Tuesday, August 29, 2006

Wonton Time - Wontons On Steroids - Alhambra, SGV

America is a nation that exercises overconsumption and completely ignores the notion that moderation is the key to anything. It seems that things are getting faster, stronger, sleeker and bigger. And we see that this ideal applies to cars, homes, fashion and of course, food. In Fast Food Nation, the author notes that to achieve this over-moderation, corners are cut and ultimately, damage our bodies. Over the years, portion sizes have increased as well. In the South, soda is sold in 3-liter bottles, not the standard 2-liter. In fast food restaurants, food is becoming tastier because nearly everything is deep fried, earning you more points on the Cholesterol chart. Places like Claimjumper's make me sick. I'm full before I've even started eating the meal. I fortunately can do without fast food and have avoided places that praise quantity over quality. But sometimes, larger portions are a good thing.

The good people over at Wonton Time in Alhambra have taken a part in America's campaign for overconsumption. But still in a way that's healthier than any fast food you'll ever eat. They come by way of Hong Kong and serve up some BIG wontons. These are the Barry Bonds and Mark Maguire's of wontons - fully roided up. I have longed for good wontons since my last trip to Hong Kong last year. To this day, I have NOT found a place worthy of being considered a Hong Kong-style wonton noodle shop. In Hong Kong, I could walk into any restaurant and order some of the best wontons ever. Wonton Time would have to do for now until my next trip to Hong Kong this Christmas. Yes, that's two trips to Asia in one year for me. No, I am not a FOB. I hope.

Wonton Time is packed tightly in a shopping center on the corner of Valley/Garfield (across from The Hat). Street parking is hard to find, so you'll have to go to the back lot. The place is usually semi-filled with customers and the employees there really don't care about yelling across the restaurant. Wonton Time is run entirely by women. You have one person working on the wontons, one person cooking the noodles and two servers asking you "wut yieu won?!" The menu is simple. There are three kinds of 'meat' you can order: Wontons, Fishballs or Sliced Beef. There are two types of noodles you can order: Wonton Egg Noodles or Thin-sliced Rice Noodles. Both of which can be served with or without soup. In Cantonese, we say "Lo Mein" - which means soupless noodles hand-mixed with sauce (usually oyster sauce). "Tong Mein" means soup noodles. For your first time, go for the Wonton Soup Noodles. The beef is super bland and I don't recommend it. Here's what I had:

I told you they were big. Each one of these wontons (4 per order) packs 3 shrimps with a little pork. The texture of the skin is very light and 'ghostly'. I bit into it and tasted succulent shrimp and pork. Try this w/ a dip of vinegar and hot sauce. Good. $4

Wonton Noodle Soup
For $4, you get 4 wontons and a medium portion of noodles. The noodles were cooked perfectly with the 'al dente' bite. The soup wasn't bad. I could taste the chicken, pork, shrimp (shells) and fish in the broth. I could've eaten another bowl but didn't want to overdo it. $4

Fishball Noodle Soup
This is the same kind of fishball you'd see at a dim sum restaurant. It is made with pureed white fish, green onions, chinese sausage and orange peel. Don't worry, the orange peel is used to mask out any fishiness. These were very juicy and tasty. At Wonton Time, you also have the option of picking 2-3 items for a mixed bowl. So definitely try the wontons and fishballs. $4

Vegetables with Oyster Sauce/Sesame Oil
Traditionally, the people of Hong Kong love to eat their soup noodles or dim sum with a plate of boiled vegetables (yau choy) topped with oyster sauce and sesame oil. Nothing special. $2

For first timers, I recommend adding the red vinegar and homemade hot sauce into your noodles. It really brings out the flavor of the dish. Until my trip to Hong Kong, this place will do. It's not bad. It's definitely one of the better places for wonton noodle soup and the fact that they add 'steroids' to their wontons should be interesting enough.

Here's Jonathan Gold's review on Wonton Time.

Wonton Time
19 E. Valley Blvd.
Alhambra, CA 91801
(626) 293-3366