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By Steven Li on 2006-04-14

April 14, 2006


Noodling shopping around Alhambra. One thing we rarely get in Hawaii is really fresh noodle soups. We excel at pho and different types of mein but don’t have one restaurant that promises a cherry warm noodles made on site or delivered fresh an hour ago in a bowl of rich chicken broth. Which explains why my dad goes sort of noodle crazy when he comes to LA. He insists on starting each day with a bowl of “tong fun” (soup noodles) – dad gets grouchy if he doesn’t get his tong fun. It’s kind of funny how serious he is about this matter.

A family favorite is Noodle Cafe on Garvey Avenue. It looks cheesy and run down from the outside but come any hour of the day, whether it be 5 am or 3 pm and this 40 seat restaurant is constantly full.

We sit at the same table right under this sign. The odd thing is, even if we haven’t come for months or even a year we always get seated at this exact table and never anywhere else. I don’t know why, but it’s comforting in an unexplained way.

Most of the time we order the same dish. The tong fun with fish and chicken. Boring, you say? Nono, it’s just good, honest and simple! The noodles are sublime, pure white in color, soft and slippery, it pairs so well with a spoonful of savory chicken broth. The shreds of juicy dark and white chicken and boiled fish is simple and straight forward. A light garnish of chopped green onions, bean sprouts and fried onions and you’re good to go. It looks like a big bowl, but you won’t feel even slightly weighed down after finishing. Just very very happy.

No order of tong fun is complete without some you tiao! (For really good you tiao, go to Yu Hong Tou Chiang which specializes in soybean milk and you tiao. Just get an order of each, dip the you tiao in a bowl of hot housemade tou chiang for a most usual and satifying breakfast snack). The you tiao here is alright. They don’t make it in house so it’s just toasted in the oven. A little on the heavy side, it could benefit from being more crispy and light. I like to soak it in my soup and then dip in shoyu – but that’s just me. You don’t even want to hear about the family arguments we have over the right way to eat you tiao!

After coming two days in a row some variation was necessary. Back in NYC I would visit Bo Ky on a biweekly basis and get the wonton mein. I ordered it for the wonton and the soup alone. Though I enjoy mein, I’m not a great fan and would pick fun over mein any day. So, combine the best of two worlds and get wonton fun! The waitress gave me an odd look cause people rarely eat fun with wonton, but as long as I’m a well behaved paying customer that eats with great gusto, there should be no problem at all. The fun tong was just as good as the previous day but the wonton was subpar. The filling was hardly seasoned and unusually chewy. The wonton pi caught me off guard with it’s garishly yellow shade but was slippery smooth and thin. The wonton fun was a nice departure from the usual, though I will stick to the classic gai yue (chicken & fish) fun in the future.

This is a good one! A block of fresh fun is cut into small rectangular cubes and fried until the edges are crispy with eggs, onions and pickled turnips. They use a particular type of dark sweet soy sauce to give the noodles that nice brown caramelized color. It’s an oily dish, so be prepared to drink plenty of the hot tea they offer. This dish is typically ordered like pupus to share. Dipping the noodles in a mixture of red vinegar and chili peppers adds a nice spicy tang and cuts down on the greasy filling. It like chips – you know it’s so bad, but its so good at the same time, so you keep on eating one after another!

Noodle Cafe
441 W Garvey Ave
Monterey Park, CA 91754-1632
(626) 307-8849

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