Tiger Skin Peppers from Hunan Mao

A lot has been said about recent San Gabriel Valley spicy restaurant darling Hunan Mao. This Valley boulevard restaurant, not to be confused with its old incarnation a few doors east, is all new and modern looking, but still carries the familiar flavor of Hunanese cooking.

Tipped off by my friend Jason, we ordered the tiger skin peppers dish as part of dinner and was blown away by how delicious it was. On paper, the dish sounds ordinary: spicy green peppers blackened in a pan and stir fried with garlic and black bean sauce and then hit with a splash of vinegar.  This is truly a dish that’s greater than a sum of its parts.  The balance of sour, spicy, and that savory charred green pepper skin made it easy to polish the entire dish off.

Tiger skin peppers from Hunan Mao

Hunan Mao
8728 Valley Blvd
Ste 101
Rosemead, CA 91770
(626) 280-0588

Spicy City

Spicy City opened up semi-recently in The Great Mall of China aka 99 Ranch Plaza on the corner of Del Mar and Valley.  I  believe it took the place of a fairly old Taiwanese o ah mi sua (oyster vermicelli) restaurant.   Will and I visited for a spur of the moment lunch this weekend and were less than impressed.

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The typical cold appetizer 3-way combo was at the back of the restaurant.  You may need to flag someone down to help dish the stuff up, but luckily it’s close to the kitchen and cashier, so there’s always someone who can help.  I got the cold bamboo, brined string beans, and fried tofu.  The overwhelming flavor of all three was salt, but they had some differences. The string beans were crispy and savory, just what I expected. The tofu had an interesting chewy and dry texture. I wonder if this is the vegetarian equivalent of the dry sliced beef that’s usually at the cold plates table.  The bamboo would have been better if it were not so salty.

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Will ordered the cold Szechuan noodle, which was a surprisingly large bowl of noodles.  The undissolved sugar crystals added an interesting crunch to each bite, but the entire bowl was tipping heavily toward the over-salted side.  He liked that the noodles were chewy, but thought that they were dangerously close to being chewy in an underdone kind of way.

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I ordered the crossing bridge noodles. What?! Yes, that’s what I said. Crossing Bridge Noodles is more of a Yunnan specialty, why would I be ordering it at a Szechuan restaurant? Normally, I wouldn’t, but considering the first page of their menu was dedicated to this humble bowl of noodles in chicken broth, I just had to try it.  I did and it was okay.  There wasn’t anything wrong with the bowl. The waitress brought it out in the usual style, with the soup, noodles, and toppings separate, to be mixed together at the table.  The chicken was tender and flavorful, the soup was not too heavy on msg, the rice noodles were plenty, but something was missing. I was expecting some flavorful slices of ham or smoked pork in there, and instead I had some flavorless slices of pork.

Spicy City was not technically bad, but I wouldn’t get off the freeway for the sole purpose of visiting this city.  If one were already in the area and wanted something spicy, maybe. But in the Great Mall of China, where the options are plenty, I’d say this place is skippable based on the stuff that I’ve had. Still, I’m glad I went here, if only so I can stop wondering if this place was any good. Now I know if I want this type of food, I should just go to Lucky Noodle King down the street.

Spicy City
140 W Valley Blvd
Ste 208
San Gabriel, CA 91776
(626) 280-0186

Lucky Noodle King


In the now defunct Ding’s Garden is a new restaurant joining the mouth-numbing spice craze.  Upon stepping into this new restaurant whose English name only shares the word “noodle” with its Chinese moniker, customers are greeted with a smiling of Chairman Mao and two other important looking Chinese men.  With a glance around at the photographs of menu items on the wall, it’s easy to see that Lucky Noodle King specializes in not just noodles, but also spice.


Will, in his never-ending quest for dan dan mian ordered a bowl of that, extra spicy.  According to him, the quality of Lucky Noodle King’s dan dan mian is almost on par with that of the highly esteemed No. 1 Noodle House.  When I had a taste of it, I noticed a striking garlicky taste followed by the velvety richness of sesame paste and the stinging pain of the chili pepper paste. It’s not a bad way to go if you’re a fan of that dish.


Considering the place has ‘noodle’ in its name, I also ordered a noodle dish: beef rib noodle soup.  When the bowl came, I knew I was in for some pain.  The slow-cooked beef was red, but nothing like the almost glowing red of the chili oil floating in a threatening layer on top of my broth.  The beef itself was a little dry in spots, but still managed to fall off the bone with minimal prodding with a chopstick.  The noodles were doing their terrifying job of sopping up some broth before entering the slick layer of chili oil as I fished them out of the bowl.  It wasn’t until I was halfway done with the bowl and had consumed most of the chili oil thanks to those noodles that I was able to taste the actual broth. It was pleasantly salty but not that beefy.  The lao ban niang claimed the broth was made in house.


Will and I also ordered their seasonal green vegetable which happened to be A-cai, a type of Taiwanese lettuce, at the time.  It was ordered mostly as a nice break from mouth-searing pain.  The vegetables were nice and crispy, a little oily, and almost a little too salty, but they did provide the much-needed breather.

While I’ll miss Ding’s Garden and their comfort-food-tasting fishball noodle soup, it’s nice to have yet another place to go where I end up almost in tears with sweat dripping down my forehead and beading my nose.  I’m already planning on what dishes to try when I go back.  The mixed hot pot is definitely on my list if I can rope some more meat-eating friends into coming.

Lucky Noodle King (天府之家 川菜面)
534 E Valley Blvd
Ste 10
San Gabriel, CA 91776
(626) 573-5668