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The L.A. Taco Podcast: Everything You Need to Know About Eating Hot Pot in the San Gabriel Valley with SinoSoul

12:26 AM PST on January 30, 2019

    [dropcap size=big]'I[/dropcap]f there isn’t an inch of oil floating over your chile broth, they’re not doing it right,” says Tony Chen.

    We are sitting down with Chen at one of his favorite hot pot spots in the San Gabriel Valley: Shancheng Lameizi, a respected chain from Beijing specializing in super spicy and full-flavored Chongqing-style hot pot.

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    To some, Chen is considered the most influential old school food-blogger to have come out of the San Gabriel Valley. By day, he is an import and export broker between China and the U.S., and by night, he is a notorious voice in some circles for refusing to ass-kiss celebrity chefs and for his unabashed takedowns of restaurants — rare in a community known for being incestuous with PR and sometimes overly flowery writing.

    Before the days of Yelp or Google restaurant listings, Chen’s blog, SinoSoul, guided many non-native speakers from out of town through the neon-sign labyrinths of the SGV. Garvey, Las Tunas, Atlantic, Valley, Garfield, and Rosemead boulevards are all his territory.

    Tony Chen, author of SinoSoul.com. Photo by Daniel Hernandez

    On a Thursday, right at noon, he’s running us through the items that he’s taken the liberty to order for us to dip into the molten vat of a hot pot.

    One half of the simmering square-shaped pot is filled with rendered beef tallow reinforced with enough dried chiles for it to almost a 50/50 ratio of molten fat to chiles. The other half is milky white from boiled pork and chicken bones with a handful of Chinese medicinal herbs and dried fruits. On the table are things like beef stomach, shaved lamb and beef, and fresh shrimp cakes. Chen also orders pork blood cake, complete with Swiss-cheese like air holes, except the color of deep purple blood.

    Hot pot with Tony Chen is not for the faint of heart. The food is as spicy as Chen’s controversial takes on current L.A. food trends, but love him or hate him, you have to respect his deep knowledge of L.A. Chinese cuisine.  

    Listen to it all on Episode 3 of the L.A. Taco Podcast.

    RELATED: L.A. Taco Podcast: A Conversation About Teaching and Tacos With an Educator on the Picket Lines

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