Hunan is a landlocked province in South Central China. Its cuisine, with liberal use of game, funghi, cured meats and fresh chili peppers, is considered one of China's Great Eight culinary traditions. In the last four years, Hunanese cuisine made tremendous strides in the San Gabriel Valley. Some facts about this food: With its "dry heat" flavor profile, Hunanese is considered the spiciest food of the Great Eight. Chairman Mao was Hunanese. Among his fave dishes were the "Red Braised Pork," and "Home-Style Tofu." General Tso's chicken was invented in the 1950s by a Hunanese-Taiwanese who immigrated to New York in 1973. You can find "traditional" Hunanese dishes at the following SGV restaurants.
1) Hunan Mao; 8728 Valley Blvd, Rosemead; 626-280-0588
Back in 2007, there were reports of this restaurant as a reincarnation of the much beloved Hunan's Restaurant in Alhambra, operated by Mr. Tony Huang. Jonathan Gold mentioned the great spicy steamed fish head casserole. Later on, Hunan's Seafood also added herbal (and spicy) DIY hot pots, available with all the usual fixings. Here, one can try many of Hunan's stellar dishes such as Mao's pork and stir fry Hunan ham. It is believed the owners uprooted again and sold Hunan Seafood late 2010, but this is one of the earlier arrivals of the current Hunanese invasion.
[Photo: Inside Hunan Seafood]
2) Hunan Chili King; 534 E Valley Blvd Unit 2 & 3, San Gabriel; 626-288-7993
Opened during the summer of 2008, HCK is widely known as the greasiest/spiciest of Hunan restaurants in San Gabriel Valley. The ownership attempted a second restaurant in Monterey Park (Hengyang Chili King), but did not find success. There are 170+ items in its absurdly large menu, but a dozen specialties are conveniently listed on the front page. Highlights: the nuclear "stir fried spicy sour," on choy stem with anchovies, steamed cured meats combination crock pot. Skip the unimpressive and oily beer duck. If you dare, go for the spicy stir fried spicy, but do remember drinking water doesn't help lower the Scovilles.
3) Xiang Wei Lou; 227 W Valley Blvd Ste 118A, San Gabriel; 626-289-2276
Hunanese chef, Hunanese proprietor. This is the David of the Hunanese offerings along Valley Blvd. There's only one round table with a lazy susan. The tiny space with the matching tiny rent offers a whole spicy steamed fish for only $9. A meal for two of said steamed fish, with a plate of mapo tofu, and spicy sour stir fried potato strings, only requires $25. Since the LA Times write-up, Xiang Wei Lou has maintained a steady customer of locals and Chinese visitors staying at the nearby Hilton who also find the offal selection (intestines, kidney, pork blood, etc.) enticing.
4) Yummy Hunan; 2541 Rosemead Blvd., S. El Monte; 626-401-0800
Over the course of a year, this location served as a revolving door for wannabe Vietnamese restaurateurs. Finally, around last May, the Chinese came and the Vietnamese left. Yummy's Chinese name translates to a famous lake in Hunan province (Dong Ting, the fourth largest lake in China) and it is the only Hunanese restaurant in the WSGV to have an English translated website. We don't know what this means, but the casserole/hot pot section alone is enticing: stinky tofu with braised ribs, Hunan-style intestine pot, pig's feet stew? In the sauté section, Hunanese cured pork is prominently featured, and lunch specials start at a ridiculously low $3.99.
·All Chinese Food Week 2011 Coverage [~ELA~]
— Tony Chen