Shen Yang Restaurant, Nothing but Chinese
[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.

Shen Yang Restaurant

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.]

Shen Yang Sweet & Sour Beef Shen Yang Zha4 Jiang4 Mian4

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.

Shen Yang Pickled Cabbage Pork in Clay Pot Shen Yang Water Boiled Fish

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.

Shen Yang Chicken Bones Shen Yang Naeng Myeon

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 Spicy Vegetable Tofu Pot

NB: China Travel has a Jewish Heritage Tour of Central to North China.

Shen Yang Restaurant
137 S San Gabriel Blvd
San Gabriel, CA 91776
(626) 292-5758

Shen Yang on Urbanspoon

Shen Yang in Los Angeles on Fooddigger



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  • Anonymous

    FWIW, telephone convo confirmed with restaurant: they are DEFINITELY open 24-26th / Christmas. Actually, she said that in a scoffing tone. As in: “Duh, why wouldn’t we, do we look like Christians/Americans? Why did you call, I have so much cheap draft beer to pour”

  • tony, i’m always disturbed but intrigued after reading your posts.

  • Anonymous

    Expound please! I made no reference to balls, bukkake, nor runny poop! C’mon! This took like 2 days to write after 2 months of thought!

  • “…categorically the most interesting Chinese restaurant currently in SGV that is not sold/closed/burnt.” Stated perfectly. Shen Yang is one of those places I’ve passed by many times and wondered about. Thanks for writing it up.

  • This may be your best post yet.

  • “the most interesting Chinese restaurant currently in SGV that is not sold/closed/burnt.”

    Or exposed by local and Taiwanese media coverage because some local political schmoe decided to make his mistress pay for a cheap dinner, only to have a steamer of xlb thrown in his face, and he had to make like a Tiger Woods-esque escape.

    Great post!

  • If that soy chicken (aka pile of fried bones that I would never touch unless, as you suggest, under the influence) is beer food, what would you say is wine food?

    Elegant slivers of cheese?

  • Sue

    “Korean (and Korean Americans) still think of “Chinese” food as nothing but ja-jjang-myun, fried mandu, jam pong, and tang sui beef”

    Hmm, perhaps for most Korean/Korean Americans, but not my family and I. We normally visit Chinese-Korean restaurants owned by “hwagyo,” Chinese people born in Korea, and usually have yang jang pi and other dishes I don’t know the names of but are not of the stereotypical Chinese-Korean food. I’d definitely love to visit Shenyang for a more authentic experience though!

  • Anonymous

    Thanks for the comment Sue. That is a VERY interesting POV you presented. I think it’s blessed that your Korean-American family has seen the light. I was in a Chinese-Korean restaurant (in of all places, Montclair) shortly after Xmas, and was surprised to see an extensive NE Chinese menu.

    That said, it seems the older generation and the newly immigrated still have very little interest in “Chinese-Chinese” food and I can only chalk it up to Korean jingoism?

  • You had me at “worthy of Jews.” I shall alert my Jew of our next SGV stop!

  • tony, i salute for reinforcing the great bond that exists between my people and yours. one of these days you’ll have to check out one of the kosher chinese places on pico. (though it might make you change your mind on us.. ) (it should be noted, also that one of the most well-known jewish families in shanghai is the Sassoon family.. no joke… my people!)

  • Finally got here on Wednesday afternoon. Tried the zha jiang mian and the sweet and sour pork. The zha jiang mian had a funky flavor that was either just one of those flavors I’ve never managed to appreciate (like stinky tofu), or just plain off. Normally I love this dish (both Korean and Chinese versions). On the other hand, the sweet and sour pork was awesome. I’d go back for that alone. They were out of Tsingtao, so I had a Heineken. Will definitely be back.

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