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7: Water-Boiled Fish at Chung King

water-boiled fish at Chung King
water-boiled fish at Chung King
A. Scattergood

Celebrating this year's Best of L.A. issue -- now out in print and online -- we're counting down, in no particular order, 100 of our favorite dishes.

7. Water-Boiled Fish at Chung King.

There are many excellent reasons to head down San Gabriel Blvd., although maybe not if you're former U.S. Commerce Secretary John Bryson. Probably the best reason of all is to eat at Chung King, the much-lauded Sichuan restaurant that looks more like a tiny laundromat than it does the best Sichuan restaurant in America, at least according to a recent somewhat emotional -- who knew "tonguegasm" was a word -- story in The New York Times.

You may or may not agree with that accolade, but I'm certainly not arguing against it, having last year eaten at Chung King roughly eighteen times over a 6-week period, or the duration of a severe cold when the only thing that tasted good, or really tasted at all, was the Sichuan peppercorn and chile-laced cuisine dosed out at this particular restaurant.

Of all the many glorious things on the menu, possibly the best is the bowl of steady fire that comes when you order the water-boiled fish. I've asked about the particulars -- what kind of fish, how is it prepared -- but invariably get the same response of a shrug and a smile. Which is probably the best answer anyway, since you want to eat this as soon as possible, not deconstruct it; the menu is not written by Michel Foucault, for which we are grateful. (One wonders what he'd have thought of "tonguegasm.")

And enjoy it you will, with or without The New York Times Magazine, with or without a severe headcold. The bowl will come to you looking midsize, at least until you try eating it all, at which point it will seem happily bottomless. The bright oily broth is fired with whole dried chiles and an ungodly amount of Sichuan peppercorns; the pieces of white fish are tender and utterly moist. Sprinkled over the top of the dish you'll find an enormous amount of chopped garlic and a goodly dose of fresh cilantro. Order a bowl of rice and ladle the contents of the bowl over spoonfuls of it, then sit back and wait for the heat to accumulate.

It's a pleasantly numbing floral heat rather than the incendiary fire of other quadrants of the Scoville scale, so you should be able to make it to the bottom of the bowl without too much trouble. Order another pot of tea. Read your paper.

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97: Tsukemen at Tsujita L.A.

96: La Cevicheria's Bloody Clam Ceviche

95: Duck Shawarma at Momed

94: Peruvian Chicken at Pollo a la Brasa

93: Squash Blossom Quesadilla at Antojitos Carmen

92: Thai Boat Noodles at Pa-Ord

91: Baco Mercat's Bazole

90: Furikake Kettle Corn at A-Frame

89: Live Santa Barbara Spot Prawns at Providence

88: Fried Pig Tails at Night + Market

87: Egg Salad Sandwich at Euro Pane

86: Galbi Jjim at Soban

85: Truffle Honey-Laced Fried Chicken at Manhattan Beach Post

84: Mool Naeng Myun at Yu Chic Naeng Myun

83: Chicken Vampiro at Mexicali Taco & Co

82: Sooo Cali Dog at Dog Haus

81: White Anchovy, Tomato and Fresno Chile Pizza at Pizzeria Mozza

80: Shu Mai at Elite Restaurant

79: Tandoori Chicken at Al-Watan

78: Chocolate Bread and Butter Pudding at The Hungry Cat

77: Agedashi Tofu at Izakaya Bincho

76: Pork Chop at Salt's Cure

75: Porcetto at Sotto

74: The Sea Urchin Tostada at La Guerrerense

73: Wood-Roasted English Peas at Tar & Roses

72: Persian Mulberries at Weiser Family Farms

71: Hunan-Style Preserved Pork with Tofu at Hunan Chilli King

70: Brisket Banh Mi at Gjelina Take Away

69: Yukhwe Bibimbap at Oo-Kook Korean BBQ

68: Lamb Pie at Beijing Pie House

67: Son of a Gun's Uni and Burrata

66: Pastrami Reuben at Art's Delicatessen

65: Beef Koobideh at Kabab Mahaleh

64: The Whipper Burger at Hawkins House of Burgers

63: Slippery Shrimp at Yang Chow

62: Whole Channel Island Red Sea Urchin at Water Grill

61: Going Dutch Panini at Bread Lounge

60: Huckleberry's Green Eggs & Ham

59: Pickled Watermelon Salad at L&E Oyster Bar

58: Spaghettini with Abalone, Pickled Cod Roe and Truffles at n/naka

57: Brown Brown Bread Ice Cream at Scoops Westside

56: Smothered Chicken at R and R Soul Food

55: Duck Fried Rice at Jar

54: Taco Sampler at Guisados

53: The Sycamore Kitchen's Double BLT-A Sandwich

52: House Wonton Soup at China Cafe

51: Almond Croissant at Proof Bakery

50: The Southern Fry at Plan Check Kitchen + Bar

49: The Dodger Dog at Dodger Stadium

48: Papaya Salad at Krua Siri

47: Lucky Baldwins' Traditional Full English Breakfast

46: Edomae Tendon Bowl at Hannosuke

45: The Pescado Zarandeado at Coni'Seafood

44: Hot Wings at Beer Belly

43: Raw Kale Salad at Elf Cafe

42: Steak Tartare Tacos at MessHall

41: Banh Mi at Buu Dien

40: Sicilian Slice at Pizzanista

39: Grilled Baby Goat T-bone at Mozza's Scuola di Pizza Salumi Bar

38: Papri Chaat at Jay Bharat

37: The Island Combo at TiGeorges' Chicken

36: Tacos Al Pastor at Tacos Leo

35: "Sandwich" at Roma Italian Deli

34: Bossam at Kobawoo House

33: Cauliflower T-Bone at Superba Snack Bar

32: Pupusa Revuelta at Atlacatl

31: Bonjiri Yakitori at Kokekokko

30: Crispy Pork with Morning Glory at Crispy Pork Gang & Grill

29: Sashimi Special at Sushi Gen

28: Tamal de Mole Negro at Guelaguetza

27: The Hickoryburger at Apple Pan

26: Lobster Thermidor at Musso & Frank's

25: Poached Pear Coupe at Tavern

24: Coconut Bavarois at Red Medicine

23: The Tasting Kitchen's Pork Rillettes

22: Beef Ribs at Bludso's BBQ

21: Anson Mills Grits & Eggs at Milo & Olive

20: Lamb Dip at Philippe the Original

19: Salsa de Chorizo Con Cesina at Gish Bac

18: Matsuhisa's Yellowtail Scallion Donburi

17: Green Curry Mussels at Jitlada

16: Creamy Pumpkin Soup at BierBeisl

15: Fish Taco from Ricky's Fish Tacos

14: Spago's Baked Jonagold Apple

13: Rivera's Tortillas Florales

12: Kalbi at Soot Bull Jeep

11: Sugar and Spice Beignets at Hatfield's

10: Ceviche Mixto at Mo-Chica

9: Pastrami on Rye at Langer's Delicatessen

8: Smoked Salmon with Mango at Kiriko


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Chung King

1000 S. San Gabriel Blvd.
San Gabriel, CA 91776

626-286-0298


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