OK. Huge sign out front in Chinese - Shandong (province) Dezhou (city) Pa-Ji - "stewed" chicken.
Now first off, I'm not a huge chicken fan. But this looked interesting. Did a little check on the net on the dish. Looked promising. I knew that Pa is sometimes used to mean cut and arranged. But here it refers to a slow cooked in liquid chicken that's then cut up and arranged.
So i went with two others. The place is small on the south side of Valley just west of New in Alhambra. my two dining companions, chinese, spoke in greater and FASTER detail with the owner than I could but we all got our questions answered. The owners are from Jinan (tsi-nan) the capital of Shandong province. This is straight from the mainland so it's not like the food exactly at 10053, the dishes aren't as "spiced", more flavored with herbs and not sharp or piquant at all.
Not knowing that the Dezhou (called De Jou on the menu) chicken came with a side of the marinated cold cucumbers, we ordered a plate of the cold cucumbers, the beef "wrap", an order of boiled dumplings (they have several kinds, the one that really interested me was a "wild" vegetable dumpling, we got one with some kind of shoots [don't remember, no to-go menus yet] and meat) and the Dezhou PaJi. The cucumbers were OK, I prefer a little more garlic here like at Deerfield or at mandarin deli, even. The dumplings were fine, staple, shandong style. Not the xlb wonders, these are more comfort food. you could come here with a bunch of folks and get several plates of different kinds and have a nice meal.
The beef wrap was familiar to me from china. It was a large wheaten pancake rolled around beef, leek or scallions, and tianmianjiang (like hoisin sauce but not as fishy and not quite as sweet, made of fermented beans and rolls). Very tasty. Also got some simple Chinese wheat bread, not as high or rolled as the stuff you see at China Islamic or TUngLaiShun, no sesame, but serviceable, slices of bread.
Now out comes the Dezhou chicken. We ordered a half bird. It comes out and you look at it and wonder - what's the big deal? It just looks like a half-chicken, boiled, served without sauce, hacked up with a side of chinese marinated cucumbers.
Wrong. first off, it's mostly boned, although that's not obvious at first. I picked up a piece and took a bite. Wow. This was incredibly moist chicken, and deeply, intensely flavored. The meat is stewed in a spiced, herbed, rich liquid that has seeped deep into the chicken but it hasn't stained the skin or the meat which remain natural looking. it isn't stringy or dry as much boiled chicken tends to be. The meat has a great texture and although I repeat myself, an intense flavor. It goes fine with the bland bread we ordered. Not a big chicken fan, I could eat this bird for several meals a week. It's served warm, but I think it would be fine cold. The owners said that they brought in a chef (maybe a relative?) from Shandong who specializes in making the chicken.
Definitely worth a try.
101 NOODLE EXPRESS
1408 E VALLEY BLVD
Open 7 days a week.
If this interests you at all, please try it. I'm a bit bummed by MaLan's closure and I worry about the guilin rice noodle house. i would hate for alhambra and monterey park to lose the diversity of chinese cuisines, as rowland heights is so far (at least in my head). I'd like this place to succeed, just as another voice in the chorus of food we have from East Asia.
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