Chinese Food: Hot Box

The San Gabriel Valley gives Little India a run for its money when it comes to mouth-puckering heat. Here are the area’s fieriest dishes, in descending order of spiciness

Toss-fried Lamb
Hunan Style Restaurant, 529 E. Valley Blvd., Ste. 108A, San Gabriel, 626-288-0758
Soft curls of meat are cloaked in a multilayered quartet of chilies—dried whole, flaked in oil, freshly diced, and pickled. The chilies glow red and green like Christmas lights, but there’s nothing innocent about the flavor.

Fried Spicy Chicken
New Chong Qing, 120 N. San Gabriel Blvd., Ste. J, San Gabriel, 626-309-0836
These fried chicken cubelets are as crunchy as chicharones. Your chopsticks will have no problem liberating the meat from its inch-deep bed of whole dry-fried chilies, but there’s no escaping their impact—the meat has absorbed the kick. 

Sour Special Spicy beef rice noodle soup
Gui Lin Cuisine, 138C E. Garvey Ave., Monterey Park, 626-280-9818
Vinegar amps up the heat in the rice noodle soups of Guilin, a city that takes its culinary cues from the Hunan and Guangdong provinces. This version does the specialty proud. The broth, imbued with mala, blends the tingle of Szechuan peppercorns with capsicum’s blaze. 

Boiled Sliced Fish
Xiang Wei Lou, 227 W. Valley Blvd., Ste. 118A, San Gabriel, 626-289-2276
Who would have thought such a mild-sounding dish could pack such a wallop? The broth in which the fish is served simmers with aromatics, from sliced dried chilies to a capsaicin-laced oil that sends taste buds into the stratosphere.

Wontons Tossed with Chili Sauce
Yunnan Garden, 545 W. Las Tunas Dr., San Gabriel, 626-308-1896
Prepared any other way, these would simply be great house-made wontons. But with a temperature-raising sauce—swimming with crushed dried chilies and subtly accented with Szechuan pepper—they’re volcanic.

Photograph by Alex Farnum