Tag Archives: spicy

Chili Garden: Not for the Faint Hearted

The best fried chicken that I have ever tasted is not a product of hearty Southern cooking — no, instead, it is a succulent and well-spiced gift from Chinese cuisine. Located on 212 Barber Court in Milpitas, California, the Chili Garden Restaurant offers a wide variety of meats and tofu prepared in a delicious blend of chili (among other Chinese dishes but these spicy dishes are what they are known for).

My favorite dish is the Chong Qing Chicken, named after major metropolitan city located in Southwest China. There are several aspects of this dish which make it my favorite fried chicken.

The intense spiciness: Often times, you’ll look around the restaurant, and you’ll see people devouring their spicy dishes while their eyes water and faces flush. The nuanced spiciness may be intense but also so incredibly delicious that it is hard to stop eating the chicken.

1. As you can see below, the dish arrives with just as many pieces of dried arbol chili peppers as there are pieces of fried chicken. However, interestingly enough, these arbol peppers (the skinny red ones which are visible in the pictures) are not the main contributors to the spice of the dish. The Chili Garden chefs remove the seeds, generally the focal points of spice in most peppers, prior to using the peppers in the dish. Thus, this first chili component is just a presentation device (and intimidation, for some).

The second spice component used in the dish is the Sichuan pepper (which technically belongs to the citrus plant family), the primary seasoning. Sichuan peppers have a very unique flavoring: they aren’t just blatantly hot like many other peppers but instead create a tingling and numbing sensation in your mouth. Additionally, there are citrus undertones to its spicy flavor. Sichuan peppers are much more concealed than their counterparts for they are barely visible (each is sightly larger than the tip of a pencil).

Chong Qing Chicken: Before

Chong Qing Chicken: Before

Chong Qing Chicken: After

2. The frying style: Chili Garden is able to make the dish especially crispy because it double fries the chicken without removing the skin. Additionally, they use peanut oil which is excellent for frying food because it has very high smoke point (meaning you can heat up the oil to a very high temperature without it starting to smoke). An oil’s smoke point is an important consideration when deciding which oil to fry with because the higher the temperature of the oil, the less oil is absorbed in the dish. Frying with peanut oil ultimately results in an incredibly crisp and browned exterior without soaking the inside of the chicken with fat.

3. The chicken: The small size of the chicken pieces ensures that the crisp-to-meat ratio is pretty close to one and also makes this a convenient dish to share. Additionally, they leave the meat on the bone which contributes to a richer chicken flavor than had they stripped the meat off for you.

So what are you waiting for? If spicy food makes your stomach growl in anticipation, head on over to the Chili Garden Restaurant and reward yourself with some extremely spicy fried chicken!


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The Asian Ghetto Exploration #1: Bear’s Ramen House

the infamous asian ghetto of UC Berkeley

Asian Ghetto is one of the oft-frequented casual dining gems of UC Berkeley. Located on Durant (between the intersecting streets of Telegraph and College), the Asian Ghetto is a cluster of convenient fast food eating options (incidentally, only a few of them are Asian).

The Bear Ramen House is a hole-in-the-wall Korean eatery. The seating space is nearly non-existant (perhaps 5 people can sit inside, bar-style seating), and the food takes roughly 5 to 15 minutes to be made. So far, I have only tried one of Bear Ramen House’s dishes (one of their most popular dishes) – Kimchi Fried Rice with Spam ($7.50).

kimchi fried rice with spam

The dish is spicy in a nuanced manner (with sour undertones) accompanied by small, diced pieces of spam and a fried egg on top. Several of my friends who are not as accustomed to spice found the dish hard to eat after a few bites; however, if you crave spicy food, the dish will definitely hit the spot. The more subtly flavored crisp fried egg on top is a great contrast to the thicker tasting spam scattered throughout the rice. The portion size of the rice was more than adequate — I would suggest ordering “to go” even if you plan on eating in the surrounding area so you can easily carry the leftovers home.

I would recommend this place to someone who craves spicy, filling food and does not have access to a kitchen (if you do, I imagine it would be much more time and cost effective to whip up this simple dish in your own home).

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Filed under Berkeley, California Restaurants