Americanized spins on Asian food scares me. There. I said it. Maybe it makes me seem like a spoiled brat, but I need the real authentic stuff. So, with much trepidation I made my way to Ling & Louie’s in Scottsdale. But, what makes Ling & Louie’s different is that they own up to the fact that they know they are not authentic and fully embrace making food that is more of a fun spin on Asian-inspired than any real attempt of authenticity.
Long before it was cool to do fusion food, Chino Bandido arrived on the scene in Phoenix. This was back in 1990 when interracial marriages were barely okay, let alone interracial food. But Chino Bandido found something that worked – Asian and Hispanic food and hasn’t looked back. So while the name is a reference to Chinese and Mexican food, things like Cuban Beans and Teriyaki Chicken tell a larger tale.
Aside from the deadly temperatures, one major thing I was worried about in moving to Phoenix was how I was going to get my Asian food fix. No, not sushi and orange chicken, but the real stuff. I heard about a place in Mesa called Mekong Plaza, which was supposed to have a bunch of good, real Asian restaurants and as luck would have it, it turned out to be between work and home. So, I paid a visit to Taiwan Food Express to see what they had to offer.
While Malaysia is a majority Muslim country, it’s a very mixed country as well. Thus, finding pork is not a problem and, in fact, it is one of the highlights of Sandakan. And that’s because Sandakan has a strong history with a fried pork noodle stall dating back to 1940. Of course, basically the entire city was burned down in World War II so the stall physical stall itself is a bit newer. That, however, doesn’t seem to stop the locals from coming by.
Not long after paying a visit to the hot pots at Element, I went to essentially the opposite sort of hot pot at Lu Gi. Now when I say opposite, I don’t mean in terms of the food itself, but the general setting. Here, the stoves weren’t built into the tables, but were portable and brought out to each table after ordering. It felt like eating hot pot in someone’s home, except for the whole paying of money and whatnot.
It’s really hard to get enough of hot pot, especially when you live in a place with a ton of hot pot options. Element is a shiny and semi-new spot in Alhambra that offers all-you-can-eat and the divided hot pot that almost always seems necessary when I am eating with people who can’t handle heat.
Hotels aren’t exactly known for their food. Yet, there has been a trend to try to get better restaurants into hotels and I give those hotels major props for trying. In Pasadena the dusitD2 Constance Hotel has a spot called Constance Perry’s. It’s kind of Asian, kind of American, but definitely not fusion because those dishes kind of stand out on their own.
The world of hot pot is a divided place. I am not simply referring to the fact that most hot pot spots support the idea of dividing the pot into two broths, but also to the fact that some offer all-you-can-eat and some go a la carte. Hot Pot Hot Pot, a ridiculously named restaurant in Monterey Park, is on the a la carte side of the pot, but I did not let this get in the way of checking the place out.
It’s a good thing most people in LA don’t realize that the word “mian” simply means “noodle(s)” in Mandarin, or else they might just write off the restaurant Mian in San Gabriel as some sort of Noodle World or Noodle and Company knockoff. Fortunately, Mian is anything but. Like Chengdu Taste before it, Mian represents the Sichuan (or Szechuan or Szechwan) region of Chinese cuisine.
There is a saying attributed to Jonathan Gold that goes something like “‘A’ is for ‘American’ Chinese food, ‘B’ is for ‘Better’ Chinese food and ‘C’ is for ‘Chinese’ Chinese food.” The letters, of course, are in reference to the health code and if you’ve ever been to China, you would know this to be true. Thus, when I heard great things about the dumplings at Emperor Noodles in San Gabriel and then found out it had a “B” rating, I got pretty excited to try it out.