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Chuan Yu Noodles Town ... New contender for "Best Dan Dan Noodles"

ipsedixit Aug 3, 2010 10:09 AM

For those of you looking for a new option to get your Dan Dan Mien fix, you've now got Chuan Yu Noodles.

Those of you old enough to remember, Chuan Yu Noodles is housed in that same nondescript pockmark of a storefront where Dai Ho used to be before it mvoed to its current loaction in Temple City.

Anyhow, it's now Chuan Yu Noodles, a purported Sichuan noodle shop.

And, you know what? It's darn good.

Two things you MUST get if you.

First, as you've probably guessed from the title, you have to get the Dan Dan Mien. The noodles themselves are really nothing to speak of -- nor should they because after all in a good bowl of Dan Dan Mien the noodles are really there as a vessel to transport the chili oil, ground pork, etc. to your oral orifice. And in this respect, the noodles serve their purpose just fine. As to those accoutrements that I speak of? The chili oil is and peppers are just right -- a bit salty, with a hint of musty smokiness, and of course a good healthy dose of spicy numbness. The pork crumbs are well-seasoned and carry a nice hint of star anise. Along with everything else it comes with boiled whole peanuts and a sliver or two of Chinese bok choy. Unconventional? Yes, but it works. Although the peanuts should traditionally be ground, not whole, it provides a nice crunch to the dish. And along with the bok choy, the two of them gives the dish a nice contrast to the mushy mouth-numbing softness of the noodles and chili oil. Good eatin overall.

The other dish you must get if you go is the Sichuan Mung Bean Jelly Salad. What the $@#$ you say? Mung Bean Jelly?? Yes, mung bean jelly. It's served cold, the mung bean jelly is cut into slivers the size of thick matchstick noodles, and the entire dish is marinated with chili oil and some other season I can't place my tongue on (and the owner wouldn't exactly divulge), but which I'm guessing is either vinegar and/or fish paste. Whatever, it's a fabulous dish. Cold, slurpy and spicy hot. It's like Sichuan's take on Korean Chung Pho Mook. Good stuff.

Go and give it a try.

Bear with the owner, it's a one (maybe 2 person) operaton.

Cheers.

Chuan Yu Noodles Town
川渝麵莊
525 W Valley Blvd #B
Alhambra
(626) 289-8966

  1. K K Aug 3, 2010 10:27 AM

    I see a few pics on Yelp, this place looks great!

    Judging from some of those pics, it doesn't seem like Sichuan Chinese run, and from the use of traditional Chinese for the restaurant's name, I'd guess this noodle joint is run by Taiwanese. Am I right?

    I enjoyed the DDM at Dai Ho when I was last there a few years ago. You think this place is even better? Green bean jelly, or is it "mung bean"? Liang pi? Sounds slurpalicious!

    10 Replies
    1. re: K K
      ipsedixit Aug 3, 2010 10:39 AM

      KK,

      Yep, from Taiwan (but by way originally from Chonquing).

      Yeah, it has to be mung bean (not green bean). Where's my head ... (I've edited my original post).

      Re: Dan Dan Mien. It's better than Dai Ho and cheaper (much cheaper). And, fyi, I think New Chong Qing in San Gabriel makes a mean bowl of Dan Dan Mien as well.

      1. re: ipsedixit
        j
        JThur01 Aug 3, 2010 12:01 PM

        I've had both of the dishes mentioned, as well as the tofu noodles, at Chuan Yu and found all three good. If interested in the mung bean noodle dish, I'd also recommend Shu Feng.

        Ipsedixit, thanks for the clarification on the background of the owner. In my mini review, I called it a "Sichuan Deli", but clearly there's a strong Taiwanese feel too.

      2. re: K K
        j
        Jerome Sep 4, 2010 01:47 PM

        I have yet to see a restaurant in america that uses Simplified characters on signs. And the use of 渝 shows that at least they're concerned with the appearance of authenticity.

        to me.

        1. re: Jerome
          l
          luikwong Dec 22, 2010 11:58 AM

          渝 is not necessary simplified Chinese. Traditional Chinese is also 渝. It's the name of a river in Sichuan. Using Simplified Chinese definitely does not mean it's more authentic.

          1. re: luikwong
            ipsedixit Dec 22, 2010 01:12 PM

            Agree that simplified Chinese does not mean authenticity.

            It simply means that the owner and/or chef is from Mainland China. Whether that means it is more "authentic" is certainly debatable. Personally, I think some of the best Sichuan have been from Taiwanese (or HK) born and trained cooks.

            1. re: luikwong
              j
              Jerome Dec 22, 2010 04:30 PM

              No. it's not simplified. The character is a poetic shorthand name for Chongqing city. Use of some of these names show a concern for place that indicates a lack of a slapdash attitude. Nothing to do with simplified. I even said that I hvaen't seen simplified characters in the US.
              Other characters that are a good sign for me include 蜀 for sichuan, 蓉 for chengdu, 湘 for Hunan, 粵 For Guangdong province, 滬 (or 沪) for Shanghai (2nd simplified), 魯 for Shandong, etc.

          2. re: K K
            raytamsgv Sep 13, 2010 10:58 AM

            Almost every Chinese restaurant in the SGV uses traditional characters. One of the reasons is that there are many Taiwanese, HK, and older immigrants in the SGV who are unfamiliar with the simplified characters. My friends and coworkers from mainland China often have complained about the culture shock of coming to the SGV because they can't read a good number of the signs or menus (at least initially) .

            1. re: raytamsgv
              ipsedixit Sep 13, 2010 11:01 AM

              So true.

              I forget which restaurant it was (think it was J&J), but it had just recently hired a waitress straight from the mainland, and when we were ordering we started to point to various items on the menu, and she couldn't read them! But her accent gave her away before our "reading" quiz totally exposed her.

              1. re: ipsedixit
                K K Sep 13, 2010 11:33 AM

                Very interesting....so just because a restaurant's menu is in traditional characters does not mean it is Taiwanese run in SoCal.

                The reverse is true in NorCal. If it is mainland run, they will not hesistate to use shorthand, with some exceptions. Or if it s a mainland run place serving Taiwanese fare.

                1. re: K K
                  j
                  Jerome Sep 14, 2010 12:42 AM

                  often you'll see a shorthand for say the character for chicken. and dan dan mian will use the simplified which is even found in taiwan -let's say a shorthand
                  but most of the waitstaffs here are from the mainland. At 888, the cantonese speaking waitstaff are often from Guangzhou, not from hong kong. and at giang-nan, none of the waiters or waitresses were from Taiwan.
                  trad: 擔擔麵
                  shorthand AND simplified : 担担面

          3. J.L. Aug 3, 2010 10:30 AM

            謝謝 for the 担担麺 (Thank you for the dandanmien)...

            1. j
              Jerome Sep 4, 2010 01:45 PM

              Glad to read the review. Drove by last night and saw the sign and U-turned immediately to check it out. They closed at 8pm. haven't had a chance to try it and am so pleased to see that ipsedixit has already been there. Saw a few non-sichuan dishes on the menu, but plenty of good real chongqing (渝) stuff on the menu. Since my old dan dan mian place in Deer field plaza closed down this is a place that I have to try!!
              thanks for the review.

              7 Replies
              1. re: Jerome
                k
                kevin Nov 8, 2010 03:23 AM

                Is it easy to order the dan dan w/o any meat/grind pork for the non-Chinese speakers?

                1. re: kevin
                  w
                  will47 Nov 8, 2010 07:27 AM

                  I think they will understand "no meat".

                  FWIW, pretty sure the one at NCQ is meatless by default (though not sure if there's chicken base in the sauce).

                  Went to #1 Noodle House yesterday; I think they're still just a little bit better (for me) than Chuan Yu.

                  1. re: kevin
                    ipsedixit Nov 8, 2010 08:27 AM

                    Yes, you can get it with no meat, and you can also request that it be not spicy at all.

                    1. re: kevin
                      j
                      Jerome Nov 8, 2010 04:59 PM

                      I went with a a vegetarian to chuan yu. we justtold them he was a vegetarian and they accomodated. (we spoke chinese - just said that he was a vegetarian - Ta, Chi Su [TAH CHRRR SOO]). no problem.

                      1. re: Jerome
                        J.L. Nov 12, 2010 08:44 PM

                        CHRRR... Whoa, heavy Beijing accent there, Jerome.

                        In case any Hounds want to say "I am vegetarian" in Mandarin, say "WOH TZE SOO" (OK, more of a Taiwan-style accent, but it works in the SGV.)

                        1. re: J.L.
                          k
                          kevin Nov 13, 2010 01:36 PM

                          Just hit it up. Great stuff. Left out the pork and I don't speak nary a word of Chinese. Much better than the similar style though maybe not dan dan noodles at Dai Ho Kitchen for the sesame sauce noodles ( although truth to tell I believe dài ho is more about the beef noodle soup and the cold dishes such as duck tongues and stewed bean curds).

                          -----
                          Dai Ho Restaurant
                          9148 Las Tunas Dr, Temple City, CA 91780

                          1. re: kevin
                            J.L. Nov 13, 2010 02:43 PM

                            Thanks for reporting back!

                  2. j
                    Jerome Sep 12, 2010 04:51 PM

                    So I went.
                    With a vegetarian friend.
                    They made the dan dan mian wihout any meat. Completely "su".
                    tasty.
                    will be back.
                    and the liang fen - bean starch jelly. Pretty good.
                    Pao cai fantastic.

                    worth the drive.

                    2 Replies
                    1. re: Jerome
                      ipsedixit Sep 12, 2010 07:11 PM

                      They will sell you the pao cai in a mass quantities if you so want.

                      Dan dan mien can be made 小辣 if you so desire. Sort of defeats the purpose for me, but some palates are attuned differently than others I suppose.

                      1. re: ipsedixit
                        j
                        Jerome Sep 12, 2010 11:54 PM

                        ALL good. nice find. thanks for starting the thread.

                    2. echoparkdirt Nov 7, 2010 02:46 PM

                      jonathon gold just wrote chuan yu up as the best dan dan noodles in town....

                      19 Replies
                      1. re: echoparkdirt
                        J.L. Nov 7, 2010 02:55 PM

                        Not surprising we Hounds got the jump on JGold. I suspect he trolls this board, and may even be a contributor...

                        I'm sure that thanks to L.A. Weekly's outing of this place, half of L.A. is bearing down on this 2 person operation this weekend... I cringe at the thought.

                        1. re: J.L.
                          Peripatetic Nov 7, 2010 05:07 PM

                          A long, long time ago Jonathan Gold periodically posted here under his own name. The last instance I could find was in 2001:

                          http://chowhound.chow.com/topics/47527

                          It's possible it wasn't him, but the posts have a ring of authenticity.

                          In any case, I'm impressed that JG and also LAT's "The Find" occasionally discover places that have been overlooked on CH. It's tempting to think that all JG and the LAT have to do is sieve CH for inspiration. They probably do, but I think CH also raises the ante and makes them go out of their way to find Chow-worthy places that haven't been mentioned here.

                          To give one recent example:

                          http://www.latimes.com/features/food/...

                          1. re: J.L.
                            o
                            odub Nov 13, 2010 11:15 AM

                            1) I've yet to see that phenomenon happen, either with places I've tried for the first time after a Gold review (i.e. seating was still reasonable, there didn't seem to be a surge of non-locals in the house) or with some place I was already familiar with and THEN returned to soon after a Gold write-up. I suspect part of this is because the bulk of the LA Weekly's readers live midcity or west but a lot of the places he writes up are in the SGV and as a former westsider (despite having grow up in the SGV, where I now live again), it's unlikely that a stunning review of dan dan mien is going to necessarily coax people to drive from Culver City to Alhambra that very weekend.

                            2) He could very well troll the board but my suspicion is that he doesn't have to - there's probably more than a few people who post/read here who also send recommendations to him directly. And also remember: he lives in the SGV so finding new spots can be as easy as noticing a new sign has changed on Valley Blvd.; that's how a lot of chowhounders discover new places for the board, after all.

                            1. re: odub
                              ipsedixit Nov 13, 2010 02:48 PM

                              It happens more with LAT reviews than with Gold. Especially "The Find" food reviews at the LAT will often bring out the throngs. Happened with Michelle's Pancakes most notably.

                              1. re: ipsedixit
                                Peripatetic Nov 13, 2010 05:21 PM

                                As a spike in customers, or sustained increase?

                                1. re: Peripatetic
                                  ipsedixit Nov 13, 2010 05:57 PM

                                  Just a spike. Novelty factor wears off pretty quick.

                                2. re: ipsedixit
                                  o
                                  odub Nov 13, 2010 11:12 PM

                                  Interesting. What do you think that says about the Times' readership vs. the Weekly's?

                                  1. re: odub
                                    ipsedixit Nov 14, 2010 09:27 AM

                                    Despite the declining (print) circulation numbers of the LAT, it is still much more widely read than LA Weekly. There may be a major decline in the editorial staff at LAT, but it is still *the* paper for Los Angeles.

                                    The LA Weekly, on its best days is still only a fringe paper, and it's audience reflects that.

                                    1. re: ipsedixit
                                      o
                                      odub Nov 14, 2010 02:43 PM

                                      Duh, the simplest explanation totally passed me by. Yeah, I just ran the numbers and the Times' circulation is 4x that of the Weekly.

                                      I wouldn't exactly say that they're fringe though - the LA Weekly has the second highest circulation for any weekly in the U.S., just a little behind the Village Voice. That's bigger than many daily newspapers (especially these days). I do think there's a possible difference in the readership that may explain part of this but ultimately, circulation makes a huge diff.

                                      1. re: odub
                                        ipsedixit Nov 14, 2010 04:57 PM

                                        That's really what I meant by "fringe". The target audience for LA Weekly is less mainstream than it is for the LA Times. And I don't mean in that a negative way, it's just a different demographic.

                                3. re: odub
                                  Bob Brooks Nov 14, 2010 06:04 PM

                                  Had lunch there this past Friday. It was about 12:45 p.m. and only three people were dining. When I sat down, the owner looked at me and said "Dan Dan Mien!" He then brought a copy of J.G.'s review which had been laminated and placed on a stand to sit at the table.

                                  I thought the dan dan mien was delicious. But what's the story with the bowl of hot water with a few chopped scallions in it?

                                  1. re: Bob Brooks
                                    p
                                    PandanExpress Nov 14, 2010 06:17 PM

                                    Are you sure it was just hot water and not clear broth? I know in some restaurants in China, when you order a dry (non-soup) noodle, they give you a little bowl of clear broth on the side to wash everything down afterward.

                                    1. re: Bob Brooks
                                      ipsedixit Nov 14, 2010 06:23 PM

                                      I thought the dan dan mien was delicious. But what's the story with the bowl of hot water with a few chopped scallions in it?

                                      _____________________________

                                      That's soup.

                                      1. re: Bob Brooks
                                        f
                                        fdb Nov 14, 2010 07:23 PM

                                        Hi, Bob: I was one of the three diners there when you came in. I thought you were a regular when the owner said "Dan Dan Mien" to you. I had better luck than you because my soup had some bean sprouts in it. :)

                                        1. re: fdb
                                          Bob Brooks Nov 15, 2010 12:07 PM

                                          How funny! Such a small world.

                                        2. re: Bob Brooks
                                          o
                                          odub Nov 15, 2010 01:23 PM

                                          I stopped in here for lunch today. Indeed, the owner/chef has copies of JG's review laminated and hands one to (presumably new) customers who walk in the door. The waitress (his wife?) however kind of just rolls her eyes at his hard-sell, behind his back. It was rather funny, especially after he tried to convince me to get the steam pork belly dish. When he left the room, she pointed at the dish, then grabbed part of her belly to indicate (if I read her right) "this is really fattening, you don't really want it." It's like they have their own comedy routine.

                                          I should add: I like the noodles very much. Truth be told (and I might get my Chinese American-ness revoked for saying this) but dan dan mien was never one of my favorites as a child, mostly because I was annoyed at how the small ingredients all fell to the bottom of the bowl. I have not had a proper bowl of dan dan mien in years and my memories of it all came rushing back as I was struggling to spoon some ground pork back on *top* of the noodle heap, only to see them inevitably rolling down, like Sisyphous and his boulder.

                                          But that personal nit-pick aside (which is endemic to the dish, not this restaurant's preparation), I liked the balance of flavors between the subtle hit of chili and that underlying sweetness of sesame. Some soy sauce at the table would probably have lead me to dash a little more into it but I didn't find it lacking in flavor overall.

                                          I do have to respectfully disagree with the esteemed Ipsedixit: I found the bok choy to be an annoyance that kept getting in the way of my noodles. It may look good on the plate (or, er, bowl) but it didn't add much for me. I do agree: ground peanuts would have been a better way to go than whole; seemed strange to me.

                                          And for the price? I usually don't make a big deal out of a meal's value if the quality is otherwise mediocre but $5.43 w/ tax? That has "return visits" written all over it.

                                          1. re: odub
                                            k
                                            kevin Nov 15, 2010 09:05 PM

                                            I was afraid you were gong to say it's expensive. That was my bill too. 5.43. Cheapeast quality meal that I have had in some time fir sure.

                                    2. re: echoparkdirt
                                      ipsedixit Nov 7, 2010 07:03 PM

                                      I seriously wonder what JGold's point of reference is for something like dan dan mian, which is essentially a very pedestrian home-grown comfort food, akin to American Mac N Cheese.

                                      You sort of grow up on the dish and that, at least for many, is the point of reference when judging dan dan mian at restaurants (as in, "this is as good as my mom's" or "this is how my grandma made it for me when I visited" etc.).

                                      Now, not being a boyhood friend of JGold, I can't say for certain what he ate growing up, but seriously doubt it was bowl after bowl of noodles drizzled with chili oil, peppercorn and meat scraps, right?

                                      1. re: ipsedixit
                                        j
                                        Jerome Nov 7, 2010 10:36 PM

                                        this is certianly fair. However, a nice trip to Chengdu and you will try quite a few bowls of dan dan mian. Then again - if Mr Gold were to say that he doesn't like the dan dan mian because they aren't like mama made, that woudl be one thing. On the other hand, the way some nice mom in anhui might make dan dan mian could terrify your average chengdu or chongqing resident.
                                        I think they're nice and clever with the name - chuan, sichuan, yu, chongqing - a little poetic. all in all very nice. and i do like the place.

                                    3. f
                                      fdb Nov 14, 2010 07:38 PM

                                      Chuan Yu is now serving some of its menu items (noodles, wontons, dumplings, mung bean jelly salad, the pork rib dish...etc.) in smaller portions which is wonderful for solo diners who wish to sample varieties. I have tried several noodles there and my favorite is the 招牌撚麵. (zhao1, pai2, ran3, mien4. Sorry don't know the English name) I like it better than Dan Dan Mien.

                                      1. w
                                        will47 Jan 12, 2011 01:17 PM

                                        Got a chance to stop by what I believe is called 天府之家 川菜面 (Tiānfǔ Zhī Jiā Chuān Cài Miàn - Lucky Noodle King), in the spot formerly occupied by the Ding's Garden on Valley (534 E Valley Blvd #10). I had their Dan Dan Mian ($4.50 for a medium-ish bowl). As usual, I ordered it without meat, so I can't speak for that offering, but I thought it was quite good - I think it's on a par with Chuan Yu (though slightly different), and maybe almost as good as #1 Noodle House. There was a decent amount of zha cai, and the sauce had a good texture. I didn't order it spicy, and kind of got whited there, so I did have to add a lot of chili oil paste at the table, but I'm sure they can make it spicy if you ask (I'll make sure to next time).

                                        I was still a little hungry still, so I got some shredded potato with vinegar and pepper - a dish that's a little different everywhere you go. I thought their rendition was pretty good; not too sour, a bit of garlic, and good wok flavor, but with a total of 2 vegetable dishes on the menu, this area isn't probably the best thing to judge the place on.

                                        In any event, well worth a visit for aficionados of dan dan mian, and I have a feeling that their actual specialties (mostly beef and chicken noodle soup) should be pretty good as well.

                                        1 Reply
                                        1. re: will47
                                          ipsedixit Jan 12, 2011 01:52 PM

                                          Thanks for the report.

                                          May I ask why you eschew meat in your dan dan mian? If you are vegetarian, excuse the dumb question.

                                        2. s
                                          sel Feb 25, 2011 09:28 AM

                                          Went by Chuan Yu Noodles Town yesterday and it was closed. I was starving and at the time focused on a plan B to meet my immediate needs so I regretably did not ask the construction worker for any details. Hopefully they are just performing repairs/remodeling and will be open soon!

                                          4 Replies
                                          1. re: sel
                                            w
                                            will47 Feb 25, 2011 09:32 AM

                                            The same folks are behind the place I mentioned just above (Lucky Noodle King).

                                            BTW, apparently Lucky Noodle King uses fresh noodles, while Chuan Yu used dry ones.

                                            1. re: sel
                                              Chandavkl Feb 25, 2011 12:33 PM

                                              http://sinosoul.com/2011/02/shuttered...

                                              1. re: Chandavkl
                                                s
                                                sel Feb 25, 2011 10:33 PM

                                                Thanks for the link Chandavkl.

                                                1. re: sel
                                                  ipsedixit Feb 26, 2011 09:39 AM

                                                  Talked to the owners last night. Everything's been moved to Lucky Noodle.

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