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Mama Liang’s home cooking in Alhambra and other locations.
The sight of all the Taiwanese Air Force paraphernalia on the wall should have been by first clue.
The Liang’s Kitchen website, in the one part that’s actually in English, says, “Noodles and local China Mandarin cuisines from Liang’s Village Cuisine bring you little “home” feeling as you have ate years ago.” Yeah, that’s about right. Though, at the San Gabriel Location, Taiwan seems to play a big part.
Apparently, Mrs. Liang’s husband was big time into Military Aviation. There’s a picture of a U.S. Civilian Instructor named Liang on the wall from the World War II era. (Could be her brother, but I’m sticking with Husband). There are also dozens of photos of the early stage Republic of China Air Force, as well as a leather bomber jacket with the Taiwanese flag on back. There was even a cap representing the IDF, which is the Indigenous Defense Fighter, a plane of Taiwanese design, built for combat with the mainland Chinese.
Goes without saying the proprietors of Liang’s Kitchen are some serious Taiwanese patriots. Which is…interesting, since the Taiwan can be a bit of sticky subject on the mainland. As in, mention them the wrong way, and we’l go to war…sticky.
But this ain’t the mainland, this is San Gabriel, California. And this ain’t about Foreign Policy, this is about Food…and the food is good, good stuff.
I’m still trying to learn the various regions and cuisines of the Chinese people. This is going to be a life’s work. Can’t think of a better way to go. The majority of Chinese food available America, even in a very Chinese food friendly town like Los Angeles, is going to be Cantonese, from the South. I’m still looking for more Northern influenced restaurants for my Godmother, because that’s the kind of dutiful Godson I am.
But Taiwan remains a bit of a mystery to me, and one I’m eager to solve.
My first encounter with Liang’s Kitchen came at, of all things, the 626 Night Market. That day, I had the Minced Pork Dry Noodle, which I really, really liked. I remember the restaurant for a long while after than first encounter. Then, when walking to Ajisen Ramen (this one in San Gabriel), as I came out of the below-ground parking garage, there it was. (Let this be a lesson to all you restauranteurs…marketing to new customers via the 626 Night Market definitely, definitely works.)
Liang’s Kitchen is the very epitome of the Neighborhood Joint. It’s not fancy dining, but not a dive either. You come in to feel and be made comfortable. There’s a TV playing out the latest from home, home in this case being the Republic of China. The Staff seems to know everyone who comes in, and they’ll even make someone of non-Taiwanese descent welcome and happy. You should come by, it’s worth a stop.
WHAT SHOULD I GET?: Well, like I said before, I had the Minced Pork Dry Noodle which was damn good at the 626 Night Market. My first visit to actual Liang’s was for the Beef Noodle Soup, which was also, really, really good. Tender hunks or fatty beef (this is a compliment, people), with chunks of what looked like Bok choi, in a lovely, lovely beef stock. Good stuff. I also ordered the Spicy Sausage Appetizer. Lovely slices of Taiwanese sausage, just enough to get your feet wet. Let me just say, if you have a low spice tolerance, this is not the item you want to dabble in. This is some serious, serious stuff, heat-wise.
IMPORTANT SAFETY TIP, PEOPLE: I would repeat what I said about Liang’s being a neighborhood joint, and catering to primarily to a Taiwanese clientele. This is a good thing, especially for the food. It’s all part of the charm in my world. You might have a slight difficulty communicating with the waitstaff, as English is their second language. Again, no big deal. This is just part of the deal when you eat authentic. You buy the rocks with the farm, as it were. I will say that the younger members of the Waitstaff speak both languages just find, and you’ll have no problem communicating with them.
Also, as a side time, Saturday at 1pm, it gets crowded as all get out. As in good luck even finding a parking spot crowded as all get out.
PARKING: Pretty damn good. The complex where Liang’s Kitchen is sits atop a massive Hotel, Shopping multi-story complex. There is plenty of free parking below. Two levels of it, in fact. There is a sign on Liang’s door, advising customers that some have been charged $5 to park in the garage, and to advise them if you are charged such a fee. In multiple visits to both Liang’s and Ajisen Ramen four doors down, I have yet to be charged anything to park at that complex. There is infrastructure to charge (a gate and all), but it has never once been down when I have visited the restaurant.
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