While covering the food news last week, I had to skip a rather interesting article from the NY Times. The reason why no one in LA picked it up is probably because the title mentioned nothing of the San Gabriel Valley, and the piece mentioned nothing of Jonathan Gold. The fun, foodie-esque article wasn’t even in the NY Times food section because it was printed on the Sunday NY Times magazine. Without Fuscia Dunlop’s tweet, I would’ve missed it as well. Nathaniel Rich titled his essay “In Search of the Tonguegasm” and mentioned only two restaurants, and only one of which isn’t part of a China state-owned conglomerate.

Mr. Rich described his last visit to L.A. after becoming obsessed with Sichuan food. He “lost control”, much like Editor Scattergood on a typical cold L.A. fall Wednesday, and went ape shit on Chung King’s menu, ordering six (or was it seven, I’ve become rather bad at counting) dishes during one single meal, presumably for himself. Near the end, he describes the deli counter Angeleno Sichuan/Hunanese lovers have become so accustomed to.

In Search of the Tonguegasm. [NY Times Magazine]

================================

Which segues to this little dish:

This is Yun Kun Garden’s weekend deli counter special. It’s a “ma la” braised beef (server called it tendon, but it seems to be more shank) cold dish which consists of nothing but julienned beef, spicy chili oil, a splash of vinegar, and copious Sichuan peppercorn. Despite the fact the mala beef is taken from the deli cold trays, don’t think of it as appetizers. It can be eaten as apps, but it can also serve as a main. Is it brilliant? Sorta. Is it authentic Yunnan Provincial food? Probably more Sichuan. Is it filling as heck? Yes, it’s over half a pound of beef. Does it reheat? Not necessary, but it holds in the fridge for days. Is it better than nearly every single banchan I’ve ever had in a Ktown restaurant? Hell yes. It’s also nearly as good as nem chua with beer.

This here then, is the most versatile dish of an undesired cut of beef for $5.50. It can go on top of dry noodles, it can be eaten on rice, under rice, in between rice’s legs, inside a Chinese taco, chopped up as stuffing for onigiri (though why would you waste that spicy taste?), paired with liquor. It will not, however, pair with wine. Then again Hunanese/Sichuan/Yunnan cuisine is simply not meant to be paired with wine, I don’t care how crisp that riesling may be.

Mr. Rich, if you make it again to Los Angeles in the near future, please drop by Yun Kun / Yun Chuan for that taste of ambiguous Yunnanese/Sichuanese cooking. Fuscia would probably approve.

Yun Chuan / Yun Kun Garden
301 N Garfield Ave
Monterey Park, CA 91754
Yun Chuan Garden on Urbanspoon

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  • Bigmouth

    I was rather disappointed by my meal at Chung King. The food was gritty because the chef used the peppercorn seeds. The only dish of note was the spicy fried chicken, which was more moist than other places I’ve tried. I much prefer Yunnan Garden and even the original Chung King location.

    I’m a little mystified, though, why Rich felt compelled to make a pilgrimage to the SGV as NYC has a thriving Sichuan scene. Szechuan Gourmet in Manhattan and Spicy and Tasty in Flushing are on par with anything I’ve experienced so far in the SGV. Haven’t tried Xiang Wei Lou yet, though.

  • sinosoul

    Flushing’s Hunan/Sichuan scene developed much earlier than LA’s. I clearly remember an abundance of spicy options as early as 2001. There was a new Sichuan place that opened in ’02 on 37th which I thought was rather fantastic. They did a killer Chengdu dumpling and today, that remains my fave dumpling dish in all of Chinese cuisine. (135-15 37th Ave, Flushing Szechuan Gourmet, still there!).

    It’s no mystery; the visit to SGV, and specifically to Chung King, has to be attributed to JGold. FWIW, the writer of the NYT piece is from NoLA.

  • Bigmouth

    My point, though, is it’s not just Flushing. Manhattan has a bunch of good-to-great Sichuan places, too. You can get authentic Sichuan in places as gringofied as Chelsea and the Upper East and West Sides. That’s like finding great Sichuan in West Hollywood or anywhere on the Westside of LA, lol.


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