With a chill in the air, it's the perfect time of year for some soup. In the San Gabriel Valley, a steaming bowl of lamb soup with noodles is perfect for brisk days and nippy nights. A common item at restaurants featuring food from northwestern China, here are three great versions of lamb noodle soup around the SGV, all of which can be found along a less than two mile section of Valley Boulevard.
Sweethome Grill is known for two things: skewers and lamb noodle soup. They do both quite well, but the servers will proudly tell you the lamb noodle soup is their specialty. The broth is unadorned here, leaving a pure lamb flavor to permeate a bowl filled with plenty of cilantro, hand-pulled noodles, some rice vermicelli, wood ear fungus and a few small pieces of dried tofu skins. For the sheer purity and clarity of lamb, it's hard to beat, but some might prefer a bit more seasoning. The noodles are outstanding, thick and lengthy (indeed, scissors would be nice) with a great balance between softness and chewiness. 402 E. Valley Blvd., San Gabriel; 626-288-0099.
At JTYH, a restaurant specializing in food from Shanxi Province, you have a choice of hand-torn or knife-shaved noodles. The noodles are slippery and smooth with a softer texture than many other iterations, while the broth itself is slightly more seasoned. Water spinach, thin slices of tofu and chunks of quartered tomato provide nice additions in a bowl topped with some cilantro. Soup can vary at any restaurant from visit to visit, and it should be noted that in the past, JTYH had our favorite version, with a broth that was deep, rich and funky in the best of ways. 9425 Valley Blvd., Rosemead; 626-442-8999.
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Featuring the cuisine from the city of Xi'an in Shaanxi Province (Shaanxi and Shanxi being two different provinces), Rosemead's Shaanxi Gourmet has expanded seating capacity twice since their September 2011 opening. Here thick, chewy hand-torn noodles, large pieces of bok choy, strands of seaweed and wood ear sit in a fatty lamb broth seasoned with just the right amount of black pepper. There is good news for non-Chinese speakers, as the menu has been translated, more or less. Our subject is #6, lamb noodle. The restaurant also features a rice vermicelli/glass noodle version (on the menu as "silver noodle"), for which you tear chunks off round discs of dense unleavened bread into the soup to create your own handmade version of yang rou pao mo. Should you be wanting soup late, Shaanxi Gourmet has also extended its hours to 2 a.m. 8518 Valley Blvd., Rosemead; 626-288-9886.
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