Among the numerous Taiwanese delicacies, beef noodle soup (niu rou mien aka NRM) is one of the classics and my standard order whenever trying a new Chinese restaurant. Residents of the San Gabriel Valley area of Los Angeles are blessed with no lack of restaurants that serve this delicious noodle dish.
Throughout my life, I’ve always had a couple go-to favorites for NRM that updated as old haunts closed and my tastes changed with time. Mandarin Noodle Deli in Temple City, CA has been a consistent top-runner for the past couple years, but a new champion has emerged. Boldly put, the beef noodle soup at Liang’s Kitchen is the best I’ve had in Southern California and would be a top contender in Taiwan.
Liang’s Kitchen is a small, modest restaurant tucked in the corner of a fairly large strip mall just outside the enormous 99 Ranch / Focus Plaza which serves as the heart of San Gabriel Valley. With so many competitive restaurants concentrated in this area, I would never have ventured into the unassuming Liang’s Kitchen if it weren’t for a tip that I received.
The interior is littered with military memorabilia. Aircraft models line the walls and dangle from the ceiling. Framed old military photographs are proudly displayed. The owner or a relative apparently served in the Taiwan Air Force. Fortunately the decorations are playful and not intrusive.
But on to the main attraction.
When judging a bowl of beef noodle soup, all three components in the name are important and most people would give them equal weight. However, throughout a lifetime of searching for the perfect bowl of NRM, I’ve maintained that the soup is the most crucial factor. People who know me would find this ironic considering I never finish drinking all the soup. But the entire eating experience is colored by the broth. As the beef and noodles soak in the broth, they are permeated by all the wonderful flavors achieved from careful beef bone boiling and proper herb seasoning. Even the most tender cuts of beef and masterfully prepared noodles can’t save a mediocre soup from ruining the dish.
The NRM at Liang’s Kitchen features a truly superlative soup, appropriately beefy and rich without overpowering, accompanied by trailing notes of garlic and star anise. Hot chili plays a secondary role to subtly add an extra flavor dimension without becoming a self-indulgent star. The added sour mustard greens condiment (suan tsai) deftly cuts through the lush, warm flavors with a tart coolness for additional complexity.
I can’t rave about the broth enough, which has become my new standard for comparison. The beef chunks and noodles are not nearly as remarkable but clearly benefit from being partnered with the broth. Two types of noodles are available: wide knife-shaven (above) and standard thin noodles (below). I’ve always preferred knife-shaven noodles, which are more substantial with a variable and satisfying texture. Beef chunks are tender and juicy, lacking gristle and imbued with all the flavors from the broth. I would have appreciated more beef chunks though.
The staff at Liang’s Kitchen are no dummies. They know what a hit they have with the NRM broth. The green onion pancake is served with a small bowl of the delectable soup. On its own, the pancake is outstanding, crispy on the outside and satisfyingly chewy within. But dip it into the broth for a turbocharged savory experience. This is the first time I’ve seen the green onion pancake served this way. It’s pure brilliance.
A couple pages from their well-crafted menu. You don’t often see quality menus like this in ultra casual Chinese restaurants. There’s probably several dozen dishes in total, each of which has an accompanying photograph. The problem: I can’t imagine when I would ever get to try the other items. How can I order anything but the beef noodle soup whenever I come here?
227 W Valley Blvd
San Gabriel, CA 91776