Fried rice is a staple item on Chinese restaurant menus. From Americanized Chinese places to some of the most acclaimed eating spots in the San Gabriel Valley, it can be found in versions ranging from the most basic form to chef-driven fusions at noted restaurants. Our recent 10 Best Fried Rice Dishes in Los Angeles provides a great overview of worthy variations, but to find arguably the most unique version – one made with a special liquor-fermented pepper paste – you’ll have to head to a one-of-a-kind restaurant in the City of Industry.
Taste Guizhou is the only restaurant in the SGV that serves cuisine from Guizhou province, a rural, landlocked region in southwestern China. Food from Guizhou is known for combining the spiciness of hot peppers – minus the mouth-numbing ma la of its neighbor, Sichuan – with the sourness of vinegar, much like Shaanxi province. Guizhou also is known for being the home of Moutai, the most famous brand of baijiu. If you’re not familiar with it, baijiu is a clear Chinese grain liquor, usually made from fermented sorghum. It’s pretty potent, with an alcohol content of 50% to 60% — not unlike moonshine.
Somewhere along the line, someone in Guizhou came up with the idea to take the local baijiu and combine it with garlic, ginger and salt to make a hot pepper paste. The end result is known as zao lajiao. Zao lajiao is used as a seasoning in several Guizhou-style dishes, but there’s only one making use of it available at Taste Guizhou: the Guizhou fried rice. How does it taste? Initially there's a slight, almost citrusy tartness, which gives way to a burst of flavors and a spicy, peppery kick. A diced pimiento pepper provides yet another distinctive twist alongside the usual egg and scallion.
The restaurant has a small selection of other Guizhou-style items, including Guizhou’s signature sour soup and dishes made with flat, broad rice noodles on a menu otherwise filled with dishes from neighboring Sichuan and Hunan cuisine, as well as hot pots. If you don’t read or speak Chinese, finding and ordering the boozy, baijiu-laced fried rice can be an adventure, so show your waiter the photo, ask for it by name (zao lajiao) or pull up the Chinese characters on your phone and show your server. It’s worth it for a fried rice that is unlike any other.
Taste Guizhou, 17919 E. Gale Ave., City of Industry; (626) 839-9980.