Of course Chung King’s sign is red to match their chile-fueled food.
Chung King has long been known in the San Gabriel Valley for its mouth-numbing Sichuan food. Thanks to a Jonathan Gold review, I first tangled with Chung King several years ago at the Monterey Park original, and the spice level had me mopping my brow and begging for relief that never arrived. Round Two in San Gabriel with Mattatouille, Pat from Eating LA and other friends wasn’t nearly as spicy as I remembered. Pat was downright disappointed that Chung King skimped on the spice, but for my taste, that led to a more enjoyable dining experience.
Chung King’s menu features 137 different dishes. Szechwan Flavors Cold Dishes reside behind a display case in front of the kitchen. The fairly boring-looking space hosts booths and larger tables with lazy Susans. Forget passing to the left. Just spin to win.
Fried Chicken Cubes with Hot Pepper ($8.99) looked intimidating since the dark meat cubes were buried in scallions and flame-red bird’s eye chilies, which are several times more pungent than the jalapeño on the Scoville scale, but still way less devastating than the jalapeño. I wasn’t in the mood to set any spice records, and these chilies imparted more than enough flavor to the juicy yardbird.
Sautéed String Green Bean ($6.99) seemed like a tame choice, but they turned out to be terrific, flavored with onion bits, garlic and crumbled pork.
Chung King’s offerings can get pretty wild, including sheets of pig kidney ($8.99) that were scored to allow for a flavor infusion from the shower of scallions and multi-colored pickled peppers.
Boiled Fish Slices in Hot Sauce ($8.99) consisted of luscious halibut fillets submerged in a lip-stinging chile sauce and topped with a hidden cache of scallions and pungent minced garlic.
Sheets of Chinese Bacon ($9.99) were smoky and salty, almost like a Southern-style country ham, tossed with crunchy turnips and a liberal helping of scallions and leeks.
We finished with the most ferocious dish of the night: Beef with Tofu in Small Pot ($10.99), loaded with creamy white sheets of tofu, thin strips of beef, crunchy vegetables like cabbage, and of course plenty of chilies. In this case, the chilies completely permeated the broth. There was no way to sidestep the pods, which is possible in a dry dish.
Chung King may no longer be as menacing as it was in the early Oughts, but that’s fine by me.
March 7, 2014 at 2:03 PM
I love Chung King, but have never tried any of their hot pots. I will have to change that. Yum!
March 7, 2014 at 3:05 PM
Julie, don’t miss Chung King’s hot pot the next time you go. Also, there’s a nearby restaurant that specializes in hot pots, called, you guessed it, Hot Pot Hot Pot.
Kung Food Panda
September 7, 2009 at 11:18 AM
I agree with the review, but if you’re looking for spicy, my 2 go to spots are: Yunchan Garden in MPK and one in San Gabriel, as well as my personal favorite, Hunan Chilli King (also 2 locations). Let me know if you’d like to check it out one day 🙂
September 7, 2009 at 11:31 AM
Let’s check out Yunchan Garden soon. I’ve eaten at Hengyang Chilli King in Monterey Park and liked the food, but the flavors were similar. It was basically a shower of yellow chilies and scallions on all three dishes. Is Hunan Chilli King better?
September 7, 2009 at 10:07 AM
Mmmm…I’d go just for the sheets of Chinese bacon. 🙂