I’m not an expert in Chinese food. China is a vast country, full of regional differences in language, culture, and cuisine; it would take years of study and a fluency in Cantonese and Mandarin to really begin to grasp the sheer scope and complexity of the foods of the “Middle Kingdom”. If I had another lifetime, perhaps I would attempt it.
Taiwan, the island nation that in the past several hundred years, has been owned or controlled by the Dutch, the Japanese, and at least two different Chinese Imperial dynasties, has since the Chinese Civil War in the immediate aftermath of WW2 been the home of refugee Chinese fleeing communism. Chiang-Kai Shek’s Kuomintang government withdrew to Taiwan after defeat on the mainland and established the democratic Republic of China on the island. Now, I’m not an expert in Chinese history either, and so this very brief historical background serves only to inform you, noble reader, that Taiwanese cuisine, although certainly of Chinese origin, has its own identity distinct from mainland Chinese food, an identity informed by a multicultural history and years of strife.
|Delicious, tender tofu in a sweetened soy with a puddle of chili garlic paste, chopped cilantro, and scallions.|
Liang’s Kitchen serves food from the city of Juan, a historical site that has something to do with republican Chinese refugees settling there. I’m a little fuzzy on the details, but they still remember World War Two and fleeing to Taiwan. The place is inexplicably decked out with old photos of fighter pilots and well-constructed plastic airplane models from the WW2 era dangle from the ceiling. I don’t have any idea what any of this signifies. All I know is that the food is great! And cheap.
|Absolutely addictive. Little pork wontons in homemade wrappers with a spicy broth and minced pickled veggies.|
They specialize in handmade noodles. Oxtail and beef tendon noodle soup is a specialty. Fresh noodles with sesame paste and cucumbers is another. Regina and I have yet to try either of these, but we plan follow-up visits to Liang’s Kitchen for sure. The noodles we did have — springy ramen-type wheat noodles with slivers of pork and pickled vegetables and little pork wontons swimming in a thin broth dosed with chili oil — were excellent!
|Homemade noodles with pork and pickled veggies. Damn tasty!|
Also, wonderfully fresh veggies. The chilled cucumbers were simple and cooling. The green vegetable in minced pork sauce topped with fried shallots in a sweetened soy with a zest of sichuan peppercorn was completely satisfying; although, truthfully I have no idea what vegetable we ate. It wasn’t any of the usual suspects (yu choy, bok choy) and seemed a bit like baby romaine lettuce. Delicious, whatever it was.
And the tofu was superb! The sauce was a sweetened soy with a touch of ginger. The tofu was cubed, lightly fried, served atop the sauce, and garnished with cilantro and scallions. The sauce was perhaps overly sweet, but when you stirred in the chili paste the whole thing grew wings and flew! Zesty, tender, flavorful. Just dynamite.
|Don’t know the veggie, but it was yummy!|
|Cooling, crisp, chilled cucumbers.|
|The presence of Thai iced tea points to the multi-culti nature of Taiwan.|
|Stuck in the corner of a mini-mall, you’d never know it was there unless you were looking!|
Liang’s Kitchen has ten outposts in Southern and Northern California. We ate at the one in San Gabriel.
227 W. Valley Blvd #128-C
San Gabriel, CA 91776