[nothing but Chinesers]
This year, Hanukkah passed while we were somewhere near Shanghai. This is important because we originally planned on visiting Ohel Rachel Synogogue / Shanghai Jewish Refugees Museum right before Hanukkah, but was led astray by the deceptively mesmerizing but ultimately stupid World Expo China Pavilion re-opening on December 1, 2010.
To atone for this monstrous omission, I present Shen Yang Restaurant in San Gabriel, categorically the most interesting Chinese restaurant currently in SGV that is not sold/closed/burnt.
Preface (extremely slanted Korean peninsula history to follow): the Chinese-Korean cultural pipeline has existed probably since 2333 BC (claimed as the founding of the first Kingdom of Korea) thought official record of Chinese settlement in Korea was 13th Century. In Chinese text books, Koreans are oft described as direct descendants of Manchurians and/or the Hans, and are basically “Chinese”. Despite of 800 years of amensalistic interbreeding, immigration and migration, Korean (and Korean Americans) still think of “Chinese” food as nothing but ja-jjang-myun, fried mandu, jam pong, and tang sui beef. e.g. I once took a newly-immigrated Korean family to dimsum. They were shocked by the food & presentation. I was shocked they were shocked. They wanted “Chinese food”. It was a mess.
Shen Yang presents a unique insight into Korean & Chinese food relations. Think of it as the Lucy of the 2 cuisine. [If you were in any doubt, Korean food would be the ape, Chinese food would be the humans - flame away.]
Here, every imaginable form of Korean-Chinese food is served the Chinese way, and in gigantuan servings; sweet & sour beef, zha4 jiang4 mian/ ground beef soy bean noodles (Menu # 124), gan pong shrimp (Menu # 88 as kao4 da4 xia1), you name it.
But ultimately this is a house of Dong1 Bei3 Tsai4 (Cai4) – Northeastern Chinese cuisine. Suan1 cai4 (pickled napa, pickled mustard greens) is in many dishes including 1 of the house specials (Menu # 117, pickled sour napa with pork in clay pot), seen below left.
Beyond the prevalent pickled vegetables, cumin is a heavily utilized spice, and can be applied to multitude of meats if one still wishes to order “off” the 140 + item deep menu. According to Baidu Wiki, Northeast Chinese cuisine consists of 10 flavor profiles, (not nearly as many as Sichuan, but enough to send your brain scrambling for descriptives) and heavily features stewing, braising, offals, fungi, game, fresh water fish, etc.
One of Shen Yang’s signature dishes is the racks of soyed chicken seen below. The plate, nearly the size of a man’s forearm, is the proud child of all that is “Dong1 Bei3″. The racks are merely shadows of a chicken, neatly defleshed, then deep fried, then quickly braised in soy sauce, sugar & cumin. What you’re served is a platter of blackened chicken ribs weighing at least 2 pounds. It’s popularity lays in the fact that it is possibly the single most ridiculous plate of beer food to ever be served. You pickup a rib, gnaw on it for a minute, dislodge the few grams of fried chicken still heartily attached to the bones, and wafts of cumin along with lightly sugared soy sauce permeate from your oral cavity to your sinus. Spit nuggets of bones onto table. Drink beer. Repeat.
Even after a fistful of visits , most of Shen Yang’s menu remains The Da Vinci Code. There is honey walnut shrimp, but there’s Shen Yang “Large Dance Stage” Fried Sweet Cake (Menu #21). Often, the game of “I spy, therefor I eat” is hurriedly played right before ordering with fantastic results. Next summer, or Spring, or next week – this is LA, definitely check that affordable $7 bowl of “Korean Cold Noodle” chock full of beef and accoutrements (seen above right) at Shen Yang. In the mean time, try the hearty, warming & spicy bucket of slop that is the “Vegetable Hot Spicy & Pork Blood” (Menu Item # 113). It’s guaranteed to oust your blackheads, clear nasal congestion, and endlessly mock those sad bowls of pho/ramen pretending to be your foul-weather friend.
Shen Yang Restaurant
137 S San Gabriel Blvd
San Gabriel, CA 91776
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