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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.