Hunan Chilli King Deals Out Pain

I’d like to quote Russell Peters and warn anyone thinking of going to Hunan Chilli King that “somebody’s gonna get-a-hurt real bad.”  Walking in, it’s easy to see that the restaurant specializes in one thing: oily, garlicky pain.  Just take a look around and notice all the chilli-peppers decorating the walls and columns. It’s a warning from the old days when people used to put their enemies’ heads on a spear and use it to warn off other potential enemies.  It says, “don’t even bother sitting down if you have any doubts about eating spicy food.” Seriously, if you think a regular spicy tuna roll is too spicy, keep on driving.

Whenever I go to a new restaurant, I like to look around and see what other people are eating. This is difficult at Hunan Chilli King because most of their dishes look the same: garlicky, red, and spicy.  Luckily, one of my dining companions had come here before and could suggest a few dishes.

Hunan Chilli King

My favorite dish of the night was the stir fried sliced lamb. Each bite of lamb was thinly sliced with a good ratio of meat to fat.  The peppers and garlic made this dish extra exciting because each mouthful hurt, but oh, it hurt so bad. Normally, I’d complain that there’s way too many peppers compared to the pieces of meat, but it actually worked in this dish because some of the peppers were mild enough to chew on. But since it’s hard to tell which ones are heat-bombs and which ones are mild, tread lightly.

Hunan Chilli King

We also ordered another meat dish, but with chicken instead of lamb.  On hindsight, I’m not sure we should have ordered something that was so much like the last dish save for the protein substitution, but now I can confidently write that if you don’t like the taste of lamb, this chicken dish will get you the same spices without any of the gamey taste. The chicken stir fry also came with the addition of pickled long beans, which were deliciously salty and crunchy.

Hunan Chilli King

The menu at Hunan Chilli King is not the most vegetarian-friendly, but the two vegetarians of our four person group didn’t go starving.  As long as someone in your party can speak Mandarin, you should be able to get (supposedly) vegetarian dishes. For the vegetarians who eat egg, there’s the ubiquitous chives (or is it Chinese leeks?) and scrambled eggs.  Since the BF doesn’t eat eggs, the waitress was nice enough to replace the eggs with nagaimo yam.  I’ve never had this variation of the dish before, but thought it was a great idea.  I liked the slimy, crisp texture of the yam in combination with the pungent flavor of the chives, but this may not be for people who get thrown off by strange textures.  I returned to this dish several times during the night to give my mouth a break from the heat.

Hunan Chilli King

We also ordered a sliced baked tofu stir-fry type dish with bean sprouts, chinese celery, and peppers. It tasted good and had plenty of heat, so I was glad that the kitchen wasn’t skimping on putting peppers in the vegetarian plates.  I’d like the ability to conjure this dish out of thin air to combat those people who say they hate tofu because it’s bland and tasteless because this dish was certainly not.

Hunan Chilli King

My favorite vegetarian plate of the night was the home-style fried tofu.  The tofu was crispy and savory with sauce on the outside, but soft and almost silky on the inside — what a perfect combination.  This dish wasn’t as spicy as the others, but maybe it was because the soy-based sauce was more on the sweet side than anything else we ordered.

Hunan Chilli King is a good change of pace for anyone who wants spicy Chinese food but is getting tired of Chung King.  This place doesn’t use any numbing peppercorns, so it’s certainly for those who are fans of straight spicy food.  I downed a cup of the ubiquitous Chinese yogurt drink while eating at this restaurant, but even that didn’t save my stomach the next day, but it was worth it.

Hunan Chilli King
[map]
534 E Valley Blvd
Unit 2 & 3
San Gabriel, CA 91776
(626) 288-7993

Shojin (Take 2)

I returned to vegan restaurant Shojin last week to give it another try. The last time I went, they were still green from being newly opened so I wasn’t blown away by anything.  I also thought that the prices were too high for what we got. This time, we took a different approach and ordered different dishes. I don’t remember if it’s because they just weren’t on the menu before, or if we just didn’t order it, but I enjoyed my food more this time than the last.

Shojin in Little Tokyo

I ordered a caterpillar roll as my main course. While I was bummed that they didn’t have regular white rice for their rolls, I really wanted to try what a vegan caterpillar roll tasted like, so I ordered it anyway.  The seitan inside was cooked to a good softness, the sauce was a little sweet, a little salty, but most importantly, the rice was pretty good as far as brown-rice sushi goes.  It was soft and sticky and didn’t taste too health-foodish. The roll isn’t even on the same level as a regular caterpillar roll with real fish, but it was good for a vegan roll.

Shojin in Little Tokyo

Next, I had a bite of the pumpkin croquette, which was just mediocre.  It’s a bit disappointing when something battered and fried isn’t delicious.  It just didn’t taste that good, so I suggest skipping this dish.

Shojin in Little Tokyo

In contrast, the avocado tempura with mixed greens salad was much better. The avocado was still warm and crispy from the fryer.  The texture of the crunchy batter outside and the warm, soft, rich avocado inside was perfect.  The salad wasn’t too bad either.

Shojin in Little Tokyo

The BF ordered the cold sesame seitan soba, which he was pleased with.  The cold broth was certainly flavorful and strong with a sesame taste.  The seitan was also cooked well and soaked up the flavors from the broth.  The soba isn’t anything to write home about, but at least it wasn’t overcooked.

Shojin in Little Tokyo

For dessert, we ordered the crepe with strawberries and tofu chocolate cream and a scoop of rum raisin ice cream.  The crepe was soft and soggy, but the chocolate cream was decent because it wasn’t too sweet.  The raisin ice cream was also a hit even though I don’t like raisin.

Shojin in Little Tokyo

We also ordered the peach parfait which comes with fresh peaches, peach jelly, peach ice-cream, and granola.  The peach ice-cream was a little too icy, even for my tastes.  The peach jelly was okay, but a strange addition to the parfait.  The fresh peaches were too hard and kind of flavorless especially compared to the jelly.

It seemed like this time, we had the opposite experience as last time. I was much more pleased with my entree than I was with dessert.  Maybe it’s just me, but I still think the restaurant is expensive for what it serves. The soba dish was $11 and it wasn’t even that big of a serving.  Even though I enjoyed this visit more, Shojin is still delegated to a place to dine at only when we get a serious hankering for vegan Japanese food that I can’t make at home.

Shojin
333 S. Alameda St. Suite 310
(Little Tokyo Shopping Center 3F)
Los Angeles, CA 90013
Tel: 213-617-0305