The San Gabriel Valley has a wider representation of regional Chinese food than anywhere in the United States. This goes far beyond common regional styles such as Sichuan and Shanghainese to those not well known outside of China, like Guizhou cuisine. Located in Rowland Heights, Taste Guizhou is currently the only restaurant in the area that offers an array of dishes from Guizhou.
Described variously as being either in southern or southwestern China, Guizhou Province is home to cuisine that melds spicy and sour flavors. With Sichuan Province as a neighbor, Guizhou's wide use of chilies in different forms should come as no surprise. The sour, known in Chinese as suan, is delivered through the liberal use of vinegar. The use of pickled vegetables is also common.
If you’re familiar with the mung bean jelly noodles — liang fen — popular from the recent wave of Chengdu-style Sichuan places, then you’ve already got an idea of what to expect. Taste Guizhou has its own version of the dish, similar save for the addition of diced carrots. It arrives on your table looking like the yin and yang symbol — that is, if the yin and yang were made of black vinegar and chile oil.
Taste Guizhou has sections of the menu devoted to Sichuan and Hunan dishes, hot pots and dry pots, but it’s the regional specialties you should be looking for. In all, there are eight Guizhou-style items scattered around the menu, including the signature regional dish: sour fish soup. A whole section of the menu is dedicated to items one can add into the sour soup, à la hot pots.
There are three noodle dishes on the menu — beef noodle soup, mutton noodle and Guizhou noodle — all of which use a broad, flat, rice noodle reminiscent of Thai cuisine. Being in the south of China means rice noodles instead of the wheat used in the north. A tip: Ordering the Guizhou cold noodle on the appetizer section will get you the liang fen; the Guizhou noodle on the noodle section will get you the broad, flat rice noodles.
Guizhou spicy sautéed crab, Guizhou french fries (served plain with a side dish of chili powder to dredge them through) and two chicken dishes, one a hot pot, make up the other regionally specific selections. Guizhou Province claims to be the place of origin for gong bao ji, known in America as Kung Pao chicken, though, as is often the case with food origin stories, this is disputed.
Taste Guizhou isn’t the first restaurant of its kind or even the first on Gale Avenue. Xu Garden opened in late 2013 with some unique items from the provincial capital of Guiyang, but dropped some of them before closing, only to reopen minus most Guiyang items save for the rice noodles.
Taste Guizhou follows the tone set by the recent Sichuan restaurants in taking on a more upscale feel, which is reflected both in décor and slightly increased prices. But, most important, it means yet another regional cuisine can be sampled in the SGV.
Taste Guizhou, 17919 Gale Ave., Unit 101, Rowland Heights; (626) 839-9980.