Located in the Guangdong Province of China, Chaozhou, also known as Teochew or Chiuchow, has a cuisine that is reminiscent of the offerings at local Cantonese and Vietnamese restaurants. Most Chiuchow restaurants in Los Angeles are noodle-heavy and, at first glance, the rice noodles taste and look oddly similar to Vietnamese pho.
The noodles are cooked the same way — seasoned with fish sauce, garnished with bean sprouts and served with sliced beef.
Historically speaking, this makes sense. Due to commerce patterns, there are a lot of Chiuchow immigrants in Southeast Asia. In Los Angeles especially, there are cross-cultural influences in Chiuchow eateries. Most sport menus with Vietnamese/Cambodian translations and have a waitstaff that speaks Cantonese and Vietnamese. It can all get a little bit confusing, but what makes Chiuchow food so distinctive is the emphasis on seafood, vegetables and rice (porridge and rice noodle soup). Chiuchow restaurants also have an amazing breakfast selection.
Unlike a lot of other regional Chinese cuisines, there are a fair amount of Chiuchow spots in Los Angeles. We checked out five of the most popular ones. Turn the page.
5. Kim Ky:
It's a Chiuchow noodle place that's constantly packed. Must get items at Kim Ky: rice noodle soup and fried rice cakes. The house special soup comes with kidney, shredded chicken and shrimp. Cash only. 1108 S. San Gabriel Blvd., San Gabriel; 626-286-8839.
4. Kim Fung:
Great for its fried rice cakes, Kim Fung is centered on noodle soups but has a great breakfast selection. Chiuchow porridge, even the blandest-sounding ones, pack in a ton of flavor. Also go for the Chinese crispy doughnut and fried turnip cake. It also has an amazing durian milkshake. 128 N. Garfield Ave., Monterey Park; 626-280-8276.
3. Kim Chuy:
In many ways, Kim Chuy is the quintessential hole-in-the-wall. The sign on the storefront isn't even intact anymore and the interior would make clean freaks squirm a bit. It's also noodle-centric. Highlights are the homemade chili sauce and the leek buns. There's also an ongoing $1 milk tea deal. 501 W. Valley Blvd., Alhambra; 626-282-9080.
2. Noodle Cafe:
This place is packed during lunch hour and has inconsistent service. But what it lacks in getting orders right, it makes up for in quality noodle soups. After all, as indicated by its name, it's a noodle cafe. The noodle quality is the best here of the five listed. Noodles come in different types and sizes: rice or egg, thin or thick. There's also a excellent grass jelly iced drink. 441 W. Garvey Ave., Monterey Park; 626-307-8849.
Seafood Village is great for what it is named for — seafood. Unlike the other Chiuchow establishments on this list, Seafood Village has an immensely diverse menu that isn't centered around the noodles. Don't make the mistake of just ordering the items with the words “Chiuchow.” The oxtail with lily root and the braised duck were major fails — too many bones and ridiculously heavy. Go for the menu items from the sea: house special crab, the house special fish, clams, and scallops. Seafood Village also follows the Chiuchow fondness for dessert. Some dishes to try: rice balls in sweet soup and the sweet taro pudding. 9669 Las Tunas Drive, Temple City; 626-286-2299.
Follow Squid Ink at @LAWeeklyFood and check out our Facebook page. Clarissa has been to six Asian night markets in the last two months. She blogs about Chinese food at clarissawei.com. Follow her on Twitter.