Hot Stuff: Blazin’ Chicks Spices Up Temple City’s Dining Scene

By Christine N. Ziemba

91424137_264082008087316_6229738814684030356_nYelpers have been abuzz about Blazin’ Chicks since its grand opening in January. Located in Temple City’s Camellia Square, the hot chicken restaurant has been a bona fide hit thanks to the simple yet spicy offerings created by co-owner and chef Henry Lu. 

The menu may be small in scope—limited to fried chicken items and sides—but everything served is chock-full of complex flavor. And did we mention the spice? As in heat that nearly runs the length of the Scoville scale, which measures the pungency of bell peppers to Carolina reapers and everything in between.  

A meal at Blazin’ Chicks starts with a choice of a chicken slider sandwich, tenders (breast meat) or wings, served a la carte or with sides like collard greens and butter rice. After your chicken of choice is deep-fried and dipped in house-made chili oil, it’s up to you to pick your spice level—and that’s when things really get interesting.

“As the heat level goes up, we add a different type of chili in there,” Lu says. “Naked” comes straight from the fryer without added spice; “Mild” adds a cayenne base to the chicken; “Medium” adds habanero and cayenne; “Blazin” adds ghost pepper spices to the aforementioned base; and “Blazed Out” adds the tongue-scorching Carolina reaper to the ghost pepper mix. (When mixing and applying the hottest two levels, Lu and his team have to don masks and avoid skin exposure.)

But while most people don’t have the fortitude for the “reaper,” Lu says his hardiest customers are pressing him for even more heat. “I’m going to intensify the ‘Blazed Out’ because a lot of our customers, I guess they can handle it,” he says. “You got people out there who are always up for the challenge.”

Poultry dishes and chicken restaurants have become all the rage in and around Temple City, focusing on different styles and flavors. In recent years, those have included The Dive SKC’s Cajun-spiced wings and blackened chicken po’ boys, Red Chicken’s Hainan (poached) chicken and curried dishes, and the Hot Star food truck’s pounded fried cutlet. Blazin’ Chicks stands apart by offering Southern-style fried chicken; it’s similar to Nashville-style chicken, which traditionally uses lard and cayenne pepper, but Lu’s version has its origin in the much deeper South.

“It’s Southern-style chicken with a twist,” he said. “The twist is making the chicken hot—spicy—so that’s where the Nashville [influence] comes in, but the batter, I would say, is Southern.” The aforementioned batter is crispier, crunchier and airier, but not too greasy. And Lu says his spices aren’t that mouth-numbing: “Our heat is instant, but doesn’t last too long.”

A graduate of Cal Poly Pomona, Lu studied business administration and worked in the mortgage industry. “I went into the corporate world, and I did not like it,” he said. After quitting the numbers game, in 2007, Lu and his brother James, both raised in El Monte, moved to Mississippi to work in restaurants. 

They took over a deli shop near the small town of Hattiesburg, which has a population of around 47,000 people. The deli’s original menu featured sandwiches and burgers, but after doing research and development at night, the brothers eventually created their fried chicken recipe. After adding the chicken to the menu, “lines and lines were out the door,” Lu says. 

88164916_816625278764451_752855998702662457_nWhile Lu honed his culinary skills in the South, he still missed his family. “After five years there, I realized that money’s not everything,” he said. He moved back to the San Gabriel Valley and chose Temple City for his latest project, pointing out the restaurant’s location—near the intersection of Las Tunas Drive and Rosemead Boulevard—used to house an Edwards Cinema where he saw his first movie, ‘Home Alone.’

“In Temple City, I realized there’s not really a gourmet, American, Western fried chicken,” he says. “I wanted to bring something good to the community, and I kind of want to put Temple City on the map with a gourmet fried chicken, hot chicken.”

Blazin’ Chicks isn’t a fast-food joint. “We always tell our customers [it’ll take] a minimum of 15 minutes to get your food out,” he says. There are no microwaves, and everything is made onsite. 

For first-timers, Lu recommends the slider, with the “Medium” and “Blazin” spice levels proving the most popular among diners. Be warned: This slider isn’t a dainty sandwich. “Back in Mississippi, people like to eat a large amount, so that’s a slider back in Mississippi,” he notes. The chicken’s heat is countered by a topping of Lu’s Blazin’ sauce and kale slaw, a mixture of cabbage and kale.

The deep-fried wings are bone-in and served with a variety of dipping sauces, but many customers opt for old-fashioned honey. The mac and cheese is a decadent choice, made with mild and sharp cheddar and mozzarella. The tater tots come plain or loaded, with the latter item topped with caramelized onions, bacon and the signature sauce. 

For now, Lu doesn’t plan on changing the menu much, except for possibly adding seasonal sides. He’s also working on obtaining his beer and wine license and expanding the eatery’s hours. (As of press time, Blazin’ Chicks closes at 6 p.m. on weekdays and 8 p.m. on Fridays and Saturdays—and you’ve never seen sadder faces than those customers trying the doors at 6:15 p.m.) 

“That’s going to change, but before we do that change, I want to make sure we get enough staff so we can extend our hours,” Lu said.

The community has embraced Blazin’ Chicks’ fast-casual atmosphere, and the restaurant’s guests cross generations and cultures. Lu believes the diversity has to do with the universal appeal and popularity of chicken. He adds, “That makes me really happy, to see the crowd we draw in here.”