Based on pleasure palate's post in Chowhound - http://chowhound.chow.com/topics/670298 - and his blog with pictures - http://pleasurepalate.blogspot.com/20... - we made our first foray to this place for lunch on Wednesday.
When we showed up, there were no other patrons in the restaurant. They brought us a plate of boiled peanuts and pickled vegetables. The string beans were OK, but the carrots had a slightly funky taste which disagreed with my palate.
I had decided we would try a combination of the dishes mentioned by pleasure palate - cumin lamb, bangly (chestnuts) with chicken, and house special spicy over spicy. We did order the first two, but skipped the last one and instead ordered a fish dish. The waitress (she said she was not from Hunnan, but the chefs were) suggested a whole steamed fish. And we were in process of considering it, when the two male chefs (I assume they were the chefs since I did not see them rest of the time) came out and spoke in Chinese to her. At the end she said they did not get the right type of fish to do this dish, so she recommended we try a fish fillet dish. I don't have the takeout menu (I should have gotten this), so I can't point to exactly what this says on the menu. But we went with her suggestion and ordered it. After we had ordered, she came and told us that since we were close to $30 in order, we get a free dish - either a shrimp or a crab dish!! My friend is a little wary of the amount of work needed to eat crabs (in say Newport Seafood, for example), so we went with the shrimp dish. She mentioned these would be head-on shell-on shrimp. So be it.
The first dish to arrive was the chicken with chestnuts. Extremely flavorful, and amazingly soft chestnuts.
The second dish to arrive was the fish dish, soon after followed by the cumin lamb. Part way into the meal, the shrimp bonus dish showed up. Since their portions are generous, and the heat quotient is high, it was too much food to finish, so we packed most of it. I had it for lunch today and am able to analyze the preparations much better.
It seems they used a very large amount of raw green chilis and garlic in all their preparations we ordered. In bulk, at least 30-40% of the weight or volume would be thickly sliced japapenos. That flavored all the protein and the vegetables/herbs with heat. They also used a lot of raw garlic, and in some combination - cumin, dried red chilis, cilantro, raw ginger, preserved vegetables. The chicken dish had the preserver vegetables and garlic, but not the others. The lamb dish had cumin and cilantro, but no preserved vegetables. The fish dish had the dried red chilis. The shrimp dish had a lot of cilantro and raw ginger. Common to all dishes were the use of jalapeno and garlic. All the dishes were slightly oily and salty, as was expected, and eaten with rice, they were extremely flavorful.
One additional note - I think the raw jalapenos do not cause the digestive tract problems - it is the dried red peppers which are the culprit. I was anticipating a restless night, but it passed peacefully! We have to go back soon to check out more items from their menu.
Hengyang Chiliking Chinese Restaurant
138 E Garvey Ave, Monterey Park, CA 91755