Wednesday, August 22, 2007

101 Noodle Express, Alhambra

The search for the perfect vegetable dumpling continues

My idea of heaven was a plate of Mandarin Deli’s steamed vegetable dumplings prepared only at their Little Tokyo branch. The delicate skins containing a steamy bomb of fluffy tofu, scallion, vermicelli, something substantial that I suspect was egg, shot through with the essence of ginger. The texture had bite and the flavor was so complete that it didn’t require dipping sauce. Just when I finished lamenting the closing of the Little Tokyo branch, I discovered the steamed vegetable dumplings at 101 Noodle Express.

The dumpling skins are thick and durable, not the refined wrapper designed for careful handling at Mandarin Deli. But the filling, although a bit scant and lacking the body of MD's dumplings, has the same flavor profile – most importantly the perfume of ginger penetrating each bite. This dumpling can handle a little dipping sauce, if not just to coat the meaty noodle wrapper. Next to the canisters of chili sauce on each table is the wonderful house made cilantro sauce/spread that is a cross between Indian green chutney and pesto; it could alone, sauce a plate of fresh noodles.

I haven’t had much luck ordering other vegetarian items on the menu. The servers always try to recommend “vegetarian” dishes containing fish or shrimp and once convinced me to order the leek and egg omelet, which was full of some sort of ground meat. They do however have some vegetarian pre-packaged cold appetizers. On my most recent visit, I picked up the soybean, green vegetable, bean curd salad which was deliciously spicy, dressed with a hint of Szechwan pepper oil. While you may not want to make an entire meal of dumplings, 101 Noodle Express is in the same mini mall as a vegetarian Chinese restaurant, Mighty Vege House.

If you’ve discovered other vegetable dumplings of note, please share. The search continues.

101 Noodle Express
1408 E. Valley Blvd (626) 300-8654
Open: Mon–Fri 10am–3pm, 5–10pm Sat–Sun 10am–11pm

No comments: