With a Name Like . . .
Heavy Noodling specializes in the sort of strands 100 generations of Chinese chefs have regarded with horror: thick, clumsy noodles that run somewhere between spaetzle and pappardelle, self-consciously rustic things that taste mainly of themselves, whether fried with mixed seafood and lots of garlic or immersed with tendon in a deep, anise-scented beef broth; dipped in vinegar or painted with a patented smoky house chile oil. Hand-cut in the style of Shanxi province, the noodles are irregular and kind of lumpy, which enhances their ability to pick up sauce. They have that good, dense pasta bite you find sometimes in farmhouses outside Modena, but rarely in Chinese noodle houses. 153 E. Garvey Ave., â Monterey Park; (818) 307-9583. Open seven days for breakfast, lunch and dinner. Dinner for two, food only, $8$14. Takeout. No alcohol. Lot parking in rear. Cash only.
The cooking at this user-friendly restaurant, sort of an intelligently gentrified, Muslim-accented greatest-hits version of pan-Indonesian cuisine, is hands down the best on the entire Westside, even if it may be modified a little too much to Western taste. Ayam balado, for example, a crisply fried chicken dish from the north coast of Sumatra, is served here under a mildly spiced red-bell-pepper purée, where its traditional garnish is a blistering-hot purée of hot peppers. Tamarind soup, however, is hotly spiced, tart and luscious, filled with bits of squash, Chinese long beans and sliced corncobs, an intricate bowl of broth. Martabak telur, a scramble of meat, eggs and herbs folded into something like filo dough and fried, is a terrific sort of Indonesian borek, an exotically spiced version of something you'd expect to find at a North African restaurant. 10824Þ W. National Blvd., West L.A.; (310) 815-1290. Open daily 11:30 a.m. 9:30 p.m. Dinner for two, food only, $16 $22. Street parking. Takeout and delivery. No alcohol. Disc., MC, V.
Behold the Szechuan hot pot, a pint or so of scarlet liquid frothing in a chafing dish, spitting up bloody geysers, roiling and bubbling around bits of meat and tofu like a sulfurous brimstone pool. You have tasted hot Asian food, but this is a heat of a different order, truly corrosive stuff, a pure tincture of chile and spice, thick as cream, overlaid with a garlic pungence that may ooze from your pores for a week. Like Pink's, Roscoe's and Chili John's, Lu Gi is essentially a one-dish restaurant, and every table in the place hosts an induction burner, a bubbling pot and a garlicky cloud of steam. With the hot pot, tofu and vegetables, you order foods to cook yourself in the boiling brew: gamy shavings of mutton, gelatinous chunks of beef tendon, delicate little fish balls. By the end of the meal, the espresso-thimble of red goo that is left is as caustic as pure lye. 539 W. Valley Blvd., San Gabriel; (626) 457-5111. Open daily 11 a.m.mid. Dinner for two, food only $10-$20. No alcohol. Takeout. MC, V.
The house specialty at My Dung (pronounce it "mee zoong," please), a noodle shop in an office building toward the edge of Vietnamese Garvey, is tau hu ky, which this menu calls "bean curd skin" (other Chiu Chow restaurants translate the name as "shrimp ball"). Coarsely chopped shrimp are wrapped in a thin sheet of bean curd and deep-fried, and the compressed bundles are sliced into chunks about the size of after-dinner mints, crackling-crisp, tasting of ocean and clean oil. Hu tiu, a spaghetti-thick, slippery cellophane pasta famous as Saigon's favorite noodle, is also swell, floating in a pungently garlicky Chinese-style clear broth, slightly sweet in the manner of the best Thai noodle soups, along with shrimp, crab claws and thin slices of roast pork. And a nice Vietnamese salad combines Milk Dudssize pieces of sautéed beef with thin-sliced onion and shredded lettuce dressed with toasted sesame oil. 8232 Garvey Ave., Rosemead; (626) 571-0379. Open daily 9 a.m.10 p.m. Lunch or dinner for two, food only, $9$18. Beer. Takeout. Cash only.
Big Cantonese places may serve pan-fried scallops and steamed fish to small parties, but they really exist to cater banquet feasts of expensive ingredients -- sea cucumber, abalone, bird's nest, shark's fin -- for business dinners and grand family functions. And while the cooking may occasionally be superb, it is also sometimes beside the point. Not so at Seaworld. Weekend mornings, people surge through the door for dim sum breakfasts: rice porridge, glistening baked pork buns, fried crullers wrapped in slippery rice noodles, whitefish braised with Virginia ham, roast duck, half-globes of sticky rice flavored with sweet Chinese sausage. Griddle carts circulate the room, ready to grill to order rich squares of taro, fishcake-stuffed bell peppers, or chewy rice noodles spiked with scallions and dried shrimp. 8118 E. Garvey Ave., Rosemead; (626) 288-2898. Open daily 9 a.m.3 p.m. and 510 p.m. Dim sum for two, food only, $12$20; dinner for two, food only, $18$32. Takeout. Beer and wine. Lot parking. MC, V.
Standard Sweets & Snacks
There may be nothing quite so soothing after a spicy meal as a great Indian rusmalai, freshly made cheese with the open, slightly spongy texture of really good fresh cottage cheese, simmered in thick milk and then chilled, sprinkled with crushed pistachio nuts, perhaps flavored with a bare hint of rosewater. Dahi vada is something like a spiced Punjabi lentil cookie cosseted in cool, sour yogurt. Channa, or curried whole chickpeas, come with a deep-fried puff of yogurt bread fresh from the fryer and almost the size of a basketball -- before it deflates into something that tastes like Navajo fry bread. You'll find most of the usual South Indian snacks -- the steamed rice cakes called idli, the lentil pancake uttupam. But everybody around you will be eating the masala dosa, a burnished crepe rolled around gently curried potatoes into something the size of a Louisville Slugger, served with a small bowl of vegetable curry. 18600 S. Pioneer Blvd., Artesia; (562) 860-6364. Open Tues.Sun. for lunch and dinner. Lunch or dinner for two, food only, $7$9. No alcohol. Street parking. Takeout. Disc., MC, V (over $10).
Yung Ho Tou Chiang
Soy milk is a resolutely nonexotic substance, sweetish and bland. When it's paired with dumplings, however, its flavor opens up, tempering the richness of simmered stuffings and the greasiness of fried ones. The traditional accompaniment to soy milk is a long, twisted, light-as-air cruller, and Yung Ho does them well. For another buck or so, you can get the cruller smeared with a salty paste of pounded meat and wrapped inside a cylinder of sticky rice, simulating the texture of a good sushi roll. Yung Ho also has a small specialty in "egg cakes," thin wheat cakes with scrambled eggs cooked into them, flecked with green herbs and fried. Hubei doupi is a ketchup-smeared egg cake formed into a dome over a mound of rice that conceals a smaller mound of fried pork, representing a kind of trailer-park Taiwanese cooking, at least as tasty as chicken-fried steak. 533 W. Valley Blvd., San Gabriel; (626) 570-0860. Open daily 7 a.m.6 p.m. Breakfast for two, food only, $5$10. Beer. Takeout. Lot parking. Cash only.