Happy Eating Restaurant

Happy Eating Restaurant

It was only a few weeks ago when I heard that Shu Feng Yuan in Focus Plaza (aka The Great Mall of China) closed it doors.  Well, now its doors are open again, only with different owners.  Although the lighted sign outside still bears its old name and the restaurant looks unchanged once you step inside, the plastic-sheeted menu shows a new restaurant boasting of something I hadn’t seen before — Wuhan food.

As soon as Will and I sat down at the restaurant, we were given three menus. Two of them were the old Shu Feng Yuan menu, but the third was what we were really interested in.  This menu looks hastily put together with its printed pictures and plastic sleeves, but it had all the dishes I wanted to try.

Happy Eating Restaurant

Pork dou pi (三鮮豆皮) was the first thing I ordered. It’s a cross between a crepe and fried rice. Except it’s not really fried rice.  A thin batter of soy is put on a hot, flat surface and cooked like a crepe. Then a layer of egg is brushed on top, and then sticky rice is put over that, then salty chopped mushrooms, pork, shrimp, and some pickled vegetables.  Then the whole pizza-like thing is flipped, edges are tucked under, and you end up with a neat package of protein, carbs, and a tiny amount of vegetable.  I hear it’s a breakfast meal, but I found it was equally as delicious for dinner.

Happy Eating Restaurant

Will ordered re gan mian (熱干面) which directly translates to hot-dry noodle.  Just looking at it, I couldn’t really tell the difference between that and his usual order of dan dan mian. It had similar looking noodles, a sesame paste, peanut, and soy sauce dressing, and salty pickled vegetables up top.  It tasted fine, but I still would have trouble distinguishing this dish from a mild dan dan mian.

Happy Eating Restaurant

I also ordered a skewer of mutton, which is written as ‘mutton shashlik’ on the menu. I just knew it as 羊肉串 which is lucky because I had no idea what a ‘shashlik’ was until I came home and looked it up. The mutton was tender and spiced perfectly.  Sure, the cumin was definitely aromatic, but it’s one of those things you don’t notice once you start eating it.

Happy Eating Restaurant

We also shared an order of fried pumpkin cake (南瓜餅) which was a pumpkin pastry that was battered and deep fried. Yes it tasted every good as it sounds.

I’m interested to try the other things on the menu, especially the soup buns. Hopefully this restaurant lasts long enough for me to do that.  It’s strange that it still carries the old Shu Feng Yuan’s menu, but maybe the restaurant is still in its transitional period.

Happy Eating Restaurants (川味家常菜)
140 W Valley Blvd # 211
San Gabriel, CA 91776-3787

Tempura at Home

Maybe I was distracted when I came up with this idea, but I thought that an all-vegetable dinner of vegetable tempura would be a healthy dinner.  Hey, it’s only rice and vegetables right? Oh yeah, I forgot about the battered and deep-fried part.

dinner at home

Unfortunately, most tempura mixes contain egg, so not exactly vegan. Not sure why they have egg though, since it’s simple enough to make tempura batter without egg. The secret is ice cold water. Use ice-cubes if available.

Easy vegan tempura batter:

1 cup all purpose flour

1 cup rice flour

2 tsp salt

1.5 cups ice cold water (I measured out the water and stuck it in the freezer until the top layer was all icy)

Mix together the dry ingredients, then slowly stir in the water.  Stir until roughly incorporated. It’s okay (and even desirable) to have lumps.

dinner at home

Things that were delicious as tempura: slices of Chinese eggplant, green beans, slices of lotus root, broccoli florets, sweet potato slices (tastes like chips!), maittake mushrooms.  Man, the mushrooms were ridiculously good. Almost a little *too* umami and earthy prepared this way, but the sauce cuts down on that earthiness really well.

Dipping sauce:

soy sauce

rice vinegar

mirin

grated daikon radish

green onion

splash of water

Sorry, no real recipe for the sauce. I just eye-balled everything. I think the soy sauce vinegar ratio was about 2:1. The  mirin was barely a splash.  I included a splash of water because I didn’t want the dipping sauce to be too salty.  What really makes the difference is grated radish. That stuff is like crack!

Vegetarian Options at Simpang Asia

Simpang Asia is probably one of my favorite restaurants on the westside.  An old co-worker introduced me to it years ago, when it was still a dinky one-room market with a handful of wobbly tables and chairs pushed to one side.  Now, it’s expanded enough to take over the old sandwich place next door and knock down the wall between it, opening up a larger space for the restaurant.

A few months ago, I noticed that there were some vegetarian options on the menu and I finally convinced Will to eat there. I think it’s safe to say that now it’s also one of his favorite westside restaurants. My go-to dish here is the nasi bungkus, a dish of fragrant rice, some sort of curry, some vegetables, and a balinese style egg all wrapped and steamed in a giant leaf.  It’s like a mega-tamale.  The regular nasi bungkus is definitely not vegetarian, but good news, the sayur bungkus is and it can even be made vegan if you ask them to leave off the corn fritas and egg.

Veg eats at Simpang Asia

The sayur bungkus contains strips of deceptively delicious vegetables (carrots and chayote), a dry curry with tofu and tempeh, half a balado egg, and corn fritas. It even comes with a vegetarian version of those popped shrimp chips!  The vegetables may look boring at first, since they’re just large matchsticks of carrots and chayote, but they have a wonderfully soft but not mushy texture.  The star of the dish is the tofu and tempeh.  It’s sweet and savory in the lip-smacking way fermented soybeans get.  It might even please people scared of tempeh because it doesn’t have an overwhelming funky taste like tempeh sometimes gets.

For a lighter dish, there’s ketoprak which is described as a salad, but is more like a cold noodle dish.  It’s bean sprouts, tofu, chewy rice cakes, and peanut sauce on top of rice noodle. Kind of like an Indonesian bun.  Tasty and recommended, but definitely not for the carb-phobic.

Veg eats at Simpang Asia

Sometimes, it’s not easy to find a vegan dessert drink in an Asian restaurant because of their use of condensed milk. Luckily, there’s a couple to choose from at Simpang Asia.  My favorite the mung bean drink, whose name I forgot.  It’s just mung bean, ice, water, syrup, and coconut milk.  Okay, maybe that doesn’t sound that tasty if you’re not used to having sweet bean drinks, but let me tell you, it’s pretty damn refreshing on a hot day.

Veg eats at Simpang Asia

Usually I walk in and order something right up at the counter without looking at the menu, but I’m glad for that time months ago when I finally decided to look at their menu and realized they had vegetarian dishes.  That means I don’t have to limit it to just weekday meals, but can go with Will on weekends too.  The people there are all really nice and freely answer questions about “what’s this,” or “what’s that?”   The only negative I can say about Simpang Asia is that they now charge $1 for their addictive green chili paste (not vegetarian!) that I always ask for on the side.

Simpang Asia
10433 National Blvd #2
Los Angeles, CA 90034
To order by phone: (310)815-9075