Masala Zone's Chilli Chicken Is an Indian-Chinese Version of Nashville's Trendy Hot Chicken

Hotter than advertised!EXPAND
Hotter than advertised!
Photo by The Mexican


Forget poke; next year, Orange County is going to be awash in hot chicken.
The Nashville specialty has taken over Los Angeles, and even KFC sells a version. But OC's usually a couple of years late for one half of food trends (while we pioneer the other half), so the dish hasn't quite hit our shores yet. Locally, only Bruxië and a couple of other restaurants have attempted it, none quite mastering the dish's fiery sauce, its perfect crunch, the tang of pickles and a side of cole slaw.

If you want a preview of things to come, try chilli chicken, an Indian-Chinese dish available at some Indian restaurants in OC, the best at Masala Zone. It's in a sad shopping plaza in Orange, one whose empty Fresh & Easy casts a pall over the collection of massage parlors, optometrists, restaurants and tax collectors. Masala Zone is its sole ray of light, with bright colors and subcontinental wall designs (photos of sari-clad women, the eight-spoked wheel common to Indian religions). The menu sticks to the tried-and-true of Northern Indian cuisine, albeit in a somewhat limited menu because if its counter-restaurant existence.

And this is where the chilli chicken comes in. It's the most famous part of Indian-Chinese cuisine, an amalgamation of culinary traditions that took hold in India's urban centers and plays the same role for Indian immigrants that Mexican meals plays for Americans abroad: an ostensibly foreign food that reminds expats of home. Masala Zone offers a couple of Indian-Chinese classics—chicken Jalfrezy (a type of stir-fry, sauced) is delicious, while the veggie chow mein's best attribute is that it's spicier than the Chinese-American standard tends to be. Those dishes are fine, but you need to bow down to the pulsating brilliance of chilli chicken. It resembles a giant heap of chicken strips sautéed in soy sauce, alongside ginger, garlic and chiles. Order it spicy, but beware the gradual heat cooled only by a mango lassi.

I welcome hot chicken next year, but remember kids: Immigrants do things first—and better. Just ask us Mexicans about food trucks. . . .

Masala Zone, 146 S. Main St., Orange, (714) 363-3350; masalazoneoc.com.

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Masala Zone

146 S. Main St.
Orange, CA 92868

714-363-3350

masalazoneoc.com


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