It was supposed to be a quiet night at home with The Astronomer and a big bowl of pasta. However, a knock at the door changed the evening’s course for the stinkier.
I had invited Danny and Fiona over for a slice of the double-decker monstrosity that was The Astronomer’s birthday cake. They came, they ate, and before departing, they extended a dinner invite to Boiling Point.
I was quick to flash my “I haven’t gone for my daily run” card that I keep in my back pocket, but the Gourmet Pigs’ and the Kung Food Panda’s powers of persuasion were far too great. Before I knew it, The Astronomer and I were sitting in Fiona’s backseat on our way to Monterey Park to try stinky tofu for the very first time.
Boiling Point serves up Taiwanese-style individual hot pots in seven different varieties, including beef, lamb, Korean kimchi, curry fish ball, tomato and veggie, seafood and tofu, and “House Special.” Danny, Fiona, and I ordered the House Special hot pot, while The Astronomer went with the seafood and tofu. The spiciness of each hot pot can be adjusted according to preference. The Astronomer and I asked for “extra spicy,” which was one notch below the maddeningly spicy option. Clearly, we were feeling brave this evening.
As we waited for our pots of hotness to arrive, we meandered over to the condiments cart to dish up some sauces—from left to right—garlic soy, spicy oil, and spicy bean. The Astronomer liked the salty garlic number best, while I preferred the chunky and fermented spicy bean.
The broth that fills each hot pot isn’t very complex, it’s mostly just boiling hot and as spicy as specified. These three sauces are essential for boosting the flavor of the broth and the individual ingredients inside it.
My House Special hot pot arrived bubbling, steaming, and brimming with pork intestines, meatballs, quail eggs, green nira (Chinese chives), cilantro, hotdogs, enoki mushrooms, kamaboko (Japanese seafood loaf), pork, Napa cabbage, tomatoes, and of course, stinky tofu. I quickly plopped a small tangle of vermicelli noodles that arrived on the side into the hot broth to soften up.
I approached this hot pot in the same way as a communal one. Using a small bowl, I dished out a portion that included a bit of this and a bit of that. Hovering over the steaming pot would’ve provided an excellent facial, but sweating uncontrollably at the dinner table isn’t very attractive. From the noodles to the intestines, everything that passed through my lips was dipped or doused in spicy bean sauce.
At the bottom of the hot pot lay four triangular slabs of the infamous stinky tofu. The unpleasant odor emanating from the tofu was the result of marinating in a brine made from fermented milk, vegetables, and meat for several months. Although I was pleased to find the tofu’s flavor less intense than its smell, I wasn’t thrilled at all with the taste. I usually embrace the funky and the fermented, but in the case of stinky tofu, I wasn’t loving it. In fact, I was downright hating it. Ditto for The Astronomer.
It wasn’t love at first bite for stinky tofu and me, but I’m open to trying it again and again until we find common ground.
The Astronomer’s seafood and tofu hot pot was piled high with imitation crab meat, clams, bean curd, enoki mushrooms, green onions, tofu, pork, eggs, Taiwanese bok choy, shrimp, and octopus. The broth was identical to mine.
As we fished up the last bits from our hot pots, The Astronomer and I agreed that there’s a certain charm to individual hot pots, but a well-composed bowl of Vietnamese bo kho or Chinese beef noodle soup is less work and more satisfying.
153 West Garvey Avenue
Monterey Park, CA 91754