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Aug 24, 2008 06:43 PM

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...