Los Angeles County has an abundance of Chinese restaurants, representing perhaps every region of mainland China, and Taiwan too. Which means that everyone here has the duty and the utterly delicious privilege to learn about all the different forms Chinese food takes.
Beijing Pie House is a great place to learn about food traditionally made and eaten in northern China. It's heavy on lamb and pastry and noodles, and the vegetables are mostly served cold and sometimes lightly pickled. The cabbage is a great mystery: Served chopped and tossed with oil and Sichuan peppercorn, it is perhaps the best presentation of cabbage I've ever come across, even this year, when the cruciferous vegetable is having a moment at restaurants further west. It's also a great introduction to Sichuan peppercorn, which strikes fear in many hearts (mine included) but in truth offers a complex flavor, not just searing heat. It does make your water taste a little funny for a bit. It's totally worth it.
The menu offers a range of dumplings that can be had either fried or steamed, as well as savory pancakes
that are a bit like crepes layered with thinly sliced meat and/or leeks or green onions.
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SHOW ME HOW
But the must-get dish is the meat pie. Get the lamb and green onion version. It's about the shape of a hockey puck, and served outrageously hot. Turn it up vertically on your spoon and take a little nibble off the top to let out the steam. Wait a beat, and then get into this dish that was created for cold-weather living but is so good that it's a hit even in L.A.
846 E. Garvey Ave., Monterey Park. (626) 288-3818, facebook.com/beijingpiehouse.