Ding’s Garden (大合卤味): a taste of Wenzhou

The city of Wenzhou may not be known for their cuisine like other parts of China, but I was still excited to learn about a restaurant which supposedly has dishes from Wenzhou. Ding’s Garden is also known as Savory Garden and also known as 大合卤味 — it all depends on which sign and menu you look at. The restaurant is incredibly small with just a handful of small tables and a glass display case which holds various cold appetizer plates and brined duck.

Dings GardenDings Garden
Dings GardenDings Garden

Of the appetizers, I’ve had the pickled cabbage, kao fu, tofu sheets with pickled snow cabbage, and braised thin-sliced pig ears.  Their pickled cabbage, one of the best renditions of this dish, was crisp, sour, and a little spicy.  The kao fu was even better because it was soft, slightly sweet, slightly salty, and without any of that canned food taste.  The tofu sheets were also a good choice, especially after having such a bad experience with them at another restaurant. Finally, the thin-sliced pig ears were fantastic — salty, spicy, soft and slightly crispy with cartilage.  If you’re a fan of pig ear, definitely try these.

Dings Garden

My first time here, I wanted a traditional Wenzhou dish, which I heard involved fish balls. They may not sound too appetizing, but they’re harmless; they’re just like meatballs but made out of fish instead of beef or pork.  I ordered the fish balls in noodle soup.  The fish were less ball shaped and more rustic, like small strips of fish. Each bite contained the cooked fish batter which was both soft and chewy with chopped ginger mixed in.  While the fish was new to me and interesting, the star of the dish was the noodles, which were wide but thin — kind of like wider, thinner fettuccine.   Even though these were wheat noodles, they had that slippery mouth-feel that rice noodles like the ones in chow fun had.  This was the first time I’ve had wheat noodles like this and I really enjoyed them.

Dings Garden

The BF also wanted to try the noodles, so the lady working there was nice enough to offer us off-menu a vegetarian noodle soup with just pickled snow cabbage, water, salt, and noodles.  The dish was simple and a great way to highlight the noodles.  Next time he orders this, we’re going to ask for some pickled mai gan cai which’ll probably add another layer of depth to the soup thanks to its slightly earthy flavor.

Dings Garden

When I visited Ding’s Garden a second time, I tried another specialty of theirs: large wontons in soup.  The wontons were casually squeezed in large, thin wrappers and then cooked in a simple soup with seaweed, strips of thin omelet, and ground pork.  It may not look like much, but this bowl of soup and wonton was so warming and comforting that I don’t know how I’ll force myself to try something new next time I return.  Even though there are no noodles in this soup, rest assured that it’s more than enough to eat thanks to the large wrappers and the amount of wontons.

Dings Garden

Maybe not for novices, but Ding’s Garden also has decent stinky tofu.  It’s stinky, but not blow-your-socks-off stinky.  The braised tofu with chili oil is savory and salty inside, maybe a bit too firm, and pairs perfectly with a bite of the pickled vegetables.  Don’t be scared away with the redness of this dish. Its bark is worse than its bite.

Ding’s Garden may not look like much, but most of the food I’ve had here was solid and tasted like no-frills, good, Chinese food.  The lady who works there is friendly, the noodles are good, and the prices are low.  It may be too small for large groups, but it’s perfect for a quick, casual lunch when I’m in the mood for simple Chinese food.

Ding’s Garden (大合卤味)
534 E Valley Blvd
Suite 10
San Gabriel, CA 91776
(626) 573-5668

JTYH Revisited


Just a quick post about lunch at JTYH a few weeks ago.  The BF got the mao er duo (cat ear noodle) vegetarian style.  Our dining companion got a dao xiao preserved vegetables and pork soup.  I got the lamb noodle soup and some pan-fried dumplings.

Everything was good as always.  I just wish the vegetables in the vegetarian noodles were more exciting.  The dumplings were really good with a thick, chewy, rustic skin.  It’s one of the best things to order at JTYH.

(Previously written up)

Liang’s Kitchen (aka Mama Liang’s)

Liang’s Kitchen (also known as Mama Liang’s House if you go by the Chinese characters in the window) was a place I’ve been to once before. I got take out that time and the food did not travel well, so it wasn’t fair to write them up.  I got a chance to visit it again recently and not surprisingly, the food was much better.

Mama Liangs

If you can’t tell by now, I really like noodle soup.  More specifically, I really like beef noodle soup. It could be pho or it could be niu rou mian.  Give me a big bowl of it and I’m happy.  The niu rou mian at Mama Liang’s has the best broth of its type ever.  It’s rich, beefy, has just the right amount of oil, and is lip-smackingly delicious.  The noodles (I ordered knife-shaven) unfortunately don’t stack up to the soup. They were too doughy.

Mama Liangs

Mama Liang’s niu rou juan bing (beef crepe roll?) is also worth ordering. This dish is top notch.  The beef is seasoned beautifully and is both tender and lean.  The crepe/pancake thing that wraps it is thicker than that of other places, but not overly so. Eat this dish right away while the crepe is still crispy to get the full effect.  When I picture a perfect beef sandwich, this, with its crispy exterior which gives way to chewy bread and tender beef, could be it.

If this is all too much beef, there’s also the fried tofu appetizer.  It’s freshly fried tofu topped with a brown sauce and served with chili sauce. Pretty simple, but good — especially the soft custardy inside in contrast to the fried outside.  I’m not claiming this is vegetarian since I didn’t really ask the waiter, but man it’s good.

Mama Liangs

Mama Liang’s is worth visiting for their niu rou mian broth and niu rou juan bing.  Don’t bother getting take-out though, because those things don’t travel well at all.  Besides, the inside of the restaurant is neat with Tawainese miltary paraphernalia decorating the walls and hanging from the ceiling.

Liang’s Kitchen
227 W Valley Blvd
San Gabriel, CA 91776
(626) 281-1898