There are few things in life better than a bowl of authentic and properly-constructed handmade noodles. Even in the San Gabriel Valley, it's hard to find a noodle place with the real thing, made by a seasoned chef trained in China. We've encountered some: Kam Hong Garden from Shanxi, Sweethome Grill from Henan, and Shaanxi Gourmet from Shaanxi. Noodle making is a dying art form; chefs who can properly make a bowl of mian stand out.
The classification of Chinese noodles, a Northern China (bei fang 北方) specialty, gets complicated. Handmade can mean a lot of things: hand-kneaded, hand-pulled, hand-torn or knife-cut. The knife-cut variety (dao xiao mian 刀削面） originates from Shanxi, and is made by shaving off a kneaded piece of dough with a small blade. The hand-pulled version (la mian 拉面) is a Lanzhou delicacy and is crafted by repeatedly stretching the dough. Noodles need to be kneaded for long periods of time to get a chewy consistency.
Note that handmade noodles aren't just limited to Lanzhou and Shanxi. Shaanxi (a different province than Shanxi), Henan and Xinjiang have their own version of handmade noodles as well. The common denominator: They're all provinces in Northern China.
Despite the technicalities, we've scoured the city and rounded up the 10 best Chinese handmade noodle restaurants in Los Angeles. We took into account the quality of the dishes, the "Q" (al dente in Chinese) factor of the noodles and the overall atmosphere of the restaurant. Turn the page.
10. Tasty Dessert:
Sometimes known as "Benser," Tasty is a Hong Kong restaurant chain that serves up knife-cut noodles ($6.99) as a supplement to its freakishly long dessert menu. It's located in the trendy Life Plaza on Valley Boulevard, and attracts a new-wave crowd of younger Chinese immigrants. The noodle is thicker than at most dao xiao mian joints, and the chef combines the eclectic flavors of Hong Kong into his fried noodle selections. The vegetarian hand-shaved noodles, for example, are sauteed with firm tofu (dou gan 豆干), bean sprouts and red pepper -- a combination that's reminiscent of Hong Kong udon noodles. The chef comes from the Hunan province and hand-shaves the noodles himself. Cash only. 250 W. Valley Blvd., San Gabriel; 626-282-8263.
With three locations in Los Angeles, 101 Noodle Express is a Chinese chain restaurant known for its hand-torn noodles and beef rolls. You can't go wrong with the beef or lamb soup. 101 doesn't skimp on portion size -- each bowl comes with large chunks of meat. Try the lamb noodle soup for $8.49. Note that the restaurant did not start out specializing in hand-torn noodles: It introduced the menu item back in 2010. 1408 E. Valley Blvd., Alhambra; 626-300-8654.
At Malan, you can specify the thickness of your noodles. There are seven noodle sizes: small round, medium round, large round, small flat, medium flat, large flat and triangle. We give them points for being the most versatile. Go for the specialty, the Malan beef soup noodles ($6.95). The restaurant is actually a chain store that originated in Lanzhou in 1995. The Malan noodles themselves are a specific noodle genre invented by a man named Mao Baozi in the Qing Dynasty. The chain store currently has 439 locations worldwide. 2020 S. Hacienda Blvd., Hacienda Heights; 626-369-5602.
Turn the page for #7, etc...