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"Won Tons" roundup (SGV)

For some reason won tons don't seem to get a lot of play on this board.

Dumplings? Yes. XLB? Yes.

So, here's my very modest attempt at giving some love to the "other" Northern Chinese pasta/dumpling dish.

I think the makings of a good won ton soup boil down to three things: (1) the soup or broth; (2) accompaniments, e.g. veggies, noodles, etc. and (3) of course the won tons themselves.

Based on a scale of 1-10 with 10 being best.

Here goes, in no particular order:

SAM WOO (in Alhambra)
1. Broth: 8.
The broth is generally very savory and with just enough sesame oil added to give it an added dimension of richness. Be warned, lots of MSG though.
2. Accompaniments: 5.
Regular boiled bok choy with some out-of-the box noodles thrown in; could've done without.
3. Won tons: 8
Very good pork and ginger flavor and the skins were not too thick; size was also just right as in "bite-size" so that each soup spoonful picked up one won ton.

WON TON TIME
1. Broth: 7.
A little thin for my preference, but the addition of scallions and some strong black pepper provides a nice touch and saves the day.
2. Accompaniments: 7
It gets a high score simply because you can have all sorts of stuff added to your won ton soup, e.g. fish balls or beef, noodles, or just plain old broth with nothing added. I don't recommend the fish balls, however, unless you are also a fan of fake crab. Fish balls (which by the way are shaped and sized more like large frisbees) are sort of bland.
3. Won tons: 5
This is really where Won Ton Time drops the ball. The won tons are simply too big. It's almost farcical, sort of like eating one of those Chinese "lion's head" meatballs. Not good. Plus, I'm not a big fan of shrimp won tons, but that's a personal preference thing.

HAR LAM KEE
1. Broth. 7
Basic chicken stock that you can dress up with table-side condiments like chili, oyster sauce, vinegar, etc. which I highly recommend you do. Generally provides a good base for the meal.
2. Accompaniments. 6
The noodles are ok, nothing to get excited about. You can have an option of Chinese broccoli, which is again nothing to get excited about. Or you can also ask for some beef brisket, which I don't recommend because it is very tough and tasteless.
3. Won tons: 8
Tasted very good, nice peppery flavor that accentuated the pork and shrimp. The skin could've been thinner, but it definitely was not too thick as to make these suckers look like xlb drowning in chicken broth. They are also the right size.

WON WON KITCHEN
1. Broth: 4
Very watery and looks and tastes like they took a can of Swanson's chicken broth and added an equal part of water to it. Make sure to add soy sauce and sesame oil to this if you order it.
2. Accompaniments: 5
Basic noodles and variety of Chinese noodles.
3. Won Tons
Good, not great. Size is just about right, but the filling leaves a bit to be desired. Very flat tasting with no added dimension from the usual spices you should find in won ton fillings, e.g. ginger, pepper, etc.

Sam Woo B.B.Q Restaurant
514 West Valley Blvd.
Alhambra
626-281-0038

Won Ton Time
19 East Valley Blvd
Alhambra
626-293-3366

Har Lam Kee
150 E. Garvey Ave.
Monterey Park
626-288-7299

Won Won Kitchen
9461 Las Tunas Dr.
Temple City
626-287-5500

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  1. I thought Wonton Time on Valley was okay.

    I like the Harlam Kee in the food court of the Ranch 99 off of Garvey Ave and San Gabriel Blvd. I think it's much better than the Monterey Park location.

    Mei Mei in the Chang's Garden plaza on Duarte and Baldwin in Arcadia is pretty decent also.

    1 Reply
    1. re: WHills

      I have to second the HLK suggestion. The people there said they were not related to HLK, despite the similar name of Har Lam's Kitchen.

    2. I really enjoyed the wontons I had at Mandarin Noodle Deli in Temple City. Haha, actually some of the best soup and wontons I've had were at our family friend's house like two block down from there. I've never had the wontons at Dumpling House, but the noodle dished I've had there have been tasty (and filling).

      1. Yum! Thanks!! :)

        --Dommy!

        1. Thanks for your reviews! I haven't been there in a while, but Sam Woo always had good won tons. Har Lam Kee was pretty good, too. Tasty Garden in Arcadia has decent won tons.

          1. Cantonese wontons always include shrimp and pork. For me, two styles can be further distinguished - one where shrimp overwhelms and the other where the two are more in balance. Wontons at Won Ton Time might as well be HarGows (one serious black mark against JG), and Har Lum Kee serves a good version of the shrimp-centric style.

            I prefer the second style, which I believe is more traditional. All of the Sam Woo BBQs serve wontons in this style, but the quality at the different locations vary, sometimes considerably so.

            The best wontons are to be had at the San Gabriel Square's Sam Woo BBQ. I especially like it with half beef tendon and half beef - try it and see if you agree.

            1 Reply
            1. re: judge dee

              Thanks. I'll have to try the San Gabriel Square Sam woo again. There used to be a couple of places in Chinatown that served the traditional style wontons, but they are long gone.
              Not sure if they still have it, but the wontons served during dimsum at Ocean in chinatown are the best--bite sized, not overwhelmed with a giant shrimp, and there's a Chinese term that I could never really translate, something to the effect of good mouth feel, not heavy to the bite.

            2. These all sounds like cantonese style wontons, which isn't Northern. There's another dumpling call siu gow (water dumpling), which I actually prefer - as they are not as chewy as the wontons.

              The ones at Supreme Dragon and Din Tai Fung are the other style - has veggies mixed in. My shanghaiese made-at-home style has bok choy with pork, shitake, and a soy sauce based soup.

              I agree Sam Woo has pretty good cantonese style wontons. My favorite is siu gow or wonton with roast duck and rice noodles, plus enough red vinegar to dip the food into.

              1. We like the wonton soup at Oak Tree in South Pasadena...just another suggestion!

                1. Great post. I had no idea Sam Woo does a good Won Ton, live and learn, thanks, ipsiedixit.

                  1. sam woo in alhambra owns me. mainly because of that oily, savory soup!

                    1. Cantonese wonton is a classic, and it is totally under-appreciated on this board. There are other Chinese versions - specifically the hot peppered version of Sichuan, and, it's true, only Cantonese wonton includes shrimp - but Cantonese wonton rules. There are chowhound types who make pilgrimages to Hong Kong just to enjoy the classic wonton, and you can get it right here in San Gabriel Valley!!

                      I implore you to order this dish at Sam Woo BBQ in the San Gabriel Mall - it's better than the Sam Woo on Garvey and certainly better than the Alhambra Sam Woo. This is such a chowhoundish dish. Report back when you've tasted it.

                      1. Thank you for compiling this list, Ipse Dixit. I regularly get crazy won ton cravings and I made the mistake of going to the Sam Woo in Alhambra a while go which sort of grossed me out and had way too much MSG. I can take a little MSG but too much and its usually a terrible headache/thirstiness that lasts for several hours. I'll make a point of trying the other Sam Woo in SG Square next time.

                        1. i've tried wonton soup at about every restaurant in monterey park and alhambra. my favorite by far is the wonton soup at Aloha Food Factory in Alhambra. check it out. it's right on valley by the 710 fwy.

                          4 Replies
                          1. re: azuki

                            Cool, another one to add to my list! I didn't know they had wonton soup, but I went to elementary and high school with the Chinese-American guys who opened Aloha Food Factory and know how dedicated they are to Hawaiian culture

                            1. re: Ernie

                              I've only been to that place a couple of times but you are right, they are true Hawaiians over there and love what they do. That's a nice contrast to these mass production chains that are popping up all over the place that have the same bland menu and the same bland food. These posts reminded me it's time to go back there!

                              1. re: monkuboy

                                I really like their burritos, esp. the Kahlua Pig one. Good shave ice as well (not Oahu, North Shore good, but pretty good nonetheless).

                                Didn't even realize that they had "won tons" on the menu ... may be time for a visit very soon.

                                www.alohafoodfactory.com

                            2. re: azuki

                              I tried the wonton at Aloha Food Factory today. It's a nice little place, but the wonton is certainly not of the Hong Kong classic style, and in my opinion, not worthy of a return trip.

                            3. Nice wrap-up, ipse -- Har Lam Kee is really the only one I go to for wonton/dumpling soup (though I always have a hard time deciding between that or a juk with youtiao) ~ and wow, didn't know aloha serves wontons as well - maybe worth checking out (providing I don't get lulled into their sesame chicken!)

                              ~H.C.
                              http://la-oc-foodie.blogspot.com

                              1. Like a few others have mentioned, my vote for Wonton goes to Sam Woo in the big San Gabrial mall (on Valley between New and Del Mar). Their quality is very consistent and good.

                                If you order it with noodles, the noodles are great too - cooked aldente. The choy sum in the soup is great.