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.
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