been on the menu since the restaurant opened at its original location in Monterey Park several years ago - but in the rush to eat as much water-boiled fish, bean curd sheet with pickle and salt-and-pepper pork chop as humanly possible, I had merely overlooked the thing, a dense, oily concoction of beef, garlic, and an ungodly quantity of heat-bearing plants, an alluring mess of purest umami. Chung King is still the best place in the San Gabriel Valley to taste Sichuan cooking: sizzling with four or five different kinds of chiles, vibrating with the flavors of extreme fermentation and smacked with the cooling, numbing sensation of Sichuan peppercorns, lies halfway between dentist's-chair Novocain and the last time you could afford a lot of blow, food that leaves you exhausted, narcotized and happy, drenched in foul, garlic-laced sweat. The deli case filled with chile-marinated pigs' ears and blisteringly hot tripe is worth a drive alone. If Chuck Jones had ever decided to draw something spicy for the coyote to injure himself with, it probably would have looked a lot like Chung King's fried chicken with hot peppers, a knoll of crunchy dark-meat cubes subsumed under a blizzard of dried chiles that are the red of silk pajamas, the red of firecrackers, the red of the Chinese flag.

Restaurant Details

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Price: $
Payment Type: cash

Parking: Lot Available


Reservations: Accepted

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