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You can order many glorious things at a good Hunan restaurant, but the sine qua non is doubtless the fish head. This is the signature Hunan dish, and it's big and shareable and insanely tasty. It's also both an Instagram favorite and an enjoyable way to unsettle any less-than-adventurous members of your dinner party. What you get is a fish head in a bowl — and what a fish head it is. At Hunan Mao, a bustling restaurant in yet another food-intensive strip mall in the San Gabriel Valley, the fish head will be presented to you as the gift that it is, in a very large and pretty bowl, covered with a collage of diced chiles, intensely fragrant with sesame oil and copious bits of peppermint. You'll need to deconstruct your fish head: Just stack the bits of bone on a plate and keep working. The bowl of rice and repeating pots of tea should tame the heat of the chiles, which isn't really fire as much as the happy Novocaine of Sichuan cooking. If you order the house-smoked ham, which you absolutely should, you can take a break from fish work. And even if you manage to consume the whole fish (eyeballs included, please), be sure to take the last ladlefuls of broth home. It makes a terrific sauce for noodles. —Amy Scattergood

8728 Valley Blvd., #101, Rosemead, 91770. (626) 280-0588, no website.

LA Weekly