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J Gold Szechuan Best & Shau May/Kang Kang question

Went last night.... ordered 2 cold apps (spicy stewed beef/tendon + spicy tofu), fried fish filet in chili oil, dan dan noodles and sichuan wontons. Totally agree with J Gold's assessment.... this is by far the most "tolerable" Szechuan food in terms of heat... not because the food isn't spicy, but because the spiciness comes from the tongue-numbing peppercorns and not the burning fire hot chiles. The upshot of this is that I found the dishes at SB to be so much more enjoyable to eat than their counterparts at Chung King and Lucky Dragon.

Never had Szechuan version of dan dan noodles.... interesting bits of what I believe were fermented cabbage and mushrooms (or meat?) and a splash of chile oil gave a totally different kick to the sesame flavor that I've come to know and love from the Taiwanese version of this homey dish.

We then took a walk down Garfield to Valley and had Taiwanese shaved ice for dessert at Kang Kang food court. We then drove down to check out Shau May (just to see where it's located, so that we can come back for the 50 item shaved ice one day!) and were quite surprised to see signage similar to that in Kang Kang food court.... similar dishes, etc. and the sign itself is also called (in Chinese, not English) "Little Kang Kang". Was this just a coincidence or is this shop related to the other Kang Kang?

Mr Taster

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  1. Hold on a second, you walked from Szechuan Best (Main and Atlantic) all the way to Garfield and Valley? That's quite a trek!

    Which Shau May did you go to?

    7 Replies
    1. re: ipsedixit

      ...and then back up to Atlantc and Main :) It's only 3 miles... I try to ignore the fact that I'm in Los Angeles and walk as much as possible. You'd be amazed how fast that 3 miles would melt away if you were walking in New York or Bangkok... the distance barrier is purely psychological, so I like to think I've conquered my psyche.

      We went to Shau May in the Lincoln Garfield Plaza, on the east side of Garfield just north of Garvey. In fact we went back again last night (drove this time) and pretty much confirmed that it's the same place.... even the shaved ice bins were tagged with the same font, and the takeout menu says "Kang Kang Food Court, Monterey Park"

      Mr Taster

      1. re: Mr Taster

        Kudos to you.

        The more walking, the more chowing, right?

        While not all of the Shau May's are related, I think the ones that are spelled the same are owned by the same folks -- e.g., Shau May, Shau Mei, Shau Mai, etc.

        1. re: ipsedixit

          So maybe I'm getting my Shau Mays mixed up... which is the location which boasts a 50 item shaved ice?

          By the way, re walking, that's the idea... when we were traveling in Asia for 7 months, I ate everything I wanted but walked all day long and dropped from 230 to 190 lbs. It's the first time in my life I was at an ideal weight. When I came back home, I gained it all back. I've been on a quest to recreate that experience here, of integrating excercise into my life naturally (gyms are not my thing) but it's damned hard... even my daily 3 mile walk is nothing compared to what we did in Asia, and my unbudging weight is evidence of that.

          Mr Taster

        2. re: Mr Taster

          You walked to Garfield and Garvey, too?! With a walk like that, you could eat at every restaurant along the way and still burn off the calories. We are truly unworthy.

          1. re: raytamsgv

            No no no... we started at Szechuan Best, walked down Main to Garfield, took Garfield down to Valley (got shaved ice at Kang Kang), took Valley to Atlantic, and back up to Main. We then got in the car and drove to Shau May on Garfield and Garvey to get a glimpse of this purported 50 item shaved ice, but found the food court to be nearly identical to the Kang Kang on Valley.

            Mr Taster

          2. re: Mr Taster

            The one on Valley/Garfield and the one on Garfield/Garvey have been related since they both opened. We know the one on Valley as "Old School Shau May's" and the one on Garvey as "Kentucky Fried Shau May's" (because of the chicken bucket on top of the building.

            1. re: Mr Taster

              i'm with you. i regularly walk 8 miles for a meal rather than drive. and i have a weekend planned in monterey park where i will stay in a hotel there and walk and eat, including walking down for the shaved ice dessert.

              Going there for an afternoon is never enough. thx for the report

          3. I will have to try it. based on my name you can see what I like =)

            14 Replies
            1. re: szechuanpeppercorns

              I went there and had two cold appetizers, and the fried chicken cubes, and the dang dang noodles...was not impressed...

              1. re: echoparkdirt

                Which cold appetizers did you have?

                By the way, we observed an interesting cultural dichotomy at Szechuan Best that I forgot to mention....

                One of the waiters (a guy) spoke English very well (and consistently replied to me in English when I spoke to him in Chinese). The other server (a woman) did not speak English at all. There were several non-Chinese in the restaurant (we figured this was due to the recent J Gold review), and my wife and I observed that the woman would handle the 100% Chinese groups and the guy would handle foreigners (and foreign-mixed parties such as ours-- my wife is Taiwanese). That's not so strange. But what was curious was that the woman would tell the Chinese parties (in Mandarin, of course) "Happy Mid-Autumn Festival. Please enjoy this complimentary dish." and would put down a few pieces of moon cake with salted egg. The male server did not.

                We observed some more-- it seems that the foreign/mixed groups would receive sliced watermelon with their check, whereas the Chinese groups did not.

                Well, my curiousity got the better of me, and when he dropped off our watermelon with the bill as predicted, I wished the guy, in Chinese, a happy mid-autumn festival. He wished it back to me, and then I asked him why the Chinese people recevied a small dish of mooncakes, and he told me "That costs $1!" Well, my wife, who until now, had demured in that non-confrontational Chinese way, had to speak up.... "It's not $1-- she gave it to them for free!" He then said "lao wai (foreigners) get watermelon..... Chinese get moon cakes" to which I replied, in Mandarin, "I am a Szechuanese person" (imagine this coming from a 6'1" tall super blonde guy.) I think he didn't quite know what to do, so he went away.... and brought a dish of mooncakes to us! He said "do you want this?" I replied, "yes," and he *took away the watermelon* which had been sitting on our table for 5 minutes. Wow!

                So, kind of a weird experience.... but, the food was wonderful. I really do prefer the spice of the peppercorns to that of the chiles, and we'll definitely be back.

                Mr Taster

                1. re: Mr Taster

                  Why is this so weird? Happens all the time at Chinese restaurants.

                  At our restaurants, the front and back of the house would always differentiate between the Chinese customers and the "lao wai" and cater to each group accordingly.

                  To sort of take it to a very basic level, it's kind of like giving a table of American customers forks by default, and chopsticks to Chinese customers.

                  By the way, I would've asked for the watermelon. I'm still trying to figure out what to do with about a baker's dozen of mooncakes at home ... Maybe I'll save them for next year ... only 363 more days to go!

                  1. re: ipsedixit

                    I know, I know...I shouldn't be surprised. And I've hung out enough with Chinese people to know that whether it's watermelon vs. mooncakes or forks vs. chopsticks, it comes from the Chinese wanting to accommodate what they believe their customers feel comfortable with..... it's the western idea that there's a "right" and "wrong" way to do everything that adds an element of elitism to the mix.

                    Still, I've got a tupperware full of freshly carved watermelon chunks at home, and nary a mooncake in the house... care to do a trade? :)

                    Mr Taster

                    1. re: Mr Taster

                      Maybe there are three tiers - when I went to Szechwan Best, they gave me fortune cookies!

                  2. re: Mr Taster

                    It happened all the time at my parents' restaurant. We cooked differently for Chinese folks because their expectations were different. When I go to Chinese restaurants with mixed-race parties, I inevitably ask the wait staff for forks and ice water. Usually, they give them to everyone except for me; they assume that tea and chopsticks are fine for me.

                    Like ipsedixit, I would have preferred the watermelon. I have had enough mooncake to last me another year.

                    1. re: raytamsgv

                      The problem with some places that are used to accommodating lao wai is convincing Chinese people that I know what Chinese food is supposed to taste like, because I've been to China and my wife is Taiwanese... but even after insisting that we want something not too sweet and gloppy, their expectations lao wai override the reality of what's happening in front of them and they try to steer us to the orange chicken.

                      Even in borderline authentic places like Hop Li (the only Chinese restaurant an older friend of mine will eat at), my wife asks the waiter what the best dishes are, and the response is "orange chicken is very popular"

                      Mr Taster

                      1. re: Mr Taster

                        I've had this many times, with arguments (in two languages) that usually descend to "The chef is so talented he can only make orange chicken for stupid lao wai?"

                        This has been my experience in EVERY Sichuanese restaurant in Los Angeles that I've been to. I don't have this problem in New York.

                        1. re: Das Ubergeek

                          You are so polite. I've heard far more colorful exchanges.

                      2. re: Mr Taster

                        per Erik M after our meal @ Hwang Hwe Do: "you got whited".

                        FWIW, wrote about Szechuan Best back in Feb:
                        http://chowhound.chow.com/topics/487028

                        We had a beyond-excellent 7 course dinner @ SZ Best in March, then I decided to go full burn and started frequenting Hunan Chili King / Hengyang Chili King.

                        1. re: Mr Taster

                          Mr Taster- We ate at Szechuan Best the same day and we didn't get either watermelon or moon cakes! Though to be fair, "we" are a lao wai and a Chinese so maybe they couldn't decide what to give us and opted for no freebie.

                          The food was very good overall. Sorry, remembering dishes by name is just 1 of a "few" things keeping me from being the next J. Gold. The sliced pork & garlic dish was the best Chinese dish I've had in a long time. The Szechuan fried fish dish (cut up fish filet) was good w/ just the right combo of peppercorns and chiles For Me, though not truly Szechuan spicy hot. The fried pork/ham was OK but the pieces were a little tough and chewy. The green onion pancakes were oily/greasy, they usually are, but were the best tasting I've had in some time. Though 2 pces were my stomach's grease limit. I'm a fan of Szechuan peppercorns and this place is now on my short list list of places to go for Szechuan. Just remember to tell them how spicy/hot you like it.