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.
I went to Taipei with the goal of hitting up as many night markets as humanly possible. So our first night in the city, we headed off to the closest one to our hotel, Huaxi Night Market (華西街觀光夜市), which was rather sedated the night we went, with a lot of shuttered shops. So we instead spent a fair amount of time traversing Mengjia Night Market (艋舺夜市) instead. Both are anchored by Longshan Temple, a 16th century Buddhist-Taoist temple located in the middle of Taipei’s oldest district, Wanhua.
Shilin Night Market (士林夜市) is a sprawling night market that extends along several streets in the middle of Taipei’s 2nd most populated district of the same name. While it’s widely cited by tourist guides and a great experience overall, if I were pressed for time, I’d pass this one, only because it lacks the signature grittiness of other Taipei night markets. (Food’s still awesome).
Continue reading STREET FOOD 101: Taipei’s Shilin Night Market
For the curious, I baked lesser known Teochew/Hokkien durian-flavored mooncakes, paired with a fresh brew of Ten Ren’s oolong tea (東方美人茶, labeled ‘Oriental Beauty tea’ in English). Unfortunately the cakes were a bit underbaked because the oven refused to cooperate with me…
In any case, enjoy the beautiful moon in its full glory before it begins waning again~
This August, my grandma passed away, shortly after she turned 90. Despite how emotionally prepared we thought we were, it was still a bittersweet occasion.
With that said, I thought I would provide a glimpse into some traditions and rituals performed during Chinese Buddhist funeral services and Burmese death anniversaries. A major feature of many Chinese rites is food. Funeral services are no exception. However, in comparison to Taoist rites, Buddhist rites are very solemn affairs devoid of ostentation (i.e. no gold paper or hell note burning).
Every year, my mom’s side of the family gathers for a Chinese-style banquet dinner to celebrate Father’s Day. I’ve missed this event for the past four years, because of conflicts with finals. This year, I finally had the chance the chance to join again to indulge. At dinner, my mom jokingly quipped that we were having an eight-course dinner because ‘eight’ in Chinese (八) sounds like ‘dad’ (爸).
The reservations were at New Capital Seafood in Rowland Heights, one of the few major restaurants in the area to serve Chinese banquet meals. I’m personally not too fond of fancy feasts (pardon the unintentional pun), because the portions are overwhelming and the dishes are pretty bland (texture-wise and in taste).
Since it was Father’s Day, there was a huge hoard of families waiting in the lobby and outside, since the restaurant was packed to the brim. Luckily, my aunt had made reservations for a banquet room a few days before.
Traditionally, Cantonese meals include two soups, a savory soup presented at the beginning, and a dessert soup at the end. The fish maw wasn’t excessively salty, but it wasn’t particularly appetizing either. Nonetheless, I drank two bowls of it.
Along with the soup came a cold cut platter of roasted meats, including char siu pork, chicken, seaweed, jellyfish, and roasted beef. Since most of my family doesn’t consume beef, it all went to waste, for both tables.
Next was the much beloved candied walnut and shrimps with mayonnaise, one of my favorites of the night.
Next were the stir-fried scallops with asparagus. I like the special attention to presentation. But the dish was just alright. Greasy and boring by the second serving.
The fifth dish to be presented were the braised sea cucumbers with bok choy and mushrooms. Sea cucumbers were so sparingly used, I found only a sliver to try… Not that sea cucumbers are particularly tasty. P.S. A lot of Chinese folks think that sea cucumbers are a panacea, curing everything from sexual dysfunction to high cholesterol.
The king of all courses was the rock lobster, fried with a starchy batter. I couldn’t get a shot of the entire lobster (not least because my prime lens makes it hard to take photos of large objects), but because the lobster was humongous, much larger than I’ve encountered at most restaurants.
Eating lobster is tedious, because of all the shells and compartments you have to gnaw your way through. These darn crustaceans… Nothing special, if you ask me.
Another one of my favorites for the night was the Peking roast duck, eaten with little mantou-like breads, on which hoisin sauce is slathered on. The duck was finely sliced, and the skin was crispy and the meat tender. Also, the meat wasn’t as fatty as I anticipated.
As we headed toward the end of the meal, we were served soy sauce chicken and a plate of fried (and uncut) noodles. As the name implies, the soy sauce chicken was pretty salty. I didn’t try to attempt seconds.
After all the main course dishes were taken away, a server dropped off the final dish of the evening, a dessert soup made of red beans, translucent tapioca pearls and lotus seeds. I thought the soup was very watery and diluted. Most likely, the restaurant was rationing this dessert soup, because of a busy night.
I loved the tea that was served for the evening though. The chrysanthemum tea was very crisp and full, with the subtle fragrance of chrysanthemums. The Oolong tea had a nice kick and aroma as well.
A note on the service: I was perturbed, as was the rest of my family, at the pacing of the meal. The servers frequently came into the room to bring out one dish after another, as if they wanted us out as quickly as possible. Also, the servers were removing plates left and right, even though we were clearly not done. I can say that within 30 minutes, all of the major dishes were served, which is highly unusual at a banquet style meal. I understand that it was a busy night, but it’s downright rude to rush a special meal.
New Capital Seafood (半島海鮮酒家)
1330 S Fullerton Rd, Ste 207
Rowland Heights, CA 91748
Went to eat at Noodle House in Rowland Heights, part of a growing trend of Mainland restaurants serving Northern Chinese cuisine. Although the signage uses the an ambiguous name: ‘Noodle House’, it’s called Fu Fang Yuan (福方園) in Chinese. It’s listed as Noodle House on Yelp too. The restaurant is located in a strip mall, wedged in between a Thai restaurant and Cocary, a Chinese hot pot restaurant.
The restaurant is pretty spacious. The entire kitchen is lit and visible through a glass window, a la Din Tai Fung. There are plenty of seats, making this a good place for bigger parties. For Christmas, there was a nicely decorated tree on display, a rarity for Chinese places.
The chairs are also customized, with a bowl of noodles etched on the backs. I thought it was a cute touch.
We ordered the ambiguously listed Sichuan-style noodles (but oddly enough, 擔擔麵 or dan dan mian in Chinese), so I personally expected a fiery hot red chili soup of noodles and minced meat. To my surprise, a very subdued version arrived on the table, filled with chopped vegetables and bean sprouts covering a heapful of boiled noodles. On the bottom of the bowl was a semi-thick sesame sauce to be mixed in with the veggies and noodles. Then it hit me, these were not Sichuan-style dan dan mian, more of a Taiwanese style cold noodle salad than a noodle soup. It was pleasant tasting, fresh and crisp. I especially liked the sauce, which was light and spiced, not buttery tasting and heavy.
We also ordered green onion pancakes, which were generously portioned. I was surprised at how thick they were. In all honesty though, I found it a bit bland and a bit too oily.
The last order were 10 boiled pork and leek dumplings. Not much to write home about: just your run-of-the-mill dumplings, with average dumpling skins and a generous meat filling.
FFY Noodle House (福方園)
18219 Gale Ave.
Rowland Heights, CA 91748
Capital Seafood Restaurant is a staple in my family. When we can’t decide on a place to eat, this is always our fallback option, because the food is that good. In the countless number of times I’ve eaten there, I’ve never left with a complaint, only with a full stomach.
Their lunch special prices are rock bottom (all dishes are under $7.25) and taste great. Also, another rarity in Asian restaurants: good service. The waiters are friendly and polite, even engaging in conversation on occasion. Rice is also unlimited at no extra charge!
My favorite dish there is the pan fried sweet and sour fish, an whole fish that is fried to perfection and soaked in a delicious sweet and sour sauce. (The sauce is so good that if there are leftovers, my mom will bring it back home to use in her dishes).
The lunch special menu also comes with 2 complimentary soups: a savoury sour bean curd soup with mushrooms and sliced bamboo shoots, and a warm tapioca dessert soup at the end.
1015 Nogales St Ste 132, Rowland Heights, CA 91748 | Yelp
This is one of those places where parallel parking skills are helpful, because the parking lot was completely packed at peak hours. The principal got us in without much hassle, even though there was a line of people waiting to be seated, probably because of his connections or something.
Anyway, it was so long ago and I already forgot what the food was like, so why bother. I’ll just inundate this blog with food pics.
Everything was good and pretty cheap. But no cart ladies here, orders are made by paper.
(The second time we had brunch here with the principal, we unintentionally ordered an enormous amount that could probably feed a small village. Just imagine stacks and stacks of dim sum dishes piled up high on the lazy susan.)
Address: 1001 E Garvey Ave, Monterey Park, CA 91755 | Yelp
菜脯卵, aka chhai po ng
Preserved turnip egg omelets, eaten best with congee (糜)
Another easy and simple egg recipe! It’s a Teochew-style omelette that’s traditionally served with plain rice porridge or congee. Some of my earliest childhood memories have involved me eating this stuff. There are so few ingredients involved, but the preserved turnip (typically found at any Asian markets) really makes a difference in the texture and taste.
Fun fact: Eggs (the kinds you eat) are called nng (卵) in Hokkien and Teochew, not dan (蛋) as in Mandarin or Cantonese. Congee is me (糜), not zhou (粥).
- 2 large eggs
- Some salt and sugar to your liking
- Chopped slivers of preserved turnip
- Chop the preserved turnip into smaller bits
- Break two eggs and whisk the yolk and the whites thoroughly and mix the preserved turnip bits in.
- Sprinkle salt and sugar to your liking. I prefer them a bit sweeter, because the sweetness of the omelette really complements the salty-sweet turnip bits.
- Fry the omelette with some oil until the omelette’s golden and firm.
I think it was Day 3 that we decided to explore Chinatown and do some shopping in Union Square (and pay the 3-story Forever 21 a visit, per Michelle’s request).
In the morning, we dropped by perhaps the most famous egg tart bakery in San Fran, Golden Gate Bakery (金門餅家).
I eagerly got there, rain and all, waiting to snap pics of the place and all of their selections.
But alas, I didn’t heed the warning sign: “NO PHOTOGRAPHY OR VIDEO.” Out of nowhere, an angry Chinese woman behind the counter began pointing her fingers at me and telling me to back off. So that was basically the only picture I got inside.
Anyhow, we ended up walking to the basement of the Union Square Macy’s, where I finally got a chance to take pictures sans rain.
The ubiquitous pink box used by all legit Chinese bakeries. I love the wrapping.
And egg tarts (蛋撻, danta) in their full glory. The egg custard was light and sweet, and the crust was flaky and delicately buttery, just the way I like them. Also, they were the perfect size (I’ve seen a lot of dim sum restaurants scale back on their egg tart portions…) Michelle said that the lady packed us the bad ones because I took pictures of their bakery, but I’d like to believe that wasn’t the case.
We also got a few wife pastries (老婆餅, laopo bing) with wintermelon paste and flaky lotus paste pastry (莲蓉餠, lianrong bing), but since we kept them inside a bag all day, they ended up crushed and crumbled. Still tasty. Just not worth the megabytes to snap pictures of.
Address: 1029 Grant Ave, San Francisco, CA 94133 | map
Pretty spacious restaurant with plenty of tables, in the crowded 99 Ranch Market plaza. Parking is really hard to find on weekends, especially in the sea of confused Asian drivers who should not be operating 4-wheeled vehicles. Food was cooked and served pretty quickly too.
Hunan-style twice-cooked pork: Thin slivers of pork and bean curd cooked with overly generous amounts of diced peppers, chili and garlic dices. Still greasy, but the better of the two dishes, because the pork was well-cooked and juicy, while the bean curd slices were perfect in firmness.
Diced chicken with chili and garlic: Dices of boned chicken, in a slew of garlic, chili oil, chilis, ginger and other garnishes like coriander (cilantro). We ordered it medium spicy, which was too much for me to handle. My tastebuds were numb after eating this. And it was annoying to eat the chicken dices, because the bones were so small. The chicken was too salty.
Service is okay, but the waitresses speak only Mandarin. Our waitress started using her phone in the middle of taking our order. But then again, wait staff at Asian restos obviously have a different understanding of what good service means.
Very liberal use of oil and seasonings (especially salt) in dishes and on the pricier side for Chinese food in the 626 (dishes range from ~$8 to $12).
Address: 1015 S Nogales St # 131, Rowland Heights, CA 91748 | Yelp
Kang Kang Food Court (康康小美) just opened in Temple City, part of a franchise of Chinese food courts in the 626 serving a really wide variety of Chinese dishes for cheap. Their menu options are numerous, extending all four walls.
We ordered Taiwanese-style shaved ice (剉冰) with red beans, mung beans, grass jelly and condensed milk, for about $4. They offer the option of 3, 4 or 6 sides to add to the shaved ice. Pretty generous portions.
I finally tried their boba for the first time today. Only $2.75 for a generous cup of tapioca milk tea (they have other options as well, like Thai tea and yuanyang for the same price).
The tapioca balls were pleasant and chewy, but they were clumped together. The strong brewed tea, though, is what stood out to me. The milk tea had a rich fragrance, made apparent by the fact that the liquid was much darker than most milk teas. And it was perfectly sweet—I felt no desire to add extra milk to dilute it.
Address: 9618 Las Tunas Dr, Temple City, CA 91780 | Yelp
Over winter break, I grabbed some dim sum with two of my high school friends to catch up, as part of our yum cha tradition, since we rarely see each other nowadays. This time, we decided to forgo our usual choice, New Capital Seafood, for a new restaurant, 888 Seafood, also on Valley Blvd about two miles to the east.
It was my first time there, and what struck me immediately was how gaudy the restaurant is. I suppose it makes a good place for Chinese banquet dinners.
I think their motto for chandeliers was “the more the better.” The entire ceiling was riddled with chandeliers. To add to the excess, the obligatory double happiness sign (囍) was on both ends of the restaurant, to accommodate two wedding banquets once.
As a side note, I apologize for butchering all the Cantonese spellings.
I forgot to tell the waiter in advance to serve chrysanthemum tea, so he gave us the default, wulong tea (烏龍茶).
We started off with some of the obligatory staple dishes (clockwise from upper left):
Cha siu bao (叉燒包): cha siu pork-filled buns (a little too moist),
Ha gao (蝦餃): shrimp dumplings in translucent skins,
Shrimp cheong fen (蝦米腸粉): rice noodle rolls with shrimp (well done),
Siu mai (燒賣): shrimp and pork dumplings.
Pineapple bun (菠蘿包): Perfection. I liked that the pineapple custard inside wasn’t completely pureed. There were one or two pineapple slices in the custard to vary the texture. A nice surprise. 🙂 Also, the crust didn’t just flake and crack into bits when I bit into it.
Barbeque pork puffs (叉燒酥): I think fried things are hard to mess up.
Xiaolong bao (小籠包): Pork meat inside tasted sour and not at its freshest. The soup juice tasted sour too, even without the vinegar. This was my least favorite out of all the dishes. I don’t think it’s a smart idea ordering xiaolong bao at dim sum restaurants, because it’s usually nasty-tasting.
The egg tarts are ridiculously pint-sized, so I decided not to get any. The total bill came out to be $25, mentally calculated by a server in his head. We checked his math to be sure. Unlike at New Capital, where each dish costs the same, dim sum here comes at different pricing tiers.
888 Seafood is definitely pricier than New Capital, with fewer selections in my opinion. We saw the same cart ladies over and over. And I didn’t see any long and fried donuts/youtiao (油條/油炸粿), red bean cake (紅豆糕), or even sticky rice in lotus leaf (糯米雞). Mmm, pork lard.
Address: 8450 E Valley Blvd Ste 121, Rosemead, CA 91770 | Yelp
P.S. I think I’m going to write less for resto reviews now and focus more on the pictures and the dining experience. I feel like my ratings can be arbitrary because no two places are alike.
Macao egg tarts
I felt this intense craving for egg tarts last night, so I looked up recipes for egg tarts and settled on the easiest looking one, on Rasa Malaysia. That lady sure knows how to get people cooking. I think the appealing pictures do the job.
1 box Betty Crocker pie crust mix (11 oz)
3 tbsp melted butter
1/3 cup cold water
4 egg yolks
1/4 cup of sugar
1/3 cup of heavy whipping cream
1/3 cup of milk
3 drops vanilla extract
The recipe wasn’t particularly difficult. Simply mix the above ingredients together. For the crust, I had to knead the dough a bit, which got pretty messy because I didn’t use enough flour. After, I split the dough into 12 pieces.
Then it was time to mix and whisk the custard filling. For the leftover egg whites, I decided to fry an omelet for the morning.
Then, I buttered the cupcake pan with cooking spray, flattened the dough inside and filled it with the custard filling. Preheated the oven to 400 F, and let them bake for 20-ish minutes, checking every so often to make sure they weren’t burning.
This is actually pretty simple and I think you can substitute the pie crust mix with flour and other ingredients but it probably wouldn’t taste as fluffy. Actually, when I made the egg tarts, the crust ended up a bit too thick, so the egg tarts have a cookie-like texture, because there wasn’t enough room for the filling.
Ah well, pretty decent for the first time. I had leftover custard filling so I just baked those to make egg custard. Fluffy, slightly sweet and very yummy.