Wanted to report on our last two airplane trips to El Monte/San Gabriel Valley. We visited J&J at 301 W. Valley and Sin Ba La (on Duarte near Din Tai Fung).
We had both the pork and crab Xiao Lung Bao. Alas, we found them to be disappointing - not enough soup in the soup to meat ratio and not flavorful enough. Also disappointed in the skin.
We also had the fried pork buns like they serve at Noodle House. Just a clarification - both Noodle House and J&J call these sheng jian bao - and they actually are trying to make the barrel buns you can get at the markets in Taipei. Just isn't the same without the barrel though. The J&J ones were quite disappointing. Not a the fluffy convection they are at Noodle House. Same skin as their Xiao Lung Bao - bottom too tough - top too meally (sad). (By the way, a note on the Noodle House ones - take them home and bake them in a 400 degree oven for 13-15 minutes and they rise and bake up into a totally different treat - kind of like a pork crescent roll - well worth trying. Does not work with the J&J ones.)
Finally, we hit a really awesome dish. We tried the braised pork with tofu skin (ba ye je kao rou - forgive my pinyin). We've had this here in San Diego, and J&J took it to a new level. It is chunks of pork belly with little bow tie tofu in a brown sauce. It looks like there is a lot of fat on the pork belly (and there is), but even if you aren't a fat lover, try it. It carmelizes and melts in your mouth - amazing.
We will return to J&J but not for the small eats. Instead we'll try the other main dishes and see if they do as well as they did with the pork. Any recs would be appreciated.
Sin Ba La
The next trip we tried Sin Ba La. This is the Taiwanese snacky place with boba and shaved ice.
We started with the pork chop rice, and thought the pork chop coating was fantastic. Wish it could have been spicier, but was still quite good.
We then had the chicken roll. We have had better in Flushing, NY, but it was good to be able to get it here and it held its own.
Of, couse, we had to try the sausages. I love Taiwanese sausage. Alas, we thought they were okay, but not the heaven sent sausage we were hoping for. We've had more flavorful Taiwanese sausage purchased from Asian groceries - (and the one at Lu Din Gee was much better - unfortunately, we won't return there because of its service).
We had a couple of slushes with boba - very disappointing. As a result we almost didn't get the shaved ice (bing). So glad we went ahead and got it. The shaved ice was amazing - yummy condensed milk and brown sugar water drizzled over it. You get a choice of five ingredients. Quite worth the calories.
Will keep you posted as we continue to expore. Thanks for the recs.