Sunday, March 16, 2008

101 Noodle Express, San Gabriel - Freshly-Made Beef Scallion Pancakes

101 Noodle Express San Gabriel

Driving around on San Gabriel Valley's, Valley Blvd. can be a dangerous thing. It's basically an obstacle course for Traffic School students... 24/7. Almost every time I drive on this street, my blood begins to boil because I am always behind a 30-mph herd of people that are doing anything but focusing on the road. Some people are busy yapping away on their cell phone, some are just blinded by their own facial sun visors that remind me of a welding mask (are you going to drive or are you going to solder me a new metal table in your car? make up your mind!) and most of the time, people are just too freaking old to be on the road. Like Koreatown, SGV's streets are surrounded by strip malls and shopping centers. If you don't know you're way around here and are trying to find your address, you can easily get into a car accident by not paying attention to the road. I've been close to rear-ending people in Koreatown because it is strip-mall overload – laden with signs that bear virtually no English. In SGV, there's one strip mall that I drive by all the time, always with a line of people strung along the parking lot. And if it wasn't for Jonathan Gold's review, I would simply drive by as usual... not knowing that this Shan Dong-style restaurant called 101 Noodle Express makes a truly delicious beef scallion pancake.

101 Noodle Express Inside

With a name like 101 Noodle Express, I am immediately discouraged. When I pass places like Pizza Pit, Burger Barn and Taco Town... I can't help but yawn. Even Panda Express is more interesting than 101 Noodle Express because pandas are just more interesting than pits, barns and taco-laden towns. Once I walked in to this aromatic and crowded restaurant, I had a feeling that the name did no justice for this place. While standing around for the next available seating, I looked around to see what people were ordering. Okay, I see beef scallion pancake... over here, there, there, there, back there, a few crumbs on that old lady's mouth, right here, one piece dropped on the floor, there... I think the jury has reached a unanimous decision.

101 Noodle Express Beef Pancake
Beef Scallion Pancake ( 牛 肉 捲 餅 )
I have no idea why I have the habit of rubbing my hands together whenever I see the waitress come out with my dish. It's automatic. The waitress laid the pancakes down and I did a double-take on the size of these mothers. My god, they were super-sized. Thinly-rolled and wrapped around beef that I could tell was super moist, and a generous serving of chopped scallions and cilantro. Awesome. Before I even drilled my teeth down to the center of the pancake, I felt the thin crackling of the toasted pancake. The beef was super tender and seasoned well with a sweet, home-made bean sauce. The balance was perfect in every bite. I recommend adding some of the chili sauce on top for a nice kick in the ass. 2 big 'fajitas' for $6.75. I like these much better than Mandarin Noodle Deli's version. The beef is not as tender there.

101 Noodle Express Beef Pancake Nachos

Stir-Fried Scallion Pancakes ( 家 常 炒 餅 )
Don't be frightened, it's not Applebee's strange new appetizer. This is the wilder cousin of the aforementioned dish. The ladies next to me were kind of enough to let me take a photo of their dish. The scallion pancakes are chopped into triangles and stir fried with bean sprouts, scallions and probably a little bit of salt and sesame oil. Jonathan Gold says it best... they're kinda like a wild version of Chinese nachos.

101 Noodle Express Dumplings1

Shrimp Pork Dumplings ( 蝦 豬 肉 水 餃 )
A lot of people ordered these as well. 101 offers a nice variety of dumplings, more than Dumpling 10053 in El Monte does – 19 kinds! The most interesting ones are lamb dumplings, pumpkin shrimp pork and scallop leek dumplings. I'll have to try next time. The ones pictured above are shrimp pork and filled with a nice amount of stuffing. They don't skimp on the shrimp. The dumplings were juicy but compared to Dumpling 10053, I have to give the gold medal for taste to D10053. The shrimp/leek and 3 flavor (sea cucumber, pork, imi. crab) are done nicely.

101 Noodle Express Dumplings2

101 Noodle Express Relish

Chinese Chili Relish
Seems like there's a bit of Latino influence here at 101 Noodle Express. You've got the beef 'fajita's, the scallion pancake 'nachos' and then there's this 'salsa verde'-like relish you can use on almost any dish. It's made of cilantro, chinese celery, green chilis and boiled onions – it's awesome. I put this in my beef noodle soup, scallion pancake and stuffed it into my dumplings. Sometimes even the smallest, unexpected things at a restaurant are reason enough to bring you back. In this case, I'm all for that chili relish.

Thanks for reading.

101 Noodle Express
1408 E Valley Blvd
Alhambra, CA 91801
(626) 300-8654


Bon Vivant said...

Thanks for posting this fabulous review and pix! I was going to go to this place last Sat but opted for Dumpling 10053 instead. I definitely have to make a trip out there soon (maybe I'll go this Sunday?) I fail to comprehend why I haven't eaten here yet.

Anonymous said...

Thanks so much for this post! It made me so homesick (in the best possible way) for the SGV. Can't wait to go home from college for spring break now! I'll def. have to check this place out.

albs said...

between your post and the following links, i am inspired to seek out Asian-Latino fusion! MMM, mix up the best of my favorite foods.

Asian? Fusion? Tapas? on LAist and Nuevo Chino Latino on Gothamist.

pleasurepalate said...

I love those beef rolls. If the only thing they sold were those beef rolls, I'd still drive all the way to Duarte to get them.

Unknown said...

i love mandarin noodle deli & d10053, so i think i'll love this place too. i'm definitely going to check it out soon! thanks for the tip.

SinoSoul said...

while the beef rolls @ 101 is "good", it's nowhere as "great" as the rolls found at Mama's on New Ave. Unfortunately, J Gold can't know all.

e d b m said...

BV, what'd you get at D10053 this time?

Anon, when I was in college I thought about the SGV all the time. There were decent places in Irvine to eat Chinese food but you can't beat the miles of good food in the SGV goldmine.

Albs, I've made kalbi tacos before and ate a kimchi pork burrito in NYC. Sometimes it's good to just keep things the way they are ha.

PP, Temple City's Mandarin Deli makes them too and is closer to Duarte, but I think they are so so.

Becky, check back in w/ your report. Thanks for stopping by.

TonyC, going to Mama's kitchen later this week. If i have room after the stinky tofu, maybe i'll try.

Anonymous said...

Dylan, those beef scallion pancakes look awesome. I personally prefer the sesame biscuit (xiao bang) version because most of those pancakes are usually soaked in grease... but after seeing the version at 101, I might just have to reconsider and mark this on my places to try if I ever find myself in your neck of the woods list. Speaking of trying things from other locations, have you had the chance to check out Terroni's? They recently opened a branch in LA (originally from Toronto) and has what I consider one of the best thin crust pizzas in town (Toronto, that is). Curious what your thoughts may be on the matter.

JadedOne said...

*stomach rumbles* That looks like ultimate comfort food to me right now.

BTW, we call them bukkake visors hehe :P

Anonymous said...

The meal looks delicious but I'd really like to gobble up the beef scallion pancakes.

cinabina said...

I love 101 Noodle Express! The pan fried dumpling are yummy too-- but the beef rolls.... are heavenly, even if a little greasey...i heard they do chicken ones too, which i'm going to try next time...

joanh said...

wow! that looks gooood. i much prefer the beef scallion pancake over the stir fried pancake, but you're right, never would have expected good food to come from a place called 101 noodle express

Scott at Real Epicurean said...

Ok stop it. I really fancy Chinese food right now and your delicious photos just aren't helping!

2nd-favorite said...

Scott, I have Chinese food cooking right now and was still so inspired that I made these little pancakes in between reading and commenting. Dylan, that all looks amazing. Man, I wish I was still down there. We'd drive out right now. Sadly the camera is out of batteries at the moment or I would send a shot of these little pancakes. Didn't have beef ready yet (still braising for another couple hours) but filled them with some green peppers and leeks in black bean sauce. Very tasty. Nice post, very inspiring.

Anonymous said...

great pictures! starving at work at 4:00 pm on friday. great inspiration for weekend cooking.

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