We hadn't been down to the SGV since before our vacation in May. I've been pretty busy with work and had been craving some jiaozi (dumplings) for a while. Unfortunately, there isn't a place in San Diego that makes anything remotely close to a decent jiaozi, xiao long bao, or even dim sum. It's a shame. I was missing jiaozi so much that I actually went to Dump(ling) Inn, which was a big mistake. The Missus also wanted some hearty comfort food as well. So a couple of weeks ago, we headed on up to the SGV.
Qing Dao Bread Food:
Folks that read the blog long enough know that while I love a good jiaozi, I'm partial to the Shandong style; specifically QingDao style dumpling. The wrappers have to be rolled by hand, those edges have to be thin enough so that the texture of the wrapper will be even after folding. The texture of the wrapper has to have a bit of stretch, almost like a good al dente noodle. It should glisten when cooked. I know, blah, blah, blah......
What it basically comes down to is that I enjoy the mutton jiaozi from Qing Dao Bread Food. It's the style I enjoy the best and also the city the Missus is from. The Missus always laughs after talking to the guy here....according to Her; his accent is "totally, one hundred-percent Qing Dao" which has its own unique accent ( "Qingdao Hua" (青岛话)).
Since we were folding two meals into one, this was going to be something light....all the Missus wanted was millet porridge, which is something like 50 cents here.
I'm not a big fan of this, but for the Missus, it's comfort food.
Over the years, we've noticed that there are new specials offered; many of them examples of typical, traditional, Qing Dao style "soul food". On this visit; the Missus and I were amazed to see housemade Chinese Sausage. Not just any Chinese sausage, but stuff that really looked like the style made in Qing Dao. So we just had to try it.
According to the sign, it's a "special, secret recipe". I can say this though, the flavors are pretty much spot on. While I'm not certain if the attributes of this sausage is unique to Qing Dao, or if it is more of a regional style, I will say that the strong flavor of wine in which the pork is marinated in, and the five spice was there. In fact, the five spice had the potent fragrance and flavor of the stuff from Qing Dao; which is what I use at home. Interesting tidbit; in QingDao, you don't go to the market to buy five spice. Rather, you go to the pharmacy to get it! In terms of texture; it wasn't quite as "air dried" as I'm used to, making it more moist. Also, the meat was cut in larger chunks. It was also a bit more salty as well. Still, this was a taste of home for the Missus and comfort food for me. It's obviously hand made and not cheap at $20 a pound ($4 each), but totally worth it.
Of course I had to have the Lamb Jiaozi:
I won't go too much into detail, since I've written about this, several times before. I will say, that on this visit, while still good, it wasn't quite up there with what I'd had previously. That sheen was missing; the wrapper was a bit more brittle, lacking the slight pull I'm used too. It's still among my favorites though.
Qing Dao Bread Food is an interesting shop; they were quite busy on this morning, I think they've found their niche, the soul food of Qing Dao. Lots of guys coming in and buying mantou (which is the classic starch for the sausage) on this morning. I'm sure we'll be dropping by to pick up some sausage on future trips to the area.
Qing Dao Bread Food
301 North Garfield Ave.
Monterey Park, CA 91754
Shen Yang Restaurant (San Gabriel location):
I'd been wanting to check out Shen Yang for a while. Since we were in the mood for the hearty type of Northern Chinese, we headed up to Shen Yang Restaurant.
There's something very "old school" SGV about this place. The service is pretty much all business, the customers older Chinese....not a single word of English heard from anyone other than us the whole visit.
We started up with the Stewed Pork Bones (Jiang Gutou).
There something so wonderful about picking through tasty pieces of meat, tendon, and other connective tissue around bones. The flavor of the bones have been passed to the meat; the stickiness of the tendon and other connective tissues, along with the varying texture of the "good bits" make this a great dish with a couple of beers. The flavor was straight ahead and I could probably pull this off at home, but this wasn't bad at all.
Since we're talking about Shenyang style food here, I had to try the Suan Cai. So we got the Shredded Pork with Pickled Sour Napa.
Not the prettiest looking dish, but this was very good. The suan cai was prepped well; neither salty, nor too sour. The texture was spot on. The Missus was told that they make their own suan cai, which takes about a month. This was very warming and hearty. The portion size was typical of Northern Chinese, very generous. The pork was tender and the flavors for this type of dish well balanced. Think of it as a sauerkraut stir-fry if you will.
We'll be back to try the suan cai yang rou soon. The prices are reasonable, though I'm not certain that unless you've been exposed to this type of cuisine, you'll really enjoy it. For me; it's hearty, comfort food.
Shen Yang Restaurant
137 S San Gabriel Blvd
San Gabriel, CA 91776