OK - noodles tonight.
TOnight I had a friend in from out of town who was interested in trying chinese noodles - not cantonese and not real beijing style as he's going to beijing tomorrow (so no red-cooked beef and tendon wheat noodle soup).
WE went to three places.
1. Ma Lan noodles in Hacienda Heights. A group of four. We shared the fried gluten (mistakenly translated as fried tofu on the menu) with mushrooms and the bamboo shoots (xiao sun) cold dishes. Got the single-thickness cold noodles with sesame sauce and ordered the standard malan soup noodles (we got double thickness, er xi). Split it four ways,and got to watch the guy make the noodles. These are a standard for me. The noodles are great great. Broth was a little mild for my pals. we had discussed going to Jasmine in Monterey park for dan dan mian but he said he gets enough in new york - I pointed out that the chinese name for jasmine restaurant is in fact just dandan mian here and they really specialize in chengdu snax. But he wanted something different.
Stop 2 - Eight cafe - big sign in CHiense - Gui Lin Mi Fen
桂林米粉 Eight Cafe
110 E. Garvey Ave.
Nice place - very sweet. the waitress's kid, about eight, came over to translate for his mother. Nice boy. We ordered two noodle dishes - these are rice flour as opposed to the ma lan wheat noodles. HOWEVER, I like the guilin style noodles as they are a little thicker and have more of a wheat texture than the pencil thin rice noodles you often get at Yue-cai, HK/Canton places.
So we got two noodle dishes and three sides (first time here so a little trepidation). We ordered the spicy and sour beef guilin rice noodles (dry) and the chicken guilin soup rice noodles (#12 and 14 on the menu). For side dishes - they said there was a spicy tofu dish - we got it, it was just doufu gan si, shredded pressed tofu with a slightly spiced sauce, not hot at all = maybe because we were a non-Asian group they made it less hot, maybe not. We had spoken in chinese with the waitress but I guess i could have emphasized that we could eat it spicy. The second dish was a cold bean sprout dish - i'm used to a hebei style clearer tasting, refreshing bean sprout plate - this was richer, many more spices a darker earthier taste and some other vegetables in it. Interesting and I"m glad we tried it. There was a list of dishes with the often scary epithet - "Preserved dishes". Nothing scary about these. The chinese is just yan-shui, salt water - these are dishes quickly cooked in salt water/brine and left to cool so they are lightly salted, hardly even pickled. The menu said preserved cow tendon. The character in chinese wasn't the one for tendon, but i didn't recognize it. I just looked it up - and it's really sinew, but they use it to mean the leg meat at the sinew, so it's more like a brisket (here's the character - 腱). Anyway, it was just like a normal but thin sliced five-spice beef you can get at mandarin deli. This was my first foray into Guangxi provincial food.
The broth with the spicy sour beef noodles was really good. A bit of chili but whereas the broth at malan had a bit of star anise (ba jiao) this one was much earthier and had real licorice root - 甘草 or so it seemed to me. The chicken was ok, not as interesting as the chicken soup at Yungui (the steam pot chicken) or the 24 hour blackbone chicken soup with herbs at 888 seafood. But the spicy sour was a great combination and for rice noodles, this place was good (the guest of honor wasn't as interested in the yunnan "cross bridge noodles" just around the corner)
NOTE: there was a spicy Guilin chili sauce on the tables in a small pot next to the usual red lajiang/layou chili paste you find lots of places. the guilin chili paste thing (guilin la jiang) had maybe beans and fermented stuff and chilis and god knows what in it - it made the mild "preserved" beef a bit tastier - one of our party LOVED it. If you go, check it out - it's a little gamy - not fishy but definitely pungent - think on the smell that first assautls you when you walk into a shop selling ginseng and dried seahorse, etc. (no there's no ginseng or seahorse in the sauce - just a little of the chinese medinical herb vibe)
3. For the last bit, we went over to Heavy Noodling- the daoxiao, knife-cut noodle place across the street. Dao xiao noodles are cut off a dough cone directly into the boiling water. They are basically a lot like pappardelle in texture and taste - even though tagliatelle are cut, it's a different method. I would have liked dessert at this point, and they have an item on the menu, zimizhou, purple rice congee - a thick porridge made with dark glutinous rice -sweet and different. BUT on with the noodle exploring.
We ordered a small order of the simplest daoshao sliced noodle - one can choose between stirfried (chaomian) and noodles in soup (tangmian, here for some reason, ton mian). WE went for broth and the simplest doesn't even say soup noodles, it says lamb infused noodles (the verb pao 泡, means to infuse or steep as in brewing tea). We got that as well as an order of the cat's ears, mao erduo. A quick word on the second - the cats ears were once served with a ground meat sauce similar to the sauce on "ants climb the tree," so they really were like orecchiette in a ragu. But now they make the mao erduo with a mu-hsu topping, eggs onions mushrooms etc. So i was a bit surprized.
These noodles went over the best. Probably since all of us enjoy Italian food as well. One of our party found the broth a bit too bland and did the unthinkable - put soy into his bowl of soup. but hey he was happy and i just shut up. The cats ears texture and bit of al dente bite was also quite popular. The G of Honor wanted to try the jiucai hezi, the 韭菜盒子 a type of pasty or turnover filled with minced chinese leeks/chives and sometimes with meat. I was so full at this point I let them eat it. Also, I tend to order the hezi and hebei or beijing or shandong places, not at shanxi places. that's just me.
So that was the outing.
Ma Lan - 馬蘭拉麵
2020 S. Hacienda Blvd., #B
See above for eight cafe and
153 E. Garvey Ave.
(the xiao (scrape) character is missing in the chineseypage listing)
For more on shanxi noodles and food in general, check out
also, total was $64 for the four of us, including tips.
I like the noodles at Malan Mien but I thought that their soup broth is a big weakness. The pork with preserved vegetables was good but their beef noodle soup is really subpar. Maybe it's from a region of China I'm not familiar with but it's definitely not like the beef noodle soup that comes to mind when you mention beef noodle soup.