Among the not-so-interesting picks of New York Times writer Mark Bittman, who passed through our town recently, was Chang’s Garden, a Shanghainese spot near the Arcadia Supermarket. The discovery of the century it’s not, but it’s a solid recommendation for Shanghai-style food, says Hailyn.
Preserved pork with leeks is a goodly mound of chewy salted pork belly slices and sliced leeks, stir-fried with strips of moderately hot red pepper. There’s a nice whiff of five-spice, a tang of lemongrass and a shred of licorice root, all of which add up to a delicious and satisfying dish, says Will Owen.
Sauteed eel is actually baby eel–a bunch of them…kind of like spaghetti of the sea. Tons of shredded young ginger and fresh cilantro come on the side and get mixed in. The whole thing comes in a sauce that’s deep, rich, and rather sweet. The eels are pleasantly chewy, not fishy at all.
Dry pork ribs are really good, says ipsedixit, who cautions against the steamed ones–they’re OK, but not as good as the dry ones.
Hot and sour soup isn’t a Shanghai specialty (the real thing is from Sichuan), but it’s better than most, with some actual flavor and not too goopy.
What is Shanghai style is starting a meal with cold appetizers, says Hailyn. Smoked fish, drunken chicken, braised celery, sliced beef and kao fu are all good to try.
If you’re really set on kao fu (braised wheat gluten), a Buddhist temple in Downey makes some of the best around, says ipsedixit. It’s only offered on select Sundays when there are festivities. But the good news is, it’s free.
Chang’s Garden [Pasadena-ish]
627 W. Duarte Rd., at Baldwin, Arcadia
Buddist Fa Kwang Temple [South LA]
12110 Pomering Rd., at Rundell, Downey
Chang’s Garden–thanks, Mr. Bittman!