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REVIEW: Ma's Chinese Islamic, Anaheim

On the way from Brea back home yesterday, Mrs Ubergeek and I were discussing dinner options when we passed Ma's Islamic Chinese restaurant on Orangethorpe near the Metrolink tracks.

"That sounds good," says Mrs Ubergeek. "Let's go after we drop the stuff off at home."

"Okay," I said.

And so we went. Unlike China Islamic in Rosemead, where the customers are mostly Chinese, this was a big mix -- some East Asian and some South Asian or Arab, with the women mostly in veils or hijab. It's a much nicer-looking place than China Islamic, and the service is much more gracious.

We ordered dough-cut noodles with lamb, thin bing (sesame bread with green onions) and, as a nod to my wife, mushu chicken.

The noodles were excellent -- just slightly al dente in the centre. I would have preferred it with beef (as the commentators on Iron Chef would say, they had trouble "masking the odour of lamb") but it was very, very good anyway. The mushu chicken was excellent -- and it's been a very long time since we've had anyone be able to build the mushu tableside without spilling things everywhere.

The winner, however, was the sesame bread. Wow. It's $8.50, but don't let the price scare you -- it's an ENORMOUS portion of bread, five entire rounds (and each round is about 12 inches in diametre) cut into portions. Scruuuuuuuuuuuuumptious. I had it for breakfast today; I'll have it with the leftovers tonight. The portions were enormous overall -- the mushu was four huge pancakes stuffed to burrito-sized proportions; the dish of noodles was so heavy my wife couldn't lift it.

They have "normal Chinese" lunch specials for $6.50 to $8.00 -- nothing too exciting, and they come with rice and egg roll, not a piece or two of that addicting bread.

I want to try the cumin lamb and the braised leeks with five-spiced beef.

Definitely recommend it -- it tastes better than China Islamic (maybe better execution) and the decor and service are much nicer.

601 E. Orangethorpe Ave. (east of Lemon, west of Raymond)
Anaheim, CA 92801
(714) 446-9553

No alcohol -- and they turned away a family in shorts as we were leaving, asking them to attire themselves modestly.

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  1. sounds delicious. i have been craving the da bing's and lamb hot pot lately. so they turned away people in shorts? wow.

    1. Thanks for the review, Ubergeek! So close to home, yet we have not visited there yet. Thanks for the heads-up on the dress code policy, we'll be sure to be appropriately attired when we go.

      1. I cannot wait. We need a decision -- whats the best chinese islamic place in SGV?

        1 Reply
        1. I just went for the first time on Sunday evening, and had really good time too. The waitress made us feel really welcome, and the room looks quite attractive.

          We also had the thin bread that uber recommends, and I certainly concur! We tried the lamb with pickled cabbage that the waitress suggested, as well as sauteed pea shoots.

          The lamb was a really pleasant surprise: not too pickly, with a nice contrast between the slightly crunchy cabbage and the lamb. I was expecting something more challenging from the name, but it was delicious. It "masked the odour of the lamb" really well!

          The pea shoots were also good: garlicky and wonderful. Both the peas and the lamb worked extremely well with the yummy sesame bread.

          1. Thanks for the report! This was on my list to try: my LA-based daughter (who is Muslim) reported that some friends had taken her and her hubby there after a recent Disneyland day trip, and now she is trying to convince me to come down for a day at Disneyland followed by dinner at Ma's (any idea how late they are open? :-)))....She specifically mentioned the decor and the sesame bread.. But lamb and pickled cabbage sounds great to me!

            1 Reply
            1. My friend still thinks the food has been dumbed down too much (for the non-Chinese clientele) compared to when the owners ran Tung Lai Shun in San Gabriel. I have to say that the broad mung bean thread noodle dish at Ma's was terrific, though.

              1. I've been there for lunch and adore their sesame bread. I LOVE lamb, but maybe I just don't "get" Islamic Chinese cuisine, b/c I found the rest of their menu items to be "just okay".

                1. We went to Mas Chinese Islamic restaurant today and ordered the Sesame Green Onion Bread. But there was a choice of thin or regular. Which one are you all ordering?

                  1 Reply
                  1. re: Suzanne 92835

                    I love the thin bread -- the bread itself is uninteresting, it's the crust with the sesame seeds and salt... thin bread means more crust!

                  2. Thanks for the review. Das Ubergeek - there's also a islamic restaurant in Rowland heights off Fullerton and Colima in the Korean supermarket plaza. Think it's called VIP. Haven't been for a while since I am not a fan of the cuisine but the food I had there were pretty good when we went a while back.

                    Suzanne - generally people order the thick ones, at least when I used to go to Tung Lai Shun in San Gabriel (previous restaurant).

                    1. Anyone know if Ma's does takeout or has a website menu?


                      1 Reply
                      1. re: Just Cid

                        Yes, they have take out. After all, it *is* a Chinese restaurant!

                        I'm not aware of any website.

                      2. No shorts? Ouch - I think I have three pair of long pants in our closet. I used to go to Tung Lai Shun in shorts pretty regularly - not shabby down-to-the-calf shorts, or the "Reno 911 in Miami" shorts, just regular Dockers-type shorts. I guess I'll have to break out and dust off my long pants - wow - bell-bottoms! ;> Love that thin bing with leftovers!

                        1. Has this restaurant worked out its crowd management issues yet? I recall reading a few posts describing a mob scene w/ no seating list and no help from the staff. A friend of mine tried to go when they first opened but never got seated (or figured out how to get seated) and left after half an hour of confusion and chaos.

                          1. I have looked all over the Internet and I can't find any recipe that resembles the Sesame Onion Bread from Ma's. Does anyone have one?

                            1. Sounds like a great place, I want to give it a try.

                              I have a question, though, about the word "bing" as you're using it to mean the sesame bread.

                              In New York City, there's a small restaurant in the Village that serves something called "bing" that are rounds of sesame-crusted dough about the size of a hockey puck, sold with a variety of stuffings, including chicken, pork, curry vegetables, and also sweet things like red bean and banana. The vendor used to sell them at a stand at one of the greenmarkets, and recently opened the store. They're dynamite!

                              But after discovering them there, I've been trying to find out about them here, and I've never really been able to learn where they're from, whether these particular treats are a traditonal food or sort of a unique invention based on the Islamic bread. And I've never found the term "bing" elsewhere before reading your post.

                              Does anyone know about the kind of bing I'm describing, and are there any in LA?

                              4 Replies
                              1. re: gsw

                                "Bing" just refers to the bread, as I understand it -- but I'm no Mandarin expert, so let's hope Jerome or another expert can chime in. I have definitely had what you're describing, and they're available in places like 99 Ranch Markets. I remember them being very, very doughy, almost like mochi.

                                1. re: gsw

                                  Bing is just generic in chinese, see http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Bing_%28....

                                  It can be preceded by the chinese word for sesame, green onion, etc. to give a hint of the ingredients used.

                                  The closest to the bing you referred to that I've seen here is at the breakfast joints like Ei-Mei. They sell a type that's rectangular, thin crusted bing called shaobing that's stuffed with beef or pork. Some people buy the bing and the fried cruller and make a sandwich out of it.

                                  1. re: notmartha

                                    It doesn't just refer to bread either... my understanding is that bǐng (pinyin, sometimes transliterated "beeng") just refers to a cake, be it made of tea leaves, fish, flour, or whatever.

                                  2. re: gsw

                                    just saw this thread.
                                    yes - bing is a cake of any kind.
                                    gsw is talking about shao bing. Any good mongol bbq place will serve them. proprely made, dough is spread with a roux made of oil and flour and then its rolled up and out and up and out like a puff pastry dough. when all the layers are made, it's dredged in sesame seeds and baked. you can buy them toaster ready at any market catering to the chinese community (look in the frozen foods section) like 99 ranch.

                                    da bing - big bing. that's all.

                                  3. Went to Ma's this weekend. The "beef with garlic" was just okay, the thin sesame bread with onions was wonderful, the lamb stew was mediocre and fatty. I would return if I'm in the neighborhood, but it's not even close to how good the place in the Great Mall of China was. Plus they have an enormous amount of gloopy, americanized chinese food they are selling. a bit of a disappointment.

                                    2 Replies
                                    1. re: echoparkdirt

                                      bummer i was really looking forward to trying the lamb hot pot. i guess i'll stick with china islamic in the meanwhile.

                                      1. re: echoparkdirt

                                        I agree. I was very excited about trying Ma's since she started the trend in OC which led to the branch of Lotus in Huntington Beach and the orginal Jamillah Garden in Tustin. Other than the interior the food was just ok. The "bings" are good, however the fried dumplings were particularly nasty - I don't know why the beef in them was so stringy. The fish with hot bean sauce was also fair.
                                        But, I wore short pants.

                                      2. We tried this place last month and thought it was great for the thin da bing and the stir fried lamb. The lamb struck a nice balance -- flavorful, but not too strong. Much better than the lamb at the Tustin Chinese-Islamic restaurant.

                                        1. Thanks for this recommendation. Stopped off on the way to Disneyland -- grabbed some take-out from Ma's and scarfed down some sesami green-onion bread (thick kind) and very tender flavorful chowmain with perfectly cooked egg in the car before heading off to meet friends. New to the Chinese-Islamic cuisine which made the schlep out there kind of interesting and the food was the highlight of the day. Had the sesami bread for days and it reheated great in the oven. Portions HUGE.

                                          1. I agree with the Ubers.... it is amazing food. I tried a gringo dish... the honey walnut shrimp and unlike many places the sauce was light and the shimp were not at all oily... it was a great offering! The garlic jalepeño beef is not to be missed... and I'm going to try the bread tonight (bing) so I'll let you know my thoghts on it. I did see it the last time I was there and regretted not ordering it, but we couldn't eat all our food as it was! Generous portions and in my experience a very attentive staff... definitely try this place!

                                            1. Tried Mas' Islamic Chinese last night. That sesame green onion bread really does live up to the hype. I wish I had more room left for eating bread after eating the sauteed shrimp and braised sole with hand cut dough shrimp noodles. And by the way, there was SO many leftovers I could hardly carry the bag. The portions really are huge. It was delicious though. My favorite (besides the bread) was the braised sole - it was perfect- garlicky, not oily, and with a good selection of veggies.

                                              All my dining companions were more than happy with their choices too. The orange chicken in particular got rave reviews. I will definitely be going back soon (once I finish the mountain of leftovers that is ;-)).

                                              1 Reply
                                              1. re: FoodieKat

                                                The sesame bread is good, but that's true for almost every Chinese-Islamic restaurant I've been to. And, other than the sesame bread, the rest of the menu doesn't really rise above than just being simply okay- too greasy and kind of dumbed down for an american audience. Plus, the service was so horrendous that I was debating whether or not to leave even though I was starving.

                                                I think Red Lotus in Huntington Beach which also serves Chinese-Islamic cuisine is just a lot better than this place, except for maybe the decor. The Red Lotus' other dishes are just a lot better, and even their sesame bread is better than Ma's.

                                              2. Update:

                                                Daughter and I were in Anaheim yesterday and headed to Ma's for lunch, along with world's greatest grandaughter. At just before noon it wasn't too crowded, though it picked up before we left. We were warmly greated and seated at a very nice booth with lots of room, and the server fussed a bit over the baby, in a nice way. Lots of $6.99 lunch specials available, along with the regular menu.

                                                J has been craving pot stickers foreover, but only eats halal meat (and no pork), which generally means no pot stickers, and she has been known to drive thirty minutes out of her way to get them at Ma's.

                                                After looking at both we ordered two lunch specials, along with the thin flat bread and an order of pot stickers. This of course, was an obsene amount of food (I mean ENORMOUS is not an exageration of the size). Lunch specials also come with a cup of soup and some spring rolls.

                                                By sheer coincidence, we ended up with the same dishes (plus bread and potstickers) as we ate for lunch the day before at Marlar, kung pao chicken (daughter's favorite) and lamb with pickled cabbage:


                                                Both were HUGE orders even though ordered as lunch specials: bigger than a lot of dinner portions I have seen, served family style rather than on a plate with a scoop of rice (rice came in a seperate bowl as it would at dinner).

                                                The verdict: even not taking the delicious flat bread into account, Ma's wins the comparison race by miles; it is enough better that it might be worth the drive even without appointments in Anaheim.

                                                The PIckled Cabbage was particularly good: mildly pickled and the lamb was tender and delicous, with lots of lamb flavor (that was fairly MIA at Marlar). The bread, as noted, was delicious. I thought the pot stickers only ok, but daughter loved them.

                                                Total for a RIDICULOUS amount of food for two, very nice ambiance, and very pleasant service, was about $39 including tax and tip. It was easily enough food for four persons (two people could split one lunch special and one order of the bread and not be able to finish). I had leftovers for lunch *and* dinner, and there was still enough left over for J's lunch today, plus some.

                                                We will be back.

                                                Ma's Islamic
                                                601 E Orangethorpe Ave, Anaheim, CA 92801

                                                1 Reply
                                                1. re: susancinsf

                                                  I'm glad you enjoyed it! I'm addicted to the five-spice beef and leeks. The cumin lamb is quite tasty. When we ordered the lamb with pickled cabbage, the waiter demurred (we totally look like the "um i'll have orange chicken and chow mein" people -- appearances can be deceiving!). When we insisted, they watched us discreetly as we ate it. It is very pungent but I liked it.

                                                2. Tried Mas' tonight after reading this thread. A little worried, because of no recent posts, but everything here was spot on. Sesame bread was great. Dough cut noodles and Leeks and spicy beef, and lamb with pickled cabbage were all outstanding! And so much food! Oof!
                                                  Our waiter was likewise surprised at our orders. Thanks for the tips Ubergeek!