Good morning! This is the (delayed) fourth diary entry for a trip we just finished taking through the San Gabriel Valley with some friends. You can find the map here, which has some photos and may also have comments as the trip goes on, tied to each location we visit, and organized according to date. I’m also posting rawer pictures (just from my phone) on my Instagram: https://www.instagram.com/perigee/
This was our last day together as a group. Some of us were flying out of the LA/SGV area that afternoon, and left us after Side Chick. Others, like Jen and me, were staying in the area an extra night or two and visiting personal friends before making a more leisurely journey. One of us even lives only a couple of hours’ drive away.
Our goal was to have unusual breakfasts and pre-lunch, so instead of trying to carry on the dim sum and Sichuan pattern from prior meals, we first headed out to…
Yung Ho Tou Chian
1045 Valley Blvd A105, San Gabriel, CA 91776
Yung Ho Tou Chian is a cheap morning eatery centering primarily on inexpensive, traditional Taiwanese and Chinese comfort food and functional breakfasts. Items on the menu are around $1 or $2, with some going as high as $7 or $8. The menu also helpfully denotes dishes with peanuts in them (with a little peanut symbol).
Note that some literacy of blue collar/inexpensive eating for Chinese/Taiwanese is necessary here. A typical breakfast might include hot salted/seasoned peanut and soy milk, or just hot soy milk, and a big crispy/fluffy cruller – basically aggressively fried bread that is very puffy. If you have more questions and want a different perspective from my own, Clarissa Wei writes up this very same restaurant on Serious Eats (don’t miss her gallery! – her post from 2012).
We didn’t order that well, not being totally familiar with the menu or style of breakfasts, but we did an okay job. I enjoyed the meal, though I think some of us may have found it slightly jarring to switch from intense Sichuanese the night before to this sort of rich, salty food for breakfast.
- Green Onion Pancake with Egg (Chef’s Specialities – #17) – This was good, and tastier and nicer than the other green onion pancakes we had on our trip. It was thicker (approximately 1/4″, and coated with cooked egg on one side). Very tasty.
- Rice Roll with Egg (Chef’s Specialties – #9) – This is a sticky rice wrapped around cruller, egg, and preserved vegetables. It’s further wrapped in plastic wrap for serving, and cut in half. We cut it up more to share it around. Also quite good.
- Twisted Cruller (Chef’s Specialties – #8) –
- Taiwan Sausage (Taiwanese Specialties – #8) – See photo of the Twisted Cruller, above, for the Sausage, as well, served in bite sized slices. Good sausage, not as heavily seasoned as a lop cheong (Chines dry-cured sausage), but very tasty.
- Salted Soybean Milk (Chef’s Specialities – #3) – The price on the menu differentiated with a slash is without and with egg. Compared to the simple hot soybean milk, this was my favorite. I’m slightly allergic to peanuts (they give me heartburn in large quantities) and it was peanutty enough that I could only eat about 1/4 or 1/2 a cup. But there was far more than just salt going into this soup, and I would order it again, knowing I could only eat a little.
- Hot Soybean Milk (Chef’s Specialties – #1) – Like the Salted Soybean Milk, this also can be ordered without an egg. There were, according to the menu, peanuts in this soup too, but it didn’t taste nearly as interesting or rich to me as the Salted. It was rich and filling, though, so if you’re looking for a less complex version, this is about as simple as they serve.
- Beef Roll Cake (Chef’s Specialties – #13) – This version used chili sauce instead of the usual hoisin (plum) sauce. It didn’t strike any particular high notes or low notes. Seemed to be decent but perhaps not as good as the beef roll in 101 Noodle Express.
400 S Baldwin Ave, Arcadia, CA 91007
(Inside Santa Anita Westfield Mall, 2nd floor, near Nordstrom, in the side food court near the Mall Entrance, to the right coming out of Nordstrom – where I recommend you park)
We’d heard about Side Chick through foodie buzz for the LA region. They do modern branding for a traditional food good for the area (Hainan Chicken), and they set up and serve from a small kitchen and counter in the Santa Anita Westfield Mall. You can see they use neon signs and their counter is simple with a simple menu posted on the wall.
Since we’d already had a filling breakfast at Yung Ho Tou Chian, we got one order of Crispy Hainan Chicken, and one of the Cold Sesame Noodles. Because they were out of the non-crispy traditional Hainan Chicken, the servers were very cooperative and helpful and got us enough a la carte pieces of chicken so we could all taste a piece.
Compared to some of the highlights of our trip, Side Chick wasn’t the most awesome thing ever, but it was functional and decent, and I would be likely to order from their counter again, were I looking for a nice lunch in the mall.
- Crispy Hainan Chicken – We ordered all dark meat. The chicken was nicely cooked and crispy, but the rice that came with it was a little soft.
- Cold Sesame Noodles – The sesame noodles were tasty, but with the sauce stirred in, a little dry. There simply wasn’t enough oily or wet dressing to make it moist enough to be pleasurable to eat, but the flavors were pretty good.
Jen and I stayed an extra day so we could visit some dear friends for the evening on Monday. Then we stayed overnight and picked up a few things on the way out of town.
Hui Tou Xiang Noodles House
Jen and I returned here to pick up 3 tubs of their kimchi to go (for us, and for two others of our party).
101 Noodles Express
We also returned here to pick up a beef roll for ourselves for lunch on the road, and another for some friends in the Bay Area who missed good beef rolls. We were also able to pick up some thimble-sized containers of The Condiment (which maybe we can reverse engineer?).
In sum, a great time was had by all. As you have read, there were some ups and downs, and some times when we should have maybe done a little more research before going to a particular restaurant. But it was all great fun, and we had some great experiences and I’m already missing Chinese foods and very much looking forward to our adventure with good friends next year!