Food Crawl through the San Gabriel Valley

A friend that I met through social media happened to be visiting the LA area. We’ve been exchanging tweets for a long time and more recently, on Instagram. He let me know that he was going to be in the LA area and we were finally able to coordinate a day and time to physically meet each other. For the purposes of this article, I will refer to him as “George”

George is based on the East Coast and through his published articles, I already knew that George was an authority on Chinese food. Given the dearth of good Chinese food in the South Bay, I jumped at the opportunity to sample food in the Chinese food hotspot, the San Gabriel Valley.

We met at a Chinese supermarket in Alhambra. George recognized me first and I was happy that he looked like his Twitter headshot – you never know these days. I felt strange that someone from out of town was going to suggest dining locations on my home turf.

I was extremely encouraged that George had a rather large list of places to try. At least it appeared that way given the amount of handwritten words on the piece of paper he periodically pulled out of his bag.

We began our adventure at the Kang Kang Food Court in Alhambra. After entering, I realized that it was really a single Chinese restaurant that served food cafeteria style. George already knew that they were famous for their Shanghai Pan Fried Pork Bao and so he ordered this for us.

Shanghai Pan Fried Pork Bao

Shanghai Pan Fried Pork Bao

After we were seated a server provided us with a pot of tea and small dishes with dipping sauce. About 5 minutes later she served us a plate of piping hot steamed bao. These are miniature in size and are pan-fried on one side like a pot sticker. Biting into it was an interesting experience. The exterior was fresh and extremely soft. As you bit into it, you had to be careful because the hot broth inside could splash all over you. The meatball inside was delicious. Overall, it was a great experience.

Chengdu Taste is widely touted as the best Sichuan restaurant in the greater Los Angeles area and it was our next stop. We were fortunate that we arrived after the lunch crowd had departed as we were seated promptly. George ordered two dishes: Toothpick Lamb and Boiled Fresh Fish with Green Pepper Sauce.

Boiled Fish Filet with Green Pepper Sauce

Boiled Fish Filet with Green Pepper Sauce

Toothpick Lamb

Toothpick Lamb

The boiled fish filets were in a deadly looking broth that was covered with chopped serrano peppers and a generous amount of Sichuan peppercorns. The fish was slightly sweet, but what surprised me when I began eating this dish was that my lips started to tingle. George explained that this is the typical reaction from these peppercorns. The lamb was marinated with cumin, cut into small pieces and served with toothpicks inserted into each chunk. The lamb was very lean, had a strong cumin flavor and was somewhat spicy on the heat scale.

Charbroiled beef banh mi sandwich

Charbroiled beef banh mi sandwich

Banh Mi My Tho was another destination on George’s list. He told me the charbroiled beef was the banh mi sandwich to order. We discovered this to be a very small shop with no tables inside. We shared a small bench outside with another person and we tried the banh mi. While the inside of the sandwich was very good, we both felt that the bread wasn’t quite the same consistency as some of the better banh mi sandwich shops in LA.

The Osaka filled with sliced cabbage and topped with bonito flakes - doesn't sound good, but it was tasty

The Osaka filled with sliced cabbage and topped with bonito flakes – doesn’t sound good, but it was tasty

George then suggested visiting a bakery and so we dropped by the Little Swan. He was extremely impressed at the way the LA area bakeries have innovated their offerings. Little Swan is similar to 85 Degrees due to their Asian offerings and their clear cellophane packaging. Their stock is replenished throughout the day making it extremely fresh. I purchased a few items to go – the most interesting was the Osaka which was filled with cabbage and topped with dried bonito flakes,  

Although it was time to eat dinner, we certainly weren’t hungry enough for a full meal. As our last stop, I suggested going to a place with “small bites” and George directed me to the Garvey Square Shopping Center in nearby Rosemead.

There were approximately 10 restaurants in this food court and almost all served Asian food. As we walked from stall to stall, I quickly zoned in on one of my favorite Cantonese dishes, clams in black bean sauce and so the choice was made, Master Zhou. Given our appetite, I also ordered the fried tofu with enoki mushrooms.

Clams with Black Bean Sauce

Clams with Black Bean Sauce

Fried Tofu with Enoki Mushrooms

Fried Tofu with Enoki Mushrooms

I don’t recall the amount we paid, but it was around $7.00. We were amazed at the number of clams on this dish. While I enjoyed the dish, George said that it was an easy dish to prepare at home and didn’t seem to enjoy it as much. On the other hand, he loved the tofu dish as it was slightly crisp on the outside and had a very soft inside – almost custard-like in texture.

It was great to finally meet George. I think we both had fun on this SGV foodie adventure and I learned quite a bit just by listening to him. If you enjoy dining adventures, I recommend picking a type of cuisine and seeing whether there is an LA enclave with an abundance of places that serves this type of food. Invite some friends along and explore!

Kang Kang Food Court

  • 27 E Valley Blvd, Alhambra, CA;  (626) 308-3898

Chendu Taste

  • 828 W Valley Blvd. Alhambra, CA; (626) 588-2284

Banh Mi My Tho

  • 304 W Valley Blvd, Alhambra, CA; (626) 289-4160

Little Swan

  • 1024 E Valley Blvd. Alhambra, CA; (626) 282-1888

Garvey Square Shopping Center Food Court

  • 8150 Garvey Ave. Rosemead, CA
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About the Author

Follow Bryan on twitter for the latest and greatest in food trucks and street food. @btsunoda.

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