Monday, March 8, 2010

Cheaters are Losers: A Spicy, Oily Indulgence at Shufeng Garden, Rowland Heights

I've been good.

I've pretty much kept my daily caloric intake to about 1400 a day.

I've been working out 5 days a week, some days at a pretty high intensity.

And I've lost 15 pounds since I've started this Biggest Loser challenge about 6 weeks ago. Not too shabby, eh?

But that 15 pounds lost hasn't all been a result of me being good. It is also, in my opinion, a result of me being very, very bad.

No matter how many tasty and healthy recipes I have up my sleeve, day after day of low calorie, low fat, low sodium, low carb, mayo-less, bacon-less, whole grain, high-fiber, sugar-free, dressing-on-the-side bullshit makes me want to eat the couch. So if I didn't allow myself to cheat on my diet once a week, I would literally consume upholstery. Topped with cheese and butter, of course.

One of my most recent cheat meals involved an oil-laden, fried, fatty, carbo-loaded feast at Shufeng Garden. And yes, this Rowland Heights mini-mall Sichuan did indeed do its job of fending off those late night upholstery cravings as well as punishing this unfaithful dieter with red-hot, spicy pain that hurt so much I liked it.

I'd remembered photos of an oil-slathered fatty pork dish on some local blogs and knew right away that this was exactly what I needed. Thanks to a Mandarin Chinese speaking coworker, printouts of photos of the dish from local blogs' jaunts to the restaurant's second location in San Gabriel, as well as an email from SinoSoul with the names of recommended dishes in Chinese, my non-Mandarin speaking, non-Chinese reading, Chinese self was able to get some Pork Butt in Garlic Mud into my now-smaller belly.

The cool, thin slices of half meat/half fat stripes bathed in spicy chili oil definitely satisfied my fat-covered-in-more-fat craving. I'd imagined them to be a little thicker and served warmer, but the dish was good nonetheless.

The large pot of Water Boiled Fish we ordered looked like something out a movie: a virtual sea of orangey-red angry with red pepper flakes, like a vast body of fluid over which you'd be rowing a decrepid boat in hell. The cauldron of white fish fillets and assorted vegetables soaked in a spicy red bath wasn't as spicy as I thought it was going to be, which is either good or bad depending on your tolerance for spice. I personally would have liked it to be spicier and perhaps a little more tangy, but it was still a nice accompaniment for a hot bowl of steamed rice.

Zhong's Dumplings were al dente pillows of pork-filled goodness served with a healthy dose of (you guessed it) chili oil. A sprinkling of sesame seeds added a nutty bite to these smoky and spicy little pouches.

It was perhaps the restaurant's Dan Dan Mian that put Shufeng Garden on LA's foodie map to begin with--what with having made Jonathan Gold's Best Dishes of 2009 list--and for good reason. It looks like a none-too-exciting small bowl of noodles topped with ground pork and spinach upon first glance, but after mixing the al dente noodles up with all that's in that bowl and taking a slurp, it's a multi-dimensional flavor experience that will both enlighten and numb your tastebuds. It's spicy, acidic, herbal and smoky all at the same time, with flavors that work together but that are distinguishable separately as well.

A cheat day can't be called a cheat day without something fried, so infidelity in the form of the restaurant's Shufeng Spicy Chicken and Intestines in Chili & Wild Pepper were pure guilty, spicy perfection. Fried meat morsels are fun, but not as fun as when they're fried with as much chilis and pepper as there were pieces of meat. I especially liked the fried intestine which were fried to a beautiful golden crisp on the outside which gave way to a slightly bouncy funkiness on the inside--a funkiness that only offal enthusiasts can appreciate.

After having inhaled three bowls of hot, steamy rice and five tongue-tingly good dishes with enough chili oil to grease up my newly toned biceps, I was more than ready to go back to 400 calorie a meal "budget." Until the next cheat day, that is. Sometimes you just have to be bad to be good.

Shufeng Garden
18459 Colima Road
Rowland Heights, CA 91748
(626) 839-7589


Kelley said...

Congrats on the weight loss! I love the cheat day post. Looks yummy!

Tricerapops said...

cheers to you and the progress so far in BL contest! i could be convinced to go on such a regiment, if my cheat days were like yours.

wan said...

the hub is deep into a "biggest loser" contest too, and i still need to convince him that it's okay to have a cheat day.

you're doing a great job! and as always, your photos are fantastic.

Nads' Bakery said...

15 pounds in 6 weeks?? WOW. I've been trying to lose weight for years but the sweets... I can't give up the sweets.

Eddie Lin said...

I want some hot stuff!

weezermonkey said...



Food GPS said...

Nice post. Zhong's Dumplings were by far my favorite dish at the San Gabriel spinoff. Looking forward to trying the original Shufeng.

SinoSoul said...

Waitamin.. You printed those pix in COLOR? Why you so crazy lah!

The fried intestines are just top notch. Especially because it's not overly fried and carried a crisp outside while retaining just enough inner chewiness.

The liang pi, liang fun, etc. cold noodles all carry superior texture vs. the dan dan mian. Try those next time and let me know your thoughts?

Btw, got a 10% coupon to Yukino Ya. You want? For next cheat day?

krissy @ the food addicts said...

wow, 15 lbs?! that's amazing. great job and keep up the great work! i love inspiring stories like this. makes me want to lose 10 lbs in 2 months in time for my trip to the bahamas.

Diana said...

That is an EXCELLENT way to cheat. :) And we all need to do that once and a while!

Congrats on the 15 pounds!! That's amazing! You must be a complete twig now!

Anonymous said...

Love this. You sealed the deal for me with "a virtual sea of orangey-red angry with red pepper flakes, like a vast body of fluid over which you'd be rowing a decrepid boat in hell." Keep up the great posts!

Gastronomer said...

I love it when you post, but I never know when because it doesn't show up on my Google Reader. Wah wah...

Anyway, CONGRATS on the fifteen pounds! And THIS is some splurge worthy stuff!!

Michelle said...


Just wanted to stop by and pass along an award to you! Hope you are enjoying your lovely Sunday :)


Viagra Online Without Prescription said...

this is so wonderful to know about all this information that you are given me, I found myself water boiled fish as an delicious meal to start eating right now.

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