Sometimes all you want is a piping hot bowl of liquid and protein nourishment. And Kim Chuy Restaurant, one of my favorite Teochew noodle soup shops in the San Gabriel Valley, offers just that. It’s become my go-to place for a hearty bowl of noodles and soup.
Located on the corner of Valley Blvd and 5th Street in Alhambra, Kim Chuy occupies a tiny circular structure that looks like it may have once housed an American diner in the 1950s. At any rate, it serves up some fine bowls of noodle soup.
‘Kim Chuy’ is the Teochew pronunciation of the Chinese words for “gold” (金) and “water” (水). Aside: the Teochew are a distinct group among the Chinese, and speak a language closely related to Hokkien. Like many Southern Chinese, they migrated throughout Southeast Asia, enriching the region’s culinary repertoire with a variety of different noodle types (I’m talking about you, kway tiao) and ingredients.
The restaurant is a no-frills, hole-in-the-wall joint. It’s not lavished with the trappings of other up-and-coming Asian restaurants on Valley. During my most recent visit, there was a single waitress serving a handful of tables. She was attentive but curt. Not a problem, since we were there to eat anyway, not make friends.
As an appetizer, I ordered a plate of fried rice cakes, Kim Chuy’s equivalent of a quintessential Teochew snack, fried turnip cakes served with egg. The cakes, made with rice flour, were absolutely delicious. Chewy inside, crispy outside, and fried alongside eggs, chives and bits of preserved radish (甜菜脯), which imparted an intensely earthy, salty yet sweet flavor.
I asked for the dipping sauce, and the waiter presented us with two options: a Sriracha bottle containing Vietnamese nuoc mam, a clear sweet and salty dipping sauce made from fermented anchovies, and a Chinese-style black vinegar sauce. I definitely preferred the former.
Now, the beauty of Teochew noodle soup shops are the customizations you can make to your order. For the entree, you can get the noodles wet or dry (with soup on the side), choose from an array of noodle types (egg noodles, rice noodles, pho noodles, etc.) and size (thin, fat, etc.)
At last, the piece de resistance appeared, an absolutely nourishing bowl of house special Teochew noodles. As I requested, the bowl came with soup on the side. Atop a bed of thin egg noodles were a braised duck leg, minced pork, fish balls, shrimp, and some pieces of pork liver.
While a number of sauces, including oyster sauce, sriracha, and vinegar, are available at each table, my preferred method is to eat the noodles in their unadulterated state, enjoying the umami of the protein and the lightly greased noodles. But then again, I also question the judgment of people who insist on dumping loads of sriracha into their bowls of pho. Doesn’t that mask the lovely flavors and aroma of the pho broth?! After mixing up the noodles and eating half ‘dry,’ I pour the rest of the soup in and eat the remainder ‘wet.’ To each their own, right?
Sometimes simple is all you need.
Kim Chuy Restaurant 金水潮州粿條
501 W Valley Blvd
Alhambra, CA 91803