SGV: Sichuan Crab at Hip Hot
Sichuan food has long passed the trendy food of the moment to a dining staple. Of all the regional Chinese food I’ve been trying (unsystematically, if you must know), I return over and over to Sichuan food. Hip Hot is a little different as it takes on the other San Gabriel Valley beloved dish, crab. I grew up eating seafood live from tanks at grand Cantonese seafood palaces. To pick out a fish, lobster and/or crab was always a ritual left to my dad. Somehow it was always amazingly sweet and of course, very fresh.
Now apply that Sichuan spice to crab.
Sure, you can get all the other things that I always order from a Sichuan spot including water boiled fish (not shown because I was a doofus and didn’t take a picture) but we were here for the crab.
We were given two menus. The older menu had a lot of items crossed out while the new one had many new dishes. Since there was only the two of us, I tried to restrain myself in ordering. We got 6 dishes. I looked at the couple next to us and they ordered one giant bowl of something (not crab). Huh, well, I really did order less. For instance, I didn’t get the mapo tofu and I didn’t get a veggie.
We started out with a couple of appetizers including the green bean jelly and wood ear mushrooms. The green bean jelly or better known as mung bean jelly is one of my favorite dishes. Hip Hot uses a black bean dressing that was a tiny bit more oily and gritty than I wanted but it was still very tasty. My fave is still over at Szechuan Impression though.
I was looking for a cold apps combo but they didn’t seem to have such a thing so I settled for just wood ear mushrooms. These were spicy and garlic-y, just how I like it. But it also had black beans in it. I was starting to sense a theme.
Hip Hot was out of fuqi feipian aka husband and wife lung (offal) which I was disappointed by. I wanted to compare it to Szechuan Impression. Ah well, next time.
Instead of mapo tofu, I decided to try the tofu with crab sauce. Now I know it wouldn’t have had real crab meat but I was pleasantly surprised by the use of salted eggs. That made a rich sauce. Make sure you order plain rice.
We also got the dan dan noodles. These had the requisite ma la sauce I was looking for but not much else. I didn’t find them very interesting. Still, they’re not a dan dan specialist.
We wer here for the crab.
And the verdict is, it’s good. We went with the Dungeness crab which was $35. Our server said the market price on the king crab could run us up to $300+ so we agreed to the reasonably priced Dungeness. The meat was very sweet and fresh. I asked for it to be “not that spicy” and it was perfect. Mainly I was concerned with cracking the crab legs while wearing gloves and switch back to chopsticks to eat the rest of my meal. We also enjoyed it came with bell peppers, potatoes and sliced noodles. In retrospect, I probably could have ordered just the water boiled fish, a crab or two and rice. But it’s more fun to try lots of stuff.
I do feel like I need to come back with a Mandarin speaker to decipher why there are so many crab dishes on the menu but the only thing people order is the one with Sichuan spicing. Isn’t more crab a good thing?
Hip Hot500 N Atlantic Blvd., Monterey Park, CA 91754 — (626) 800-2508 © 2018 The Minty