Monday, February 21, 2011

1st Choice Noodle House, Alhambra - Heavy Noodling Chiu Chow Style

1st Choice Noodle House, Alhambra - Mi Sate Egg Noodles

It's rare that I'll find myself craving something a bit on the heavier side. One of my pet peeves is the doze that seems to happen after lunch around 2 pm. Thank god I haven't had the pleasure of crashing my dome into my monitor. But occasionally during cold weather, I'll enjoy something a bit more comforting and rich. If you're into Korean-style Chinese black bean noodles jja jyang myeon ( 자장면 / 炸酱面 ) or Burmese-influenced Northern Thai curry noodles called khao soi (ข้าวซอย), this featured noodle dish may be your next new thing. This is a Chiu Chow-Chinese noodle dish called satay egg noodles. Can you tell I love copying and pasting Asian language characters from Wikipedia?

For the 100th time, a brief background on Chiu Chow Chinese ( 潮州; mandarin: Chao Zhou; vietnamese: Trieu Chau; thai: Teo Chew). Jeni loves to clown on me when I talk about this particular cuisine, which originates in Southeastern China near Fujian and just west of the island of Taiwan. Historically, they are some of the smartest, fastest-moving, hardest-working merchants and sojourners of China. Their footprints can be tracked in Vietnam, Thailand, Cambodia, Hong Kong, Taiwan, Indonesia, Malaysia and even the Philippines. In short, they are everywhere, and so is their food. How do you identify Chiu Chow food? Have you ever had wonton soup? Have you ever eaten flat rice or egg noodles in your soup? Have you had beef, chicken, pork or fish balls? Oyster omelettes prevalent in Taiwan? Satay BBQ dipping sauce for Chinese hot pot? Pork and duck egg congee? Those are a few of the notable dishes in Chiu Chow cuisine. When you walk into a restaurant that offers 3-4 different languages on the menu, you're in a Chiu Chow establishment. It will usually be Chinese, Vietnamese and Cambodian. Sometimes Thai. Also, when you hear of say a person that is Chinese-Vietnamese, it is very likely that they are Chiu Chow-Chinese born in Vietnam. In Chinese, we refer to that as 越 南 華 僑 (yue nan hua qiao) which literally means "overseas Chinese person in Vietnam".

One of the things highly prevalent in Indonesian cuisine are peanut-based sauces – satay being one of them. According to Wikipedia, peanuts were brought over to Indonesia by the Spanish and Portuguese. Satay is made of peanuts, dried shrimp, fried shallots, lemongrass and turmeric - with dozens of variations in other countries. There are nearly 7.8 million "overseas Chinese" in Indonesia. And it is very likely that this dish satay egg noodle dish is inspired by Indonesian cooking.

I first came here as I fell for the bait on the outside banner advertising various noodles. Originally looking for wontons, I found the menu to be a bit overwhelming - like looking at an Asian version of Jerry's Deli menus. Instead I cut to the chase and asked the server what I should eat. Without hesitating, she took the menu and said "satay noodles". Is it better with egg or rice noodles? She insisted on the medium-cut rice noodles, linguini width, as it "holds" the sauce better.

1st Choice Noodle House, Alhambra - Mi Sate Egg Noodles

Within a few minutes I was brought the noodles and it smelled damn good. I was liking the colors, the tomatoes, beef and the golden satay sauce. It looked completely heavy but took the plunge regardless. The best way to describe this sauce is: uniquely delicious. There are hints of dried shrimp, garlic and shallots, lemongrass and a bit of fish sauce. In addition to the pieces of cooked beef, cucumbers and tomatoes, fried shallots are added for a nice texture.

1st Choice Noodle House, Alhambra - Mi Sate Egg Noodles

I'm glad I went with the rice noodles as they held the sauce nicely and provided a nice slippery texture. Thin egg noodles would be too thin for the thick sauce and appear like goop. About half way into this bowl, I was full. Like muffin-top full. I fished out the last pieces of rice noodles and just thought about how I was going to handle the rest of the sauce. I came back another 3 times and each time I told them to give me less satay sauce. I love these noodles but sometimes find myself adding a little lime and fish sauce to kick it up. I'd also recommend asking for 1/2 the amount of sauce. I've eaten over a dozen versions of this popular Chiu Chow dish and I find the one at 1st Choice Noodle House to be in my top 3. If you're willing to handle a heavy load, that monitor-bashing, food coma you get may just be worth it. For the ladies, a bowl can be shared amongst two people. I recommend sticking with this dish and not the pho or wontons. Thanks for reading.

1st Choice Noodle House
1124 W. Valley Blvd.
Alhambra, CA 91803
(626) 457-1888


Anonymous said...

ok i'm definitely coming here. i'n a huge satay sauce fan haha.

also, how often does this happen:

"I first came here as I fell for the bait on the outside banner advertising various noodles."

hehe :)

e d b m said...

EffingD, I didn't know you were into that. We should try Mien Nghia's next time. I totally got suckered in by the super photoshopped banner outside the place ha. I'm glad I went in though.

weezermonkey said...

Oh, goody goody. We Taiwanese folks love this ish!

Daily Gluttony said...

I'm so glad you try out all these places in my neighborhood so that I know which ones to go to! (How do you think I found out about Chuan Yu Noodles Town? haha) Next time you guys are in the hood, hit us up...we'll totally go with you!

i love my food fairy said...

looks good, nice pictures... looks perfect for rainy days. share a bowl among the ladies? nah, i'll want it all to myself haha

Jen Ko said...

Wow, i've been reading you and oishiieats for so long and i just found out you were noodlewhore. How come you don't update that site anymore?

Once again your posts are always great!

Sammie said...

I've never tried black bean noodles before but that dish looks amazingly delicious!

Food GPS said...

Looks like a good dish. Have you ordered anything else on the noodle house's menu? Anything else interest you?

Food GPS said...

Looks like a good dish. Funny, I used to order satay all the time, but can't remember the last time I ate it. This should help to rectify the satay situation.

princess prom dresses said...

Ahh, I have to make this! It looks so good... (I forgot to mention in my post a bit ago that on top of everything, you are a very good photographer.) I brought my host family syrup from Pennsylvania, so we need pancakes. =D~ My host mom is an excellent cook, though, so I`m a bit worried about cooking for her.

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