101 Noodles Express in Alhambra - beef roll and dumplings
Someone else mentioned this place (and its beef roll) in an impressive list of good eats, but I'm giving it its own post because it's too good to get lost in a long list.
The "beef roll" is a freshly pan-fried, thin, flaky pancake rolled around thin slices of five-spiced brisket, Hoisin sauce, and cilantro. The textures - crisp/flaky, then chewy, and flavors - salty, sweet, and aromatic, are deeply satisfying.
The dumpling wrappers are the thinnest hand-made wrappers I've ever had. They're fantastic. The dumplings are VERY juicy (I bit into a lamb dumpling and ended up with broth halfway down my sweater sleeve). We had two kinds of fish dumplings, and I definitely liked one better than the other - too bad I don't know which was which.
The house sausage (served cold and thinly sliced) is delicious too - redolent of 5-spice, it's darker and less oily than most Chinese sausage.
101 Noodles Express
1408 E. Valley Blvd
Alhambra, CA 91801
Having just returned from a chow-session at 101 with fellow hound Jerome and my LTA (Lovely Tasting Assistant), I concur with your comments regarding the beef roll. It's a very unique item-- crispy, chewy, salty and sweet, and utterly delicious.
The dumplings too were extremely flavorful and juicy (we had pork with leek and shrimp/pumpkin) though I disagree with your estimation about the thinness of the wrappers... these were quite thick, soft and chewy. For thin wrappers, try the xiao long bao dumplings at Din Tai Fung. The skins are so thin as to be transluscent.
re: Mr. Taster
The XLB wrappers at Din Tai Fung are superb... but these were the thinnest hand-made wrappers I've seen on shui jiao. I'm sure there's significant variation from batch to batch, but I think wrappers absorb a lot more water when they're boiled than when they're steamed (and I think they have to be sturdier, since they have to withstand the agitation from boiling). While not translucent, these were a far cry from the heavy, doughy hand-made wrappers I've had at most other places (I usually prefer machine made wrappers for this reason.)
They do get much softer/thicker/chewier as they sit and absorb the juices from the filling - my last dumpling was definitely not as delicious as my first dumpling. Still delicious, though.
Agree with daveena. In general, the skins are pretty thin (sorry taster, just not as thin the day we went).
The sauce isn't hoisin sauce though. I thought it might be tianmianjiang (the fermented bean and bread sauce). The folks there say it's a sauce they make themselves.
And the self-promoted special is neither the beef roll nor the shuijiao dumplings - it's the chicken (Dezhou style braised chicken).
I visited this place after your post...and absolutely loved it. We ordered everything you mentioned, plus shrimp dumplings. I plan on going again this weekend (and taking a new friend with me).
The beef roll...omg...heaven. Thanks so much for the write-up!
I agreed with you. Even though it's about 2 and a half year since the first post on this topic, the beef roll still holds up as one of the best in the area. Major kudos on that front.
The dumplings are not bad. Though I still prefer the dumplings down the street like at Mei Long Village or at Dumpling 10053. I definitely will want to get the fish dumplings again at 101 Noodle just to compare it against Dumpling 10053.
101 Noodle Express
1408 E Valley Blvd, Alhambra, CA 91801
Mei Long Village
301 W Valley Blvd Ste 112, San Gabriel, CA 91776
10053 Valley Blvd Ste 2, El Monte, CA 91731