Jun 2009

Boiling Point – Monterey Park

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.

Boiling Point
153 West Garvey Avenue
Monterey Park, CA 91754
Phone: 626-288-9876

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18 thoughts on “Boiling Point – Monterey Park

  1. As my hotpot did not include stinky tofu, The Gastronomer kindly gave me a bite of hers to try. I declined to ask for seconds. Nevertheless, she kept trying to trick me into helping her finish her portion by slipping pieces into my personal hotpot every so often when I wasn’t looking. Disturbingly, stinky tofu and regular tofu look almost identical, so watch out.

  2. Okay, I’ll admit it. Stinky tofu kind of scares me. But bravo you for being a big brave dining soldier and trying it!

    Did you get the run in?

  3. Vern – You should’ve manned up a eaten my portion of STANK 😉

    Lizzie – Agedashi tofu is amazingly good and not the least bit funky. I’m curious as to how stinky tofu was invented. Why would anyone dunk fresh, delcious tofu in old milk and meat?!

    Taylor – Stinky to the core.

    Rivers – I’ve heard the stinky tofu at Indian in the SGV is hardcore funky. Give it a try?

    James – STINKY squared? No wonder it was putrid!

    Sook – The hot pots were indeed living large. If there’s a next time, I’ll definitely share with someone and order extra fixins for the pot.

    Diana – The streak is ALIVE! Running afterwards wasn’t as painful as I thought it would be. Not even stinky tofu can get in the way of the streak 😉

  4. you guys are the adventurous ones! I love hot pot and it all sounded great except for the stinky stinky part. I’m curious tho since the stinky tofu was at the bottom of the pot, it didn’t infuse the broth? Can’t imagine sitting over a steaming pot of stinky tofu…

  5. Foodhoe – The tofu imparted a slightly stinky essence, but it was welcomed because the broth wasn’t very interesting to start with.

  6. Stinky tofu is a completely acquired taste. The more you eat it, the less…weird it becomes. At least that’s what I’ve been convincing myself of, and it works.

  7. Stinky tofu is still on my list to try, but what does it taste like exactly? Is it just super pungent? Is it along the lines of durian? I’ve had natto before, which is also fermented, and while I was okay with the flavor, I couldn’t get over the slimy texture. Would the taste be similar?

  8. Abby – For The Astronomer, stinky tofu tasted like flatulence. For me, it tasted like it had been sitting in a vat of meat and old milk for months. Hey! It has been sitting in a vat meat and old milk for months! The taste wasn’t savory. Just wildly funky.

  9. Stinky tofu ain’t bad…I love this stuff, the smell, the taste, etc. I guess that’s how I got my nickname as well….

    Try it fried, stir fried, steamed, grilled, it’s all very good. One of my favorite things to eat when I’m back home in TW.

  10. Wait – sweating uncontrollably at the table isn’t hot? Oh no. I have to re-think my dinner etiquette.

    Add me to the list of “no” votes on stinky tofu. I’ll stick with lovely, delicious, sweet and silky fresh tofu, thankyouverymuch.

  11. Hey Cathy,

    I’m sorry your first experience with chou do fu was so bad! Try it deep-fried, I personally prefer it that way, and it does kill the smell a tad… there’s a place on San Gabriel Blvd. called Indian Restaurant (Indian with a feather… in Chinese the name is Ying Di An, which doesn’t mean anything) that serves a lot of small Taiwanese dishes including good fried stinky tofu (I can’t vouch for it myself; this is according to my sister, since the times I’ve been we didn’t order it.)

    I would love to see you review more Taiwanese food, actually! My boyfriend introduced me to your blog and I love your takes and tastes. For more down-home Taiwanese food, check out Won-Won Kitchen for their pork chop rice and beef noodle soup (http://www.yelp.com/biz/won-won-kitchen-temple-city).

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