I’m no expert on Niu Rou Mein (like Kirk!), but I think I know a good bowl when I see one. A friend and I had planned on having dinner at Vietnam House but ended up at Tung Lai Shun in the 99 Ranch Shopping Plaza after we took a look at their menu (besides, we were very hungry from all that grocery and bakery shopping). The restaurant was nearly full by the time we were seated at 6pm.
The place is run by a Chinese family but specialize in many lamb dishes, the English name for the restaurant is “Islamic Cuisine.” My friend loves lamb, I love lamb – why not?
We had planned on ordering abunch of different lamb dishes to share but at the very bottom of the last page of the menu I saw “Spicy Niu Rou Mein.” ($4.95) As soon as I read it, my mind wandered off to Kirk’s many Niu Rou Mein posts and I knew I just HAD TO HAVE IT. Never mind that the place was focused on Islamic food and thus I should stick to typical Chinese restaurants for Niu Rou Mein. But I just needed it. Very badly. So I ordered it.(Kirk, you are very powerful indeed!)
That was probably the best dining decision I’ve made in a long time. I asked the dished to be prepared very spicy, it came out very hot from the kitchen no more than 10 minutes after I placed my order. It was incredible. The broth was rich, flavorful and very very spicy (just how I like it!) And the meat? So tender with bits of tendon and fat attached – it required nearly no chewing on my part. They gave four pretty large pieces, but I was still craving more. The hand made noodles had just the right bounce and chew to them. There was plenty to go around. The dish was topped with spinach, green onions and chili pepper. You could see the shallow layer of fat (the good flavorful kind of fat!) floating at the top of the bowl, dark red in color and spotted with chili, I couldn’t bear to scoop the oil onto the side (like some health conscious people do). The soft, juicy beef and the heat of the soup went together perfectly, I’ve never been so content with a bowl of Niu Rou Mein and could have easily polished off another bowl!
We also had an order of the “Lamb and Pickled Vegetables Noodle Soup.” ($5.95) You thought the Niu Rou Mein was good? This was even better! A lamb based soup cooked with picked vegetable gave the dish a savory/sour kick. It was a light noodle soup that left you very full but not weighed down at all. They used fun sie (sp?) – the skinny clear noodles and finished off the soup with a fair amount of lamb, picked vegetables and onions. This was the first time I’ve ever had a dish like this and was surprised by how well the flavor of lamb and the sourness the vegetables provided combine together. The dish just felt very cleansing, almost healthy, if that makes any sense. My friend added a quite a bit of vinegar to her share but I though the savory/sour balance was just right. Funny thing was, after finishing the soup we were really full but got hungry pretty soon after. I guess that’s what sour dishes do to you!
Threw on a Lamb Skewer ($1.50) at the last minute. It was grilled till the exterior was nice and crisp while the meat remained hot and juicy. Oh man, this was one of the best meals I’ve eaten in such a long time. I am coming back for sure! The prices are very reasonable, the service was “good” (relative to other Chinese restaurants) and the food? Incredible! Gah. Just so good.
Tung Lai Shun Chinese Restaurant 140 W. Valley Blvd. #118C San Gabriel, CA 91776