Eating in SGV: Noodles & Dumplings

seaweed salad

About a month ago, I was profiled on the Midtown Lunch LA blog. As I’m usually found in DTLA during lunch, I spoke about DTLA. However, one of the questions of where else would I love to live for lunch, I couldn’t really say. Sure, I love going vacation and traveling but I haven’t really found a place like LA in terms of diversity. I cautiously threw out cities like San Francisco, Portland and Seattle but I knew in my heart, I love L.A.

pork belly with pumpkin

Being a noodles (and dumplings) fiend, I could eat every single day in the San Gabriel Valley for a month or two and still not hit up every mom and pop shop. I visited three Chinese restaurants this week and had, you guessed it, noodles and dumplings.

xiao long bao - soup dumplings from Chaun Yu Noodle Town

First up- Chuan Yu Noodle Town. They were recently written up for dan dan mien. As a Sichaun noodle house, they serve up a perfectly al dente bowl of noodles covered with whole peanuts, minced pork, preserved veggies and lots of chili oil. There’s a hint of sesame and I found the bowl not too spicy. I liked it very much but eat it fairly quickly because as it got colder, the oil congealed and it wasn’t so pretty. We probably could have eaten it more quickly but were involved in a lovely seaweed salad, pork belly with pumpkin and some weird XLBs.

dan dan mien from Chaun Yu Noodle Town

The menu doesn’t really list the little side dishes they carry in the fridge by the front register. It took me pointing and trying to say seaweed in Cantonese a few times before they gave me the seaweed (after they first tried to give me a Sunkist soda). I noticed the table next to us wanted a Sprite and first were given a Sunkist then when it was refused, given a Squirt. Keep trying, eventually you’ll end up with something that’s not Sunkist soda. I don’t recommend the XLBs or soup dumplings at all. The sad little things weren’t filled with very much soup. The JGold recommends the wontons so maybe I’ll try that next time.

Chaun Yu Noodle Town

525 W. Valey Blvd. #B, Alhambra, CA 91801 – (626) 289-8966

Shanghai Duck

squash

The next day, I was off to Shanghai Bamboo House which seems more in Arcadia than Monrovia but since I’m no city engineer, I couldn’t say where was the dividing line. They were also recently written about recently but we ordered absolutely none of the favored dishes except the XLBs.

Shanghai rice cakes with wild veggies

We ordered the Shanghai duck (after we were told another duck dish we wanted was “no more”), the squash with crab (after we were told the crab dish we wanted was “no more”), Shanghai rice cakes, pork noodles (after we were told the spicy pork noodles were “no more”) and soup dumplings.

pork noodle soup

close up on the pork belly from noodles soup

We weren’t into the cold duck which was served with a gloopy sweet sauce. And the squash we were ordered was fine but missing the crab. Instead, they gave us shrimp that was hacked into such tiny pieces, I almost wondered if it was really shrimp. The Shanghai rice cakes were fine. The pork noodles soup was pretty bad. We thought the noodles were too mushy. I was happy to see the two big pieces of pork belly but they were covered with so much sauce.

xiao long bao - soup dumplings from Shanghai Bamboo House

I decided to order the XLBs, the soup dumplings because the pile of dirty sticky barely-eaten plates in front of us were too much to bear. These XLBs were okay. I was really not into the extra soup spooned on top or is it because they exploded, leaking their lovely soup? I couldn’t really tell but either way, the presentation was off. At least these XLBs did taste better than the ones at Chaun Yu.

Overall, I feel there are better Shanghainese places to be found.

Shanghai Bamboo House

933 W Duarte Rd., Monrovia, CA 91016 -(626) 574-5960

xiao long bao - soup dumplings from Mama Lu's

After having two somewhat mediocre XLB rounds, I wanted some really good ones. I enjoy Dean Sin World and Mama Lu’s but have never written about them (on this blog). I had lunch at Mama Lu’s yesterday and analyzed why these were so enjoyable. Besides looking handmade, the wrapper is actually flavorful. The wrapper isn’t too thin and just thick enough to hold all the steamy soup. The minced pork is also flavorful. Winner!

pea sprouts

lionshead meatballs

The only problem is then, why are the noodles not fantastic? I would have ordered the spicy beef noodle soup but they aren’t really known for that and I recall thinking the soup wasn’t very flavorful. So we decided to order the Shanghai rice cakes, pea sprouts stir-fried in garlic, seabass in blackbean sauce and braised meatballs (lionshead) as well as an order of green onion pancakes.

Chilean seabass in black bean sauce

I’m not really sure what Mama Lu’s considers themselves. Shanghainese? Taiwanese? Their menu is all over the place. They have Cantonese dumplings (wontons?) on their menu, kung pao chicken, a variety of dumplings (I’ve enjoyed their fish dumplings in the past) and a few other specialties.

Shanghai rice cakes

Of course, I tend to just tell servers at Chinese restaurants what I want and let them steer me in the right direction. For the fist dish, our server asked if I wanted it fried or steamed (our fish appears to be lightly fried) and he said it was best with black bean sauce (or so I gathered since he mentioned it). Everything was pretty good…except those Shanghai rice cakes. If I thought the rice cakes at Shanghai Bamboo House were a little chewy, Mama Lu’s actually gave us some slightly burnt ones. In retrospect, I should have swallowed up my noodles hunger with more dumplings.

Mama Lu’s

153 E Garvey Ave., Monterey Park, CA 91755 – (626) 307-5700

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