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Jul 24, 2009 03:54 PM

looking for authentic Chinese restaurants


I live in San Diego but frequent LA often, and honestly would drive hours if someone could tell me where a genuine, non-Americanized Chinese establishment exists. I know I am asking for a lot, but I just returned from a 6-week trip there and am longing for the flavors I was lucky to have experienced. What I appreciated most was that the flavors were simultaneously simple and complex, the ingredients regional and fresh, and always very satisfying. Even a bowl of soup or eggs and tomato always hit the spot. Any suggestions for cookbooks or websites would also be greatly appreciated.

Thanks so much!!

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  1. You need to discover the 10 freeway, sir. Head east to the San Gabriel Valley. Any exit from about Atlantic to Rosemead (at least) will be CHOCK full of authentic Chinese restaurants. What specific kind of Chinese food do you want? (I guess I'm asking where in China you enjoyed the food the most.)

    Do you want the numbing-and-hot of Sichuan? The light, ethereal flavour of Chaozhou? The hybrid of Western food you find in Hong Kong? The mantou and dumplings of Beijing? The dark tang of Zhejiang? The lamb and cumin of Xinjiang? It's all in the SGV -- all of it.

    And for what it's worth, there are some good authentic Chinese places closer than that -- for example, there's a very good Sichuan place in south Irvine, which is a lot closer to San Diego than the SGV, a lot of good Taiwanese cafes right in that area, and an excellent Islamic Chinese (with Beijing emphasis) in Anaheim.

    3 Replies
    1. re: Das Ubergeek

      No need to even go all the way to the 10. Come up from the 57 to 60 and go west, exit in the vacinity of Hacienda Heights or Rowland Heights and explore that area.

      1. re: Das Ubergeek

        chaozhou? ethereal? ok. i've had chaozhou goose. it's good. ethereal?
        de gustibus
        Original question - what flavors do you miss? hand pulled noodles with lamb soup? red cooked pork knuckle? shanghai new years cakes? xiaolong boa with crab roe? tinamianjinag slathered beef and cilantro in a fresh shandong style crepe? xi'an style unleavened bread cracked into a lamb soup? cold northeastern chinese eggplant drowning in garlic and vinegar? fujian pork forcemeat balls wrapped in thin sliced meat and poacehed in soup? zhjiangmian? dandanmian? eight treasure sweet rice huaiyang style? cantonese style? fake dog meat as in manchuria?
        lots of flavors...
        we got em
        (also nice steamed fish at mpv with a veriatble aquarium to choose from, garfield and valley blvd).

        1. re: Jerome

          MPV has been replaced by Blue Ocean, which is pretty good, but part of the New Capital value pricing group. In these economic times, that seems to be the newest wave in the San Gabriel Valley.

      2. "... if someone could tell me where a genuine, non-Americanized Chinese establishment exists..."

        Three words: San Gabriel Valley

        Flavors so authentic, you might need to bring your passport.

        2 Replies
        1. re: J.L.

          I'm guessing 400 to 500 good authentic Chinese restaurants in the San Gabriel Valley. Does anybody have a more accurate count?

          1. re: Chandavkl

            Well, if you go here -- -- and enter 91755 (my in-laws ZIP code in Monterey Park) and include the surrounding ZIP codes, you get 756 restaurants. That includes everything from NBC to Burger King.

            If someone took the time to search all of the SGV, I'm sure 400 Chinese restaurants would not be a stretch...

        2. Thanks so much!!!

          S.G.V looks like the place to go. I'm almost as excited as I was to go on the trip in the first place!

          Any suggestions for certain spots? I will be up in LA in a few weeks, and would love to give a few (dozen :o) places a try.

          15 Replies
          1. re: rocknro

            What provinces are you interested in? (Yes, it's THAT specialized in the SGV)

            1. re: rocknro

              Do you have any particular loves from China?

              I mean, I'd go to Elite for dim sum, and to Mei Long Village or Green Village (only the Rowland Heights branch is open) for Shanghainese food like pork pump and xiaolongbao, to Giang Nan for Jiangsu cuisine like stunning chicken with chestnuts and excellent hong shao food (red-cooked). For Sichuan maybe Chongqing (with the cold appetiser table and things like ma la pig's blood, chaoshou, yu xiang eggplant and water-boiled beef), and for Cantonese possibly Sea Harbour. If you want Chaozhou (Chiu Chow), the place to go is Seafood Village, the Temple City branch is best, and order anything with a picture on the wall, or just point at other diners' food. Whole fish house special, or house special crab...

              For Taiwanese I would actually go to Kang Kang Food Court because you can just pick from the steam tables, and it's cheap, and you can have great shaved ice with toppings for afters. And if noodles are your thing, go to China Islamic and have dao xiao mian (knife-shaved noodles) and lamb hot pot, or maybe scallion bread, or go to Ma Lan Noodles and have la mian (hand-pulled noodles). Lu Din Gee is the place for Beijing-style duck and Luscious Dumplings for, you guessed it, dumplings. For dessert go to Phoenix Food Boutique, which is just about as close as the US gets to a Hong Kong cha chaan teng (tea house) and order their mixed-fruit ice. Unbelievable.

              There are LITERALLY hundreds of places and they're mostly great.

              1. re: Das Ubergeek


                Most of my loves are really simple, or what I thought were simple cuz I've tried to recreate them without much luck, mainly noodle soups. Some rice noodlesoup with a spicy ground meat (probably pork) and pickled greens, of what type I have no idea. I ate that for breakfast almost daily. Something I atein Chengdu, right outside of the Wu Huo temple, local street food, it was called "bean curd jelly." it was amazing! Spicy, foolof flavor... soy nuts, I think, some sort of noodles... I have pix, but must admit that half of the time I really had no idea what is was I was eating. that was part of the fun! it tasted good, I ate it... done deal!

                Two of the best meals I had - one was at the Buddhist vegi place at Shoalin temple. I love vegetarian food, but am not a huge fan of "fake meat", like temph and tofu. So I ordered their "lamb" which was really these (to me, very unknown looking) mushrooms, and everything else on the plate just made it wonderful. The 2nd was at a tea farmer's house in Hangzhou, right by the Dragon Well tea plantation, this lady made us an array of dishes, very simple and soooo good! Greens, eggplant, shrimp. Hmmm, I think there was an egg and tea dish as well.

                Oh, and this amazing lunch in Longji... bamboo rice, the best duck ever! of course, the dim sum at De Fa Chang, this super fresh clam shell stuffed with shrimp and abalone I had in Dali.. I could keep going and going! It really was fabulous!

                Basically, the flavor is what is driving this search. I loved everything I ate in China with the exception of the westernized Chinese food on the Yangtze cruise. Even the most rudimentary dishes made me super happy. Eggs with tomatoes - yum,!!! The fruit and veggies, fresh, were incredible. I was not disappointed!

                I was warned to take protein bars b/c I wouldn't like the food. People have shared stories where they lost 20 pounds on their trips. Well, the one bar I actually did take with me (I figured, at the worse, I can eat rice, no?) came back with me, untouched, and somehow, even with all the biking and dragging luggage and hiking... I actually gained a few pounds! Yum!!

                And I'm totally excited to have received all this info. One of the most difficult things about leaving China was thinking that all those flavors I"ve come to love may never resurface. Now there is hope! :o)

                I will definitely try all the places you suggested, and will post my experiences. In the meantime, this new addiction to Chinese food has made me want to blog my experiences out there. And yes, I took many many pix of my food, which always drew stares but that wasn't anything new. I'm no computer expert, but as soon as I figure it out I will post that as well. Here are a couple of pix...

                Seriously though, thanks so very much for taking the time to reply and I am so looking forward to checking these places out! I will be up in LA in a few weeks, and the anticipation is growing.

                :o) Ro

                1. re: rocknro

                  It sounds like a trip I would love to take!

                  The first item in the second picture looks like chao shou (praying hands) to me. Actually it looks like wontons, but any Sichuan place worth its flower pepper should be able to make you suan la chao shou, which is hot-and-sour dumplings. What you have there looks like soup, and perhaps you could order chao shou tang, but try suan la chao shou instead. :)

                  The second item looks like xiao long bao, which you can get at Mei Long Village or J&J. They have them at Giang Nan too but they're better at MLV or J&J.

                  1. re: Das Ubergeek

                    Hi there!

                    I just sent you a reply, about 10 minutes ago, but think I somehow deleted something because it disappeared. Did you get it?

                    Darn,sorry, great in the kitchen... and for sure in front of a dinner plate, but not so much on the computer. I am trying, though!! :o)

                    ok, so just in case you did not get it ( I still have no idea what I did), the first pix, on the left, is from Longji. It's a bamboo rice - OMG, so sweet and delicious! next to it is a wonderful, the best ever, duck dish. I kinda felt bad... many duck as I walked up the mountain. cute, and yep, got pix. then, on the way down, every time I saw a duck I would just say "thank you for a lovely meal." I mean, what do you do? I know I just ate their relative. not only that, but I really enjoyed it! Talk about fresh!

                    The second pix, on the right, is one of the least expensive (10 yuan) & most delicious meals I had out there. In Suzhou. Order at the counter, open kitchen, soup with wonton and some vegi and crab dumplings. fabulous!

                    Looking forward to return. There are some places I did not see that I would love to, and others that I enjoyed so much I needed more time, but did not have it. Yep, worth another trip, for sure!

                    In the meantime, I will revile in finding great places to dine and reminisce. And maybe even find new things I can tell my Chinese friends about so they can be jealous! :o)

                    I'll be sure to keep you posted, esp when I get this blog thing rolling! And I will for sure check out all of your suggestions. Can't wait!

                    1. re: Das Ubergeek

                      I actually prefer Dragon Mark over both JnJ and Mei Long Village.

                      The scallion pancake there kills, and the pan fried dumpling and beef noodle soup are great.

                      1. re: A5 KOBE

                        J&J excels at only one thing: XLB (but by golly! They do it well!). I eat nothing else there.

                        Dragon Mark is a bit coarse in its cuisine, but passable.

                        1. re: J.L.

                          The XLB has gone downhill at JnJ, last time I went there, (2 months ago) at least 3/4 were broken and had no soup which is the essence of XLB. Flavor was good though in the pork.

                          1. re: A5 KOBE

                            Oh my, that is certainly cause for concern. I will go again to J&J and report back.

                    2. re: rocknro

                      "I was warned to take protein bars b/c I wouldn't like the food"

                      I'm still marveling over this. Who are these people you talked to? Not to sound judgmental, but the only possible way you could claim that people wouldn't like food in China is if they were the most incurious diners, ever.

                      As someone who just got back from visiting his parents in Shanghai last month, I would second people's recommendation for Mei Long Village. Is it as good as food in Shanghai? No. But by any other standard, it's pretty damn good.

                      I'm also a big big fan of Luscious Dumplings; just don't bother with their noodles and stick to the dumplings. Personally, I find Din Tai Fong quite overrated whereas Luscious Dumpling, despite an equally cultish reputation, actually lives up to it.

                      1. re: odub

                        Yeah, I questioned my friend on my return and he stands his ground. He just doesn't eat there. Says he looses weight each time. I ended up gaining a bit! LOL!!

                        Just got into LA and am on my way to check out Mei Long Village, as well as Dan Dan Guilin. Will be sure to report back!

                        Thanks so much for all the suggestions!!

                        1. re: rocknro

                          if you like food with longjing (dragon well ) tea - i remembger that giang nan had shrimp with dragon well tea leaves
                          306 N Garfield Avenue South Monterey Park, CA 91755

                          there used to be a place that specialized in chengdu snacks - jade garden on garvey with KILLER dan dan mian. it's gone. if i can remember a place that was that specific i'd let you know. meanwhile, after giang-nan - wlak down the street, cross garvey (on garfield) and go half a block and check out the menu and smells at chung king. order a dan danmian to go and if it sucks, toss it.

                    3. re: Das Ubergeek

                      "There are LITERALLY hundreds of places and they're mostly great."

                      A few years ago the LATimes was reporting over 400 in the San Gabriel Valley. I would imagine the number is larger today.

                      1. re: Das Ubergeek

                        These are some really good suggestions. I'd also recommend Tasty Garden in Arcadia for the Hong Kong-style food and Beard Papa for their dessert.

                        Another suggestion is to take a map of Alhambra, San Gabriel, and Monterey Park, put it on a map, and throw darts at it. Wherever the darts land, eat at the Chinese restaurant closest to it. I don't think you could be more than half a mile away from one in that part of the SGV.

                    4. You really should check out Ba Ren in San Diego (just look the best SD food blog mmmyoso)

                      2 Replies
                      1. re: young_chower

                        For sure!! this is the third time today someone has mentioned this place, and I am going either tomorrow or Monday. I'm stoked! If there is any hope to relive all those amazing flavors... life is good! Thanks so much!!

                        1. re: young_chower

                          I just tried Ba Ren las week and it was great! The smell just about took me back to China. I had their cold noodles and an egg and tomato soup. Looking forward to going there again to try out the rest of their menu. Thanks!

                        2. On your way to LA, I can recommend two very good restaurants.
                          Formosa in Lake Forest. Right off the 405 at Lake Forest and Rockfield.
                          Fu Wing Low in Fountain Valley. Right off the 405 at Brookhurst just north of Warner. The owner Kenny used to have a restaurant in China Town, now runs this place and will make food just the way you want it.
                          But, they use American grown vegetables and meat and I've found that the taste of domestic ingredients really effects the overall result.

                          1 Reply
                          1. re: mollygirl

                            Fu Wing Low is certainly a restaurant of interest for Chowhounds, but I doubt if their food resembles anything currently served in China.