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A very humbling ISO-Kung Pao

i am not big on chinese food in general, and honestly tend to prefer more "americanized" places.

is there anyplace in chinatown or vicinity where i can satisfy my occasional kung pao chicken cravings?

i know, i know...

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  1. I think every Chinese restaurant in the region serves this dish. Not sure how to respond, esp. if you don't like Chinese food. Just pick anyplace - Yang Chow seems to be popular w/ people who don't like Chinese food.

    Yang Chow Restaurant
    819 N Broadway, Los Angeles, CA 90012

    2 Replies
    1. re: cant talk...eating

      i phrased the question badly. i realize kung pao is on almost every chinese restaurant menu in america, just thought maybe someplace did it particularly well.

      1. re: ronsilverado

        I second Yang Chow for kung pao with lots of pow. It makes me cry thinking about it.

    2. Chu’s Kitchen in downtown LA
      111 West 9th Street (west of Main)

      Yang Chow does a decent kung pao chicken, but it is more expensive than Chu's if I recall correctly.

      1. Hey, ron, I think I understand what you are looking for. Sometimes you don't care about the exotic or the "authentic" and you just want some ethnic or regional-type food the way you had it growing up or in your neighborhood, for instance red sauce spaghetti and meatball Italian rather than some special, particular, expensive pasta concoction.

        There used to be a place that would be a great fit to what you want -- it was located towards the rear of the Grand Central Market, and featured a curved counter/bar with stools where they would serve very cheap plates of chop suey, chow mein, and other simple Americanized dishes of Chinese food. I don't think it is there anymore, I could be wrong.

        I'm a big Yang Chow fan, to the dismay of many naysayers on this board (as you've experienced above). They may not be authentic, but I've found my favorite dishes there to be delicious and I always emerge happy. I do find that the container of hot chili oil does improve a lot of their dishes to my taste, but for me that's true at most Chinese restaurants. I once met someone for lunch there who surprised me by being vegetarian (no slippery shrimp!) and they did a fine job of adapting some dishes. All that said, kung pao chicken is not their best dish (it is bland there) and it is on the expensive side. If you go to Yang Chow get the hot and spicy wonton soup, the fried dumplings, the eggplant or string bean with garlic sauce, the cold noodles with chicken and peanut butter, and of course absolutely the slippery shrimp.

        My favorite kung pao? On the westside, at Hu's. The kung pao chicken at lunch -- tender, velveted chicken -- or the kung pao shrimp at dinner -- big meaty shrimp. Both in a great tasty spicy complex sauce, with only meat, scallions, and peanuts, no filler vegetables such as carrot or zucchini, though I like it that way as well.

        2 Replies
        1. re: nosh

          Thanks for the tip on this, Nosh. I really can't stand zucchini in Chinese food, esp. as you describe - filler! Never woulda expected this from Hu's, but it's gotten good reviews on this board so I should probably give it a try.

          1. re: nosh

            Thanks for recommending this. My favorite version of KP Shrimp is as you describe - meat, scallions and peanuts. Spring Garden used to do a stellar version, but sadly they're gone...been looking for a replacement...will have to give Hu's a try.

          2. Chinese Friends. Broadway, on the north end of Chinatown. East side of he street. Been eating there for 25+ years...

            1. You are correct, Chinese Friends does a good kung pao chicken. Many of their dishes imitate those served at Yang Chow at a buck or two less -- their sweet and pungent shrimp is a pale rendition of Yang Chow's slippery shrimp. They are linoleum tables and plastic plates vs. Yang Chow's linens and glassware, but most of the food is pretty good. They have easy free parking in the covered lot next door to the north.

              4 Replies
              1. re: nosh

                I've always thought, (or at least for the last 25+ years or so) that C.F.'s shrimp (it used to be their "house special shrimp") was the original and superior, version, and that Yang Chow's was the "fancied up" imitation.

                1. re: silverlakebodhisattva

                  Hey, be careful with the initials. I was about to run out to see and taste what Cheesecake Factory would do with the famous shrimp dish!

                  1. re: silverlakebodhisattva

                    At least per a few articles in the L.A. Times, Yang Chow "invented" the dish back in 1977; though I have seen other sources say it was actually created at the family's prior restaurant, Lotus Garden.

                    1. re: New Trial

                      If that's the case, then their KP recipe was replicated by the likes of not only CF, but also Hunan Restaurant, Green Jade Restaurant, and Plum Tree Inn...

                2. Hu's Szechuan Inn in Culver City (National and Motor).

                  Ate there decades ago and became addicted to their rather rich, sweet and spicy Kung Pao Chicken. And I prefer it to any Kung Pao I've ever had.

                  But I have not tried Yang Chow's.

                  2 Replies
                  1. re: foodiemahoodie

                    Actually, Hu's is on the corner of National and National, about a block West of Motor. Still a solid choice if you are in the area, with decent hot & sour soup, tasty Kung Pao and twice-cooked pork, as well as surprisingly good spicy wontons (though not as good as the ones at Yang Chow) but, as nosh noted five years ago, Kung Pao is not Yang Chow's strong suit--stick to their signature dishes.

                    1. re: New Trial

                      Hu's is on National where it makes a 90-degree turn, east of Overland and west of Motor--south of the 10 freeway, on a corner across from Simpang Asia.

                      I'm glad to see someone elase loves their kung pao sauce -- served with chicken as an option on their lunch combo, and with shrimp at dinner. A delicious and protein-centric version, with peanuts and some green onion (no onion or green bell pepper chunks that fill in a lot of renditions). I order mine spicy, with extra sauce.

                  2. ronsiverado,

                    What's funny is that you're thinking of kung pao chicken as being the quintessential Americanized Chinese food, but in reality "gong bao ji ding" is actually a traditional Sichuanese dish.

                    Here's a recipe from Fuchsia Dunlop, who you may know spent years studying at the SIchuanese cooking academy and has written books on traditional Sichuanese cooking for foreigners.


                    I don't usually seek this dish out, but any of the San Gabriel Valley restaurants serving Sichuanese will likely have a variation of Dunlop's recipe for you.

                    Mr Taster

                    10 Replies
                    1. re: Mr Taster

                      Any place in particular in the SGV you'd recommend for KP Shrimp? Loved the dish at Spring Garden in Pasadena, but now closed. )~:

                      1. re: ferdlap

                        Tasty Garden in Alhambra on Valley Bl make excellent Kung Pao chicken and they have KP shrimp

                        I'm not usually a fan of the typical KP loaded with water chestnut filler, but Tasty Garden's version omits that stuff and it's mostly meat. Their KP sauce is crack-like in its addictiveness

                        1. re: Ernie

                          OK, went to Tasty Garden today for KP Shrimp. Best version I've had other than Spring Garden.

                          Still disappointed, though. You're right about the sauce - absolutely addicting. But, had the usual carrots and celery and not nearly enough green onions.

                          Wonderful none the less, and will certainly go again as some of the other dishes we saw look great.

                          Thanks for recommending!

                          1. re: ferdlap

                            Glad you enjoyed it and thank you for taking the time to post about your experience :)

                            1. re: Ernie

                              So, this evening the KP Shrimp Jones struck and it was off to Chinese Friends on Broadway.

                              This is getting closer to what I'm looking for - nothing but Shrimp, green onions, peppers and peanuts. Best of the bunch so far and will certainly "scratch the itch".

                              The seasoning was a bit different than Spring Garden but otherwise perfectly wonderful.

                              Will have to try some of the other recommendations in the new year.

                              Thanks again to all who offered recommendations!

                        2. re: ferdlap

                          As I said earlier, when I go out for Sichuanese food, I do not order gong bao chicken... I'm getting water boiled fish, chile wontons and a bunch of cold dishes, including the beautiful smoked chicken, the spicy beef tendon, and spicy pigs ear (they keep these in a refrigerated deli case in the front of the restaurant-- you usually get 3 different kinds of cold appetizers for about $5). So I'm not exactly an authority on where to find a good version of gong bao ji ding.

                          But since it is a traditional Sichuanese dish, I'll use my SGV gong fu to recommend some of the finer Sichuanese restaurants around town.

                          Bear in mind that Tasty Garden is NOT a Sichuanese restaurant. Rather, it is a Hong Kong Cafe, so their style of cooking will not be traditionally Sichuanese (because the cooks are likely not Sichuanese) which explains why it was a variation on the Fuchsia Dunlop recipe I linked to earlier. It sounds closer to traditional that what you'd get at Panda, but then again that's not saying much.

                          I'd recommend visiting Shufeng Garden in Rowland Heights as well as Yunnan Garden on Las Tunas in San Gabriel. Again, I haven't ordered it at these restaurants, but they both serve very good, tradtional Sichuanese food so I'd be very surprised if they didn't make it, or if they served you a sub-par version. Also, in addition to the gong bao try ordering the other dishes I mentioned.

                          Mr Taster

                          1. re: Mr Taster

                            Will do them soon - wife and I are now on the the "Great Kung Pao Shrimp Hunt of 2013" - promises to be great fun!

                            1. re: ferdlap

                              Incidentally, I'm talking specifically about kung pao chicken, though if you tell them you want it with shrimp they will probably oblige.

                              Mr Taster

                              1. re: Mr Taster

                                Will do - KP shrimp was not on the menu at Tasty, but they gladly accommodated.

                                Appreciate your recommendations - for various reasons we haven't had much chance to sample the wonderful chow in the SGV until recently. Very much looking forward to doing lots more. Would appreciate other Sichuan recommendations as well!

                          2. re: ferdlap

                            Give Newport Seafood in SG a shot really great lunch specials their kung pao tends to be on the less saucier side but still great wit rice

                        3. IMO Newport Seafood has the best kung pao chicken. There's a reason why its the first thing on their lunch menu.

                          2 Replies
                            1. re: jessejames

                              Yes, though SA branch isn't considered the "official" Tang Cangs...(San Gabriel and Rowland Heights being the legit ones) but I'd say the food is on par with each other though I'm partial to the SG one.