If you've frequented Chinese restaurants in the San Gabriel Valley, you've perhaps noticed a menu item intriguingly translated as Spicy on Spicy or Spicy With Spicy. Maybe you've wondered exactly what it is.
The dish is made up of ground pork seasoned with pepper, which is then topped with a variety of peppers and pepper flakes and then doused with chili oil. The variety of peppers give it a great pepper-on-pepper action as well as its translated name. And as the name suggests, this is a seriously spicy dish.
In the not-too-distant past, the item could be found at several restaurants in the SGV, but lately it has disappeared from menus. As with all things spicy, the first places to check are restaurants specializing in Sichuan and Hunan style cuisine. Even then, we found it on the current menus of only two restaurants, which feature differing versions.
Yunkun Garden in Monterey Park is a restaurant that has changed names several times without changing its basic menu or approach. Finding the dish on the 183-item menu can prove difficult, but it's there: under pork, #114 Spicy w/ Spicy. A heaping plate of ground pork arrives, with julienned and cubed tofu, scallions and at least two varieties of sliced and diced green peppers. These peppers are aided and abetted by dried red peppers and pepper flakes. The use of tofu in meat dishes often is viewed as filler, but you're not being shortchanged on the pork here. Despite the waitress's warning and a menu touting it as a three-pepper item — meaning “very spicy” — this item is spicy, but not that hot. Instead, it's a slow burn, the pork featuring an initial black pepper burst that fades into a red pepper surge. Perhaps we were served a toned-down version, as we've had far spicier dishes here with only two peppers alongside their menu entry.
At Hunan Seafood in Rosemead, the dish appears on the menu as Hot on Spicy. Hunan cuisine forsakes the numbing peppercorns of Sichuan, resulting in an unrelenting wave after wave of heat, a veritable pepper onslaught. Hunan Seafood's version features liberal use of leeks and black beans mingled among the peppers, ground pork and more peppers, all drenched with chili oil. This is a seriously hot dish that is only for the most hard-core spicehounds. Did we mention peppers? We definitely did not receive a toned-down version at Hunan, something for which we've never been more simultaneously grateful and regretful. While the flavors were stunning, so was the heat. We were left wondering exactly where on the Scoville scale Hot on Spicy fell. We also came away wondering what Hunan's policy is on BYOD, as milk is the one thing that could counteract the capsaicin overload. We loved it anyway.
Follow Jim Thurman on Twitter @JThur01.