Feb. 19 marks the beginning of the Chinese New Year, and with 2015 being the Year of the Sheep, we thought it would be appropriate to tell you where to eat lamb. No, not because there's some sort of Chinese tradition where one eats the animal representing that year, but because lamb is delicious and isn't often associated with Chinese food. (If you want to get traditional, read our list of the 10 essential Chinese New Year's dishes.)
Many restaurants in the San Gabriel Valley offer a few lamb dishes, ranging from toothpick lamb to the cumin-and-pepper-dusted lamb skewers called yang rou chuan (chuanr if you’re from Beijing). But it's the cuisine from the Northwest of China, the Xinjiang Autonomous Region, that is most dominated by lamb, due to the ethnic and religious composition of the region and its large Uyghur population.
L.A. has more than a few Chinese restaurants (though none of them will be serving up next year's zodiac animal, monkey). In celebration of 2015, here is where you can find the San Gabriel Valley's most impressive lamb dishes:
Omar Xinjiang Halal Restaurant
Omar Restaurant in San Gabriel has several lamb items under the "Xinjiang Uyghur Foods" section of its menu, including a ground-lamb meat pie and hand-pulled noodles with lamb, onions and green and red peppers. The plural “noodles” is a bit misleading, as it is served as one long coiled noodle, with scissors provided for cutting. There's also rice pilaf with lamb.
Cui Hua Lou
If you’re looking for lamb stew or lamb offal, head to Cui Hua Lou, a tiny place tucked into the back of a strip mall on Garvey Avenue in Monterey Park. (Look for a sign that reads “Szechwan.”) Stewed lamb in casserole is a standout here, brought to your table in an electric cooker, which is then plugged in to simmer.
Perhaps no restaurant displays its lamb intensity more obviously than Mr. Lamb in the City of Industry. With 17 lamb items on the "Special Cuisine" section of its menu, Mr. Lamb has choices ranging from Xinjiang spicy lamb (named for a capital city and region in Northwest China) to lamb with a variety of additions (peppers, ginger, scallion, cumin). A lamb omelette is among the more unusual dishes.
Silk Road Garden
At Silk Road Garden, a Uyghur restaurant in Rowland Heights, the menu resembles Omar's, only with a larger selection. One of the dishes available here, laghman, also is found at places that serve Uzbeki food, showing the Central Asian influences in Uyghur cuisine.
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China Islamic Restaurant
The largest lamb selection of all is at China Islamic Restaurant in Rosemead. Five years ago, this was the only place in the San Gabriel Valley to find food from China’s northwest. Among the whopping 23 lamb items here is lamb with knife-cut noodles, dao xiao mian.
China Islamic Restaurant: 7727 E. Garvey Ave., Rosemead 91770; (626) 288-4246.
Cui Hua Lou: 920 E. Garvey Ave., Monterey Park 91755; (626) 288-2218.
Mr. Lamb (CLOSED): 17863 Colima Rd., City of Industry 91748; (626) 839-2605.
Omar Xinjiang Halal Restaurant: 1718 New Ave., San Gabriel 91776; (626) 570-9778
Silk Road Garden: 18920 E. Gale Ave., Rowland Heights 91748; (626) 999-6165