The SGV (or San Gabriel Valley) of Los Angeles is not only a Chinese Food mecca (best in America) but lends itself to the peculiar but extremely fun tradition of the “food crawl” or as we sometimes call it the “SGV Parlay.” This involves heading out there and visiting multiple locations in the same day. Everything is so close together and the density is very high.
My oldest friend, Brent, and I have been eating Chinese food together for about 40 years so on this particular Sunday night (January 27, 2019) when he was in town we went out at about 4pm for the crawl.
First stop the Hunan Chili King and late Lucky Noodle King mini mall. This is a classic old school SGV mall, probably from the 70s.
Here’s HCK, the best Hunan joint I’ve been to in the state.
They were decorated for Chinese New Year.
And here’s Brent.
Hunan style cold cucumber salad with marinated cucumber, Cilantro, and chilies (everything has chilies). This was really tasty, and one of the least spicy dishes. The marinate lent it a slight cool quality. Very salty though.
Snails with preserved vegetables. This dish was amazing! Sure it’s an “advanced” dish, and incredibly spicy. Hottest dish we had that night by far. Super deep potent heap. The combo of the chewy snails and the unusual pickled green beans (with their crunch) was stunning.
This might have been our most expensive stop too. Lol.
Next over to King Kho Bo for some dried snacks like dried seasoned mushrooms and whacky New Year’s coconut strips.
Then into this weird low rent mall. Like a cheap mall in China as there are all sorts of “stores” tucked away inside this vast drop ceiling hall. Pretty ugly! And classic SGV charm (actually is fairly charming).
Speaking of charm, this guy in the parking lot drives a manga rice rocket!
Next we moved over to another (newer) minimall on Valley. I’ve eaten here at Mian, Mei Long Village, J &J, and Tasty Dining! This is in the heart of Alahambra and very dense.
Mian, where we decided to get some Szechuan on, gets a serious line. About 30 min at 7pm on Sunday for 2!
This place is much newer (2 years) and popular with the young Chinese couples on cel phones — wait, that’s all young Chinese (and other) couples.
Weird cold tea.
Slightly fermented spicy cabbage adorn the table — like Szechuan kimchee.
The awesome cold smoked plum juice — so good (too much sugar when you guzzle it though).
Egg custard with ground pork. One of those delicate fluffy egg custards covered in savory ground pork. Yum! I really enjoy the texture (and taste) of this kind of custard and with the pork was fabulous.
Beef in chili sauce. Quite spicy, dry, and nice.
Szechuan Cold Noodles.
You mix up the above cold noodles and eat. These were superlative. Nice noodle texture, good weight, and this scrumptious tangy chili sauce. Loved them. I adore when the acid balance is right and these really had it down. A bit of nuttiness, but not nearly as nutty or heavy as a dan dan — different, but great.
Then we went across the mini mall to the Foot Soak for a 1 hour Foot Massage ($20!).
This particular FM “spa” is one of my favorites because the guys on staff are strong and do a good job. There is NO GLAMOUR here. In fact, it has the oddest (not for the SGV but to the uninitiated) ambiance. The chairs are packed together almost touching and period Chinese dramas (in Chinese, of course) play on the TV. Plus, quite a number of people just hang out or sleep. The massage is good though and the price right ($20 is for a full 60 min).
Now on to our third minimall, well actually welcome to the Maxi-Mall. The California Mini-Mall’s GIANT SGV cousin.
You could spend all day in this mall, there are so many restaurants, coffee shops, bakeries, and massage places. But since we’d done two spicy spots, we figured we’d finish up with some awesome carbs. Juicy Dumpling is upstairs.
They have a glassed in dumpling workshop!
Brent pounds the hard stuff — tea!
XLB (xao lao bao) “sweet”. Also known as Juicy Pork Dumpling. Really nice version of the classic. Soft skin. Juicy. Good filling. Maybe not as good as a Din Tai Fun, but great still. They have two types here — savory and sweet. We ordered the sweet because it’s more unusual. I kinda like it, although maybe not as much as the savory.
Pork and Shrimp Dumpling. Great version of the pork and shrimp, with delicate but pronounced flavors. Like the savory pork only version but with a shrimp inside!
Giant Crabmeat Juicy Dumpling. You eat this with a straw! People said this was a gimmick, but the slurry of crab and pork inside this thing was to die for. And after you burn your tongue slurping it out you can cut it up and eat the shell like pasta.
Here with the straw — so good, just watch you don’t burn your tongue.
As our final (7th!) stop we wanted some boba tea. There were options to choose from, like Boba Ave but we went instead to:
Typical young clientele.
Slick modern (industrial) decor.
They double as internet cafe and offer unusual savory treats. Brent joked that “real men” would polish off the evening with an egg and prosciutto waffle — couldn’t manage it.
Instead just got a milk boba tea (small for me).
Overall, a total blast of a night. It’s really hard to convey how fun these crawls are — which is the purpose of this post. It feels kinda like teleporting to a section of a some slightly (American) Chinese city for an evening. Everything is so close together and if you like Chinese food the density of places is off the chart. We walked by a good 15-20 other places that looked delicious, some of which I have been to, many not.
This whole adventure was probably about $120 for the both of us too, including the Foot Massage and tip. Food was probably $80. With 4 people it would be even cheaper (each) and one could try more dishes. Hard to crawl with more than about 4-6.sharethis_button(); ?>