Tuesday, August 08, 2006

Mandarin Noodle Deli - Temple City, SGV

Temple City isn't really a place for one to hangout. This postage stamp of a city is pasted in between Arcadia, San Gabriel, Rosemead and El Monte and is no wider/longer than 3 miles. Although there are a few of the major corporate establishments, this place is a breeding ground for newly-engaged Asian people, particularly Taiwanese. Temple City is known for it's 'Wedding Row', a stretch of land that boasts nearly 18 wedding studios and bridal gown shops. I have heard that people from Taiwan would fly out here just for this. You can't miss these shops, there's nearly 2 on each block showcasing 10' x 12' photos of the newly-engaged. I have also heard that they are secret massage parlours. Whatever the case, Temple City is also home to two very popular, Taiwanese noodle shops - Dai Ho and Mandarin Noodle Deli, both of which are located on Las Tunas Drive. Because Dai Ho is run by a Noodle Nazi, I'd prefer to bring my business over to more amiable restaurateurs.

Before my friend's wedding, I headed out to this former burger joint on the corner of Las Tunas Drive and Primrose Avenue for some quick noodles. MND has a green awning around the building and gives a nice welcoming feel - almost cafe-like. The restaurant inside is clean and lined with fake wooden panels. Plants with the traditional 'grand opening' ribbons are still kept alive here from their opening day about 2 years ago. I walked in and got a table immediately. Usually it's packed during lunch time and you'll wait an average of 15-20 minutes. Here's what I had:

Potstickers (Gwo Tieh)
It seems like dumplings in the SGV get larger and larger. I believe they are about 5-6" long. These beautifully pan-fried potstickers are wrapped in a hand-rolled dough that is much thicker than your usual dumpling skin. The pork is cooked nicely with a slight pink-tint, a sign that there's succulence in each bite. I loved these but got a little full because of the thick wrapping. $4.95

For those that don't know what to do with the condiments, here's a simple mix for making potsticker/dumpling sauce. Add soy sauce, a little bit of vinegar and however much hot sauce you want. Sometimes they'll have sesame oil - add 1-2 drops and stir.

Cold Beef Pancake (Ro Juen Bing)
These are MDN's most popular appetizer. Almost everyone loves the scallion pancake. Now imagine that wrapped with thinly sliced five-spice beef, crunchy green onions and a sweet hoisin sauce. Oooooh. I call these Chinese Beef Wraps. $5.95

Beef Noodle Soup (Nu Ro Mian)
I make it a point to try the Beef Noodle Soup in any Chinese noodle soup. Like a Vietnamese restaurant's Pho, these should be a sign of the Chef's skill. There's a good amount of tender beef shank in here - enough to get you full. The noodles are cooked nicely and have the nice 'bite'. Here's a video of noodles being made by hand. My only problem is the broth. Although it's flavorful, it lacks thickness and seems a little 'flat'. By that, I mean there's a little too much water, which dilutes the true taste of the beef broth. Compared to other beef noodle soups I've tried, MDN's is quite mild but you can request it to be spicy. If you're up for a different type of noodle, ask for the knife-shaven noodles, also known as "dao shao mian". The chef holds a ball of noodle dough and uses a paring knife to cut small strands of noodles into the boiling pot. $5.95

Overall, I like MDN. The prices are a little bit higher than other Taiwanese noodle shops but I think the appetizers are definitely worth it. Sure there's better places in Alhambra and Monterey Park, but if you're in this area, I don't think you'll be let down. Other things to try:

Pork Sauce Noodle (Ja Jiang Mian)
Shanghai Fried Noodle with Gravy (Shang Hai Chu Chao Mian)
Steamed Pork/Shrimp Dumplings (Suay Jiao)

Mandarin Noodle Deli
9537 Las Tunas Drive (c/o Primrose)
Temple City, CA 91780
(626) 309-4318