The Taiwanese restaurant Monja has just opened a branch in Rosemead. Actually, it's not a branch but a space three times as large as the original Monja in City of Industry. There, the kitchen was too small to handle the crush of customers. The new site will serve as a central kitchen for both.
Owner Paul Wang has decorated the new quarters so that you feel like you're snacking at a night market in Taipei. A photo mural of the Ningxia night market stretches across one wall. Adjacent to it is a photo mural of the Manka Qingshui Zushi temple -- that one is also in the original Monja. Wang's own calligraphy decorates other walls. Red lanterns from Taiwan hang from the ceiling.
The long menu includes new dishes such as the Taiwanese meatball listed under "Tasty Snacks." Nothing like your usual ball of ground meat, it's a flat, rice-flour cake, filled with finely diced pork, dried mushrooms, bamboo shoots and shallots and steamed. The soft, chewy cake sits in a dish of spicy sweet and sour sauce.
Then there's Taiwanese sausage, which Wang makes himself, stuffed inside pork intestine lined with sticky rice. If that's too exotic, try tomato sauce beef dry noodle -- beef shank cooked for hours, then layered with bok choy on top of fat egg noodles. It's Wang's own take on a popular Taiwanese dish. You spoon in as much as you dare of a super-spicy hot sauce that requires 20 ingredients.
Feel-good food includes sesame oil chicken soup laced with ginger, which will bring you back to par after a cold. Or try four-flavor soup packed with medicinal ingredients, the favorite healing brew of a long-ago Chinese emperor.
Among the 40-plus drinks are fruit and vegetable smoothies and slushes called "boost up" drinks and hot beverages made with Taiwanese black sugar and herbal ingredients such as osmanthus, ginseng, dried longans and red dates. New desserts are matcha jelly sprinkled with green tea powder, caramel pudding jelly and a sweet soup with rice balls and toppings such as black boba, taro and boiled peanuts.
Open daily for lunch and dinner, the new Monja is in the Square, a large shopping center at the corner of Garvey Avenue and San Gabriel Boulevard, about 20 minutes from the original location.
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Read more from Barbara Hansen at TableConversation.com, EatMx.com, @foodandwinegal and Facebook. Want more Squid Ink? Follow us on Twitter or like us on Facebook.