The green onion pancake is one of the most common items on Chinese menus around the San Gabriel Valley. Yet whenever the popular appetizer comes up, one restaurant is invariably mentioned first and foremost: Earthen. For one place to be singled out as having the best of something so common speaks volumes.

The item, cōng yóu bǐng in Pinyin, is a flatbread made from unleavened dough that is twisted into a coil before being rolled out into layers with sesame oil and scallions in between. Then it's pan-fried. The result is a savory laminated pastry.

Earthen is a typically small restaurant, with a nicer-than-average décor of flagstone and modern Chinese art. It is also perpetually crowded, so don't be surprised if you have to wait on the bench outside. Once inside, you'll notice the green onion pancake on nearly every table. But the restaurant is no one-dish wonder. The house chicken, served lukewarm atop a bed of sliced cucumbers, smothered in chopped garlic and doused with a tangy soy sauce, is often found on the same tables alongside the pancake. The rest of the menu features well-turned versions of fairly standard items, such as dumplings and potstickers, though the fish dumplings are particularly enjoyable. But it's that pancake that keeps us coming back to Hacienda Heights.

What gives Earthen the edge over all the green onion pancake competition? It's just that bit crispier, richer, flakier and chewier — all at the same time. Try one somewhere else first, then go to Earthen to truly appreciate the difference.

Should you decide you don't want to wait, you still have an option. Earthen has branched out to create Easy Earthen, a “fast food” version with indoor seating, located all of 1.5 miles east on Colima Road in Rowland Heights.

Easy Earthen: 18303 Colima Road, Suite A, Rowland Heights, (626) 964-2800.

Green onion pancake, Earthen Restaurant; Credit: J. Thurman

Green onion pancake, Earthen Restaurant; Credit: J. Thurman

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