Is This the Spiciest Food in Los Angeles?

If you can take heat, this is the dish for you. Dry pots, which originate from the Sichuan province, are akin to hot pots: Various ingredients are cooked tableside in an iron pot, there is a base protein, and the rest of the ingredients are customized by the brave diner. The options usually include various types of tofu, bean curd, mushrooms, vegetables, potatoes, and fish balls. I prefer loading up on tofu, because the cubes really soak up the chili oil and pack a real punch.

The main difference between dry pots and hot pots? Dry pots don't use water. There's no soup, and the condensed results are tongue-numbingly spicy.

In Chinese, dry pots are known as gan guo (干果) or malaxiangguo (麻辣香锅.) The former literally means dry pot, but it's the latter translation that's more accurate: tongue-numbing fragrant pot.

Spices are abundant, and whole, red chili peppers are used generously. There's a lot of flavor and while you can customize the spice level, even the mildest option can be tear-inducing. Also note that these dishes are meant for groups. Don't attempt to eat it by yourself. Enlist a friend to help you out -- preferably one with a strong stomach and an unwavering love for spice.

Here are two great places to get dry pots in the greater Los Angeles area:

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Duo pot | Photo by Clarissa WeiDuo-Pot
Duo-Pot in Arcadia serves both the dry pot and hot pot (hence the name, duo-pot) in one. The hot pot is in the middle, and the dry pot surrounds its perimeter. Ordering is done on a checklist. Frog is a popular protein choice for these types of meals, but if you're not feeling particularly adventurous, I recommend the beef, squid, and shrimp. They also have homemade noodles and prime cuts of meat on the menu. There's a lot of variety at this restaurant but at around $25 per pot, not including the add-on ingredients, it's better to go with more than two people. Three is great, four is ideal. Duo-pot. 1228 S Golden West Ave., Arcadia, CA 91007.

Pig's feet dry pot | Photo by Clarissa WeiTasty Dining
Tasty Dining is a Wuhan dry pot specialist with 12 flavor options. Each pot comes with a choice of protein (bullfrog, catfish, fish head, squid, chicken wings, beef ox-tripe, beef, shrimp, pork ribs, muttom, pig's feet, or crab) and is priced at $9.99 to $29.99, depending on what size you want. From there, you can add your own ingredients, which goes from $0.99 to $3.99. The chef is unapologetic about his spices. The flavors are extremely strong. Chilies in various shapes and forms are used everywhere, and everything seems to come out with at least a slight hue of red. It's an ideal dish for a cold night -- if you can stomach it, of course. Tasty Dining, 301 W Valley Blvd, San Gabriel, CA 91776.

About the Author

I'm the Assistant Producer of New Media at KCET and a foodist with a knack for Chinese cuisine. Los Angeles native and avid night hiker.
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