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Really good beef chow fun?

I returned home today after 10 days abroad, hungry as usual for a Chinese food fix, especially for my go-to comfort dish, beef chow fun. But alas, my favorite local restaurant has changed owners, and my favorite beef chow fun of all time is gone. You know, the kind with thick, fresh noodles, wider than the pre-cut kind you can buy at 99 Ranch, accompanied simply by bean sprouts, scallions, and tender beef, all with the perfect wok char? I know you can get beef chow fun at any Chinese place, but where is there a great one? I will go anywhere in LA to find it. The only other one I ever had to rival my favorite was in a tiny hole in San Francisco Chinatown that I've never been able to find again.

Thank you for your help!

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  1. I havent been in years but when I did Kim Ky Noodle House had a great ho fun.

    1. I don't know if this will scratch your itch, but I think Won Kok in Chinatown makes a great chow fun; I usually get the house special, though.

      Their baked bao's are good too.

      1 Reply
      1. re: Ogawak

        Yes, although I always get the fish fillet chow fun there. I agree on their baked baos.

        1. re: ipsedixit

          I like Sam Woo's version, also. Any Sam Woo and with gravy , please.

        2. marked.

          agreed the wok hei is crucial.

          2 Replies
          1. re: ns1

            Honestly it separates the boys from the men...otherwise the flavors are pretty even throughout the restaurants

          2. Ahhh 乾炒牛河, dry stir fry beef chow fun.

            How is the one at Tasty Garden? I would think a smaller "bistro" like place that does killer Cantonese stir fry dishes can do an awesome beef chow fun.

            Best enjoyed with a killer chili sauce. In a perfect world the chili sauce would be orange and stone grounded and made with chili/garlic/vinegar/fermented sweet potatoes (e.g. Yu Kwen Yick, but only available in Hong Kong, the de facto choice for enjoying beef chow fun in HK).

            10 Replies
            1. re: K K

              RIP Wonton Forest chili sauce. Anyone know where I can get that stuff again?

              Replied to the other Yu Kwen Yick thread, messaging my friends in HK to see how much it would cost to send some over...

              1. re: ns1

                I highly suggest you splurge on a care package, fill it up with goodies and have them send it over by mail (air or sea).

                The great thing about a sauce like Yu Kwen Yick is that it is so versatile...in addition to beef chow fun, it will escalate turnip cakes to new heights (too bad CNY is over, the house made or restaurant made limited edition turnip cakes, not the BS you get during dim sum), even using it to dip wontons. Tasty Garden also has lo mein (noodles with broth on the side) so you can add a little to boost the flavor, and I'd imagine it would also work great with Vietnamese Chinese wide egg noodles like at Trieu Chau Santa Ana. Also awesome with pan fried cheung fun....and I hate to say this....but spicy tuna made with it (cheap ahi/yellowfin of course). The current generation owner of Yu Kwen Yick told me to enjoy it with pasta, but I haven't tried that or with tacos al pastor yet. But also good with pho (e.g. a quick dip in fatty brisket).

                After getting hooked on it, you will totally forget rooster sauce. The problem is that you will have to carry it with you wherever you go and use it up before it goes bad (has no preservatives).

              2. re: K K

                How is the one at Tasty Garden?
                good, fast, plentiful with tender beef. even more enjoyable with DFC's extravagant house spicy xo sauce.

                1. re: TonyC

                  What else is good @ DFC? They're right around the corner from my vet...

                  1. re: ns1

                    Just passed by Delicious Food Corner. They are closed for renovation until March.

                  2. re: TonyC

                    Thanks! That's what I figured from reading afar about Tasty Garden. In a way it is like a distant cousin to NorCal's Cooking Papa. Quick fast efficient with the HK style attitude and approach towards food.

                    Even a good house chili sauce made with chili oil and chili flakes will do the job.

                  3. re: K K

                    Tasty Garden's beef chow fun is great. I order it regularly for takeout and it's always fresh, hot and great

                    1. re: Ernie

                      Which tasty garden are you guys referring to?

                      1. re: ns1

                        I like the original location on Valley Bl in Alhambra

                        1. re: Ernie

                          meh. i still lament the loss of wing hing deli that used to be at that location.

                  4. Chow Fun is the test to see how good a chef is, and it is all about getting the fresh noodles done right....sort of like being able to roast a chicken correctly.

                    18 Replies
                    1. re: Raffles

                      I think it helps to describe what really makes a good plate of dry fry beef chow fun by local Hong Kong Cantonese standards (ie the nitpicky from the food bloggers, media personalities, professional food critics, newspaper reporters, and gourmets alike) and even in HK it is no longer easy to find a really good plate.

                      You cannot just simply have "wok hay" and call it a day and think you have a top notch plate of dry fry beef chow fun.

                      In Hong Kong, fresh quality beef is becoming a rare and more expensive commodity (particularly to blue collar folks), thus a pretty rampant use of baking soda or some type of beef tenderizing agent. Quick/fast/cheap type of HK café eating places will use these like a one night stand.

                      The cooking process is basically like this...quick sear the beef in the wok, then the vegetables (scallions, bean sprouts, onions if you will....but even better is using young yellow chives instead of onions), and then the rice noodles (ho fun) with soy sauce, using one hand (ideally) to tilt the wok back and forth, and the wok spatula in the other hand to keep stirring/rotating. Any excess oil should be drained (particularly in fast cooking the beef). Expert dai pai dongs in Hong Kong can do one plate in a minute, and maybe 3 minutes tops for a really experienced chef.

                      Here's a video of an extremely famous chef and eatery who cooked beef chow fun in Macau that garnered the attention of celebrities and the last governor of HK, unfortunately the place closed. This was place was da shiznit in 2007/2008, causing even gourmets to take hydrofoil boat rides from HK to Macau to eat a plate.


                      The type of rice noodle or thickness/widness does not seem to matter a whole lot overall compared to the overall execution, but of course fresh product is obvious.

                      The big problem with many chefs (even in HK) is that the rice noodles can stick to the wok easily if they are not so skilled, so to counter that problem they have to put more oil in. Greasy ho fun is a major turnoff, although it can make the dish taste a bit better....but super super unhealthy.

                      Another requirement is that since soy sauce is added to fast stir fry the noodles, every noodle strand should be colored and covered in soy sauce with a consistent dark shade on all sides. Too light shade of white or spots of lighter brown in more areas than one, no es bueno.

                      Once you polish off the contents, look at the bottom of the plate. Is there excess oil? Same criteria as an authentic sweet & sour pork Cantonese style (with excess sauce...sufficient sauce should just coat the fried pork). If no excess oil, it's a passing criteria.

                      The rest is a matter of personal taste...some might like it just a tad oily (but not too much), some prefer it really dry. The really anal types will see if the eatery provides a kind of chili sauce (or sauces) that suit their fancy. The type of chili sauce you choose, particularly in HK, also determines your food cred, and whether you have authentic Cantonese eating habit.

                      Fragrance, appearance (ho fun noodle coloring by soy sauce and depth of shading/coloring by soy sauce), taste, wok sear/intensity, dryness yet flavorful, and no excess grease.

                      1. re: K K

                        Love the video. Any chance you can provide an annotation, stating what the chef added at each step along the way? Most was obvious, but I think I missed a couple.

                        1. re: Wayno

                          This is my best guess of how it went down

                          - "velveted" marinated beef (lower temperature deep frying...beef probably marinated in a little soy, cornstarch, oil/water, egg white, wine, baking soda)
                          - removed excess oil
                          - not sure what he added to the beef, looked like either garlic or ginger, maybe both
                          - stir fry
                          - add scallion and bean sprouts
                          - season with soy sauce mixture (could be just light soy sauce, could be a mixture of light soy, sugar, msg, or wine)
                          - stir fry while talking on the phone, lol
                          - add noodles
                          - season with soy sauce mixture again and also add dark soy sauce for coloring
                          -burn baby burn!

                        2. re: K K

                          Hey, thanks for providing that! I'm watching from the office and I have no sound so I don't know if I'm missing critical information. I'm the last person who is an expert on Chinese food but if I could cook one Asian dish, I'm sure Chow Fun would be an IDEAL CHOICE.

                          The last few months I have been wrangling with making chow fun at home. A question I have is that most versions I have seen contain both "soy sauce" and "oyster sauce". I have a few types of soy at home but needed oyster sauce. Why is it when I go to authentic Asian stores I buy a bottle with ALL Asian characters and a big label at the top that declares it is indeed O-Y-S-T-E-R sauce. Isn't there an Asian name for "oyster sauce" that is not English?

                          Also, the noodles are easy to find in LA but most recipes make a big deal about peeling the layers of the noodles ... so that you have only one layer. But you could leave 2 or 3 layers couldn't you to have that extra chewy texture? No? And you can cut them wide or narrow.

                          I'm going to look for the chives you mention. Thanks.

                          1. re: SilverlakeGirl

                            You don't need oyster sauce for cooking beef chow fun....maybe the wet version but I really doubt it. HK Cantonese people love using oyster sauce as a dip for Chinese broccoli (gai lan) or the other veg called choy sum (not to be confused with Sam Choy haha).

                            Also, Lee Kum Kee, while a prevalent brand in the USA, makes probably the worst oyster sauce around and sadly. no much other competition (and if so, not significantly better). To me it is too dark, too salty, and way too many chemicals/flavoring agents. I know...because my friend who lives in HK now, used to study at Cal Poly Pomona, and worked part time at the LKK factory (not too far from Arcadia where he lived at the time) and he had his share of stories.... But if you have no other alternatives, that brand will have to do.

                            I don't know of another name for oyster sauce but in Chinese it translates to "oyster oil".

                            Wet chow fun is probably easier to make at home. Dry fry can be done but difficult to achieve that effect like from an industrial kitchen.

                            Here in NorCal, there are a few places where you can buy the rice noodles as uncut sheets/folded blocks, or precut. It really is up to you. For me it is just easier (and lazy at the same time) to get and pay for reasonable dry fry beef chow fun outside, cooked to order, and not from a steamtable (e.g. Chinese deli combo box, at the supermarket or roasties shop with deli steam table).

                            It sounds like Tasty Garden is a very safe choice from the consensus. It may cost $10+ at Elite and maybe more at Sea Harbor, but you are not necessarily getting a superior product or much of an upgrade.

                            To maximize your eating experience, request the dish to be done:

                            1) no msg
                            2) use less oil
                            3) less salt (not sure how they will handle this request, maybe less soy sauce)

                            Or just enlarge these characters on your iPho'ne and show the waiter: 少油少鹽無味精 (or 少油少鹽走味精 if you are dealing with true Hong Konger waiters, not Cantonese speakers from Southern China, since 走味精 is true HK restaurant/café slang for no MSG, or "run"/"runaway" MSG).

                            1. re: SilverlakeGirl

                              Oyster sauce is not typically used for chow fun. If you are looking for oyster sauce, read the ingredients list--it should be in English. The cheap brands will often have water as the main ingredient. The better ones will have oysters.

                            2. re: K K

                              re: that youtube video

                              that was amazing. HTF do I get a stove burner like that at home?! what is that, 100k BTU?!

                              1. re: ns1

                                Wayno, that's just one style, it is not necessarily the defacto way to do it, but just goes to show what we lack in California (with probably very few exceptions, the best of which available to us don't even come anywhere near close but good enough for a fix).

                                1) Chef takes a towel and wipes the wok clean while the heat is on. While that is happening his assistant is portioning a side of ho fun (rice noodles).

                                2) Chef uses spatula to add some oil to the wok, waits for it to heat up, while he prepares a tin mini bowl of fresh beef slices. He's actually talking to a customer to tell her how much is the dish she ordered (beef chow fun too). He's scooping up a little extra beef beyond what was portioned.

                                3) He then shakes the wok back and forth, holding its handle, with his left hand and uses his right arm to push the spatula, creating a stirring effect. Then tosses the beef by using his left wrist motion to flip the wok. When he is done he uses his spatula to toss out excess oil. Other chefs might pour the beef outside the wok and use a strainer to drain the oil, cook the veggies separately without the beef, but this guy cooks the veggies and the beef together.

                                4) He then puts in...can't tell what it is. Could be finely chopped smaller sized yellow chive...looks like garlic but doubtful that is it, then turns the heat up on maximum turbo, then turns off the heat. Throws in bean sprouts. I'm guessing the greener strands are scallions. Multi-tasks and answers the phone at 1:21 while using his right hand to cook the veggies and beef, flipping them over. Then hangs up and resumes the turbo nitro.

                                5) Throws in two portions of ho fun, adds what appears to be oil, and soy sauce. Then turns up the heat back on maximum turbo nitro, and at this point he's exercising quite a number of muscles in his upper body to basically keep the wok contents moving, while evenly mixing the soy sauce and the noodles together (and wok searing). Then a few wrist flicks of the wok to flip the contents, then pours the contents into one takeout container and one dine-in plate.

                                The conversations between him and his assistant are muffled, but mostly have little to do with annotation or describing what he is doing.

                                1. re: ns1

                                  ns1: you don't. Spend a Hamilton and eat it outside (e.g. Tasty Garden), and use their chili sauce (or bring your own, once you get a hold of your friend's shipment of YKY from HK...).

                                  1. re: K K

                                    Actually, through the miracles of the internet I found this:

                                    Jet Burner - 19" diameter
                                    This high heat, cast iron burner ring has 88 jet nozzles, is designed for use with low pressure propane,and can develop 880,000 BTU/HR of heat


                                    oh wait, I have prime:

                                    1. re: ns1

                                      think of haw quickly one can burn down their kitchen using one of those things as a starter.

                                  2. re: ns1

                                    Yes, they are often at 100K BTU or higher. That's why the food comes out so quickly.

                                    1. re: ns1

                                      i think the easiest way -- and i'm not saying it's easy -- to do this kind of thing at home is to copy alton brown and get one of those outdoor turkey fryer burners, and put your wok on that outside and have at it.

                                      1. re: ns1

                                        US-made wok burner, 125K BTU: http://www.actionsales.com/view-item....
                                        . After buying that, swagger (cuz it's really a penis thing at this point) into Ten Ren, order the biggest boba milk tea, cuz you're going to need a lot of balls to run that in the backyard.

                                        1. re: TonyC

                                          Haha, that's only if you want to be a Fung Brother sensation.

                                          If you are FOBtacular, one can do what the former Macau shorty bespectacled beef chow fun chef does, drink the Cantonese remedy 竹蔗茅根水 (sugarcane, "Perotis indica") with chestnut and carrot, some honey in it would also help soothe the throat from and help combat the intense heat and smoke from the wok that will penetrate one's lungs from that burner. And if one wants to add extra large boba, I suppose that's ok.

                                          1. re: K K

                                            I had no idea being a master wok'er would be so hard.

                                            1. re: ns1

                                              Yeah you'd think you would only get "yeet hay" from eating greasy fried foods...but the chefs too from inhaling the smoke/oil from the intense stir fry, especially from space shuttle class burners.

                                              竹蔗茅根水 is also what they serve at the likes of Hing Kee, very famous for authentic typhoon shelter crab (Tsim Sa Tsui, Kowloon side in HK), the only place that does it with black bean sauce and chili oil as it was done on the boats in the 50s to the 90s (instead of the garlic galore version). They also serve sour plum soup (beverage) but not sure if that has a similar "cooling" effect to the yeet hay. As weird and whacky some of these drinks are, they were invented for a reason...

                                      2. re: K K

                                        i typically use corn starch rather than baking soda, usually a teaspoon, tossed with a litle rice wine & a little soy sauce for a quick marinade maybe 30 sec. but otherwise pretty much as described.

                                        jeez, i haven't made gwan chau ngau hau at home in ages.

                                    2. I have rarely had the wider, traditional chow fun noodle in LA but found it at Tampa Garden in Northridge...ive had roast pork chow fun and love it...other pasta dishes are hand made, as in dumplings, etc...just be forewarned service can be spotty...friendly family run but id suggest not waiting for a wait person to come to you but walk up to the counter instead!

                                      1. Tasty Garden in Arcadia. Follow KK's advice.

                                        1. Thanks, everyone! Sounds like Tasty Garden is the consensus, and I will be hitting that up this weekend. I have to say that I looked at some people's pics of their chow fun online, and I'm tempering my expectations. But I have faith in the Chow community, and I will report back!

                                          I will also be hopping over to Flavor Garden for some beef rolls and leek pies. Any opinion on the spicy jelly noodles there?

                                          1. Eager to try Tasty Garden.

                                            I like the versions at Mama Lu's and Newport Seafood, heinous, if you're looking to try a few spots!

                                            1. The regular beef chow fun at Tasty Garden is too cloying and sometimes burnty flavored.

                                              At Tasty Garden at lunch and afternoon tea but not dinner you can order the XO Sauce gan chao chang fun (chao cheung fun). It's off menu but I think the flavor is far superior to the regular beef chao fun. The XO sauce at Tasty Garden has better seafood flavor than most places, I remember it has noticeable flakes of dried fish and scallops. I prefer this dish to the niu rou gan chao chao fun every time now.

                                              1. Was the "tiny hole in San Francisco Chinatown" House of Nanking, by any chance?