Whenever I’m in Los Angeles, there are a few things that I secretly put on my to-do list. “What secret?” says my husband. “You know you’ll make us all do this anyway!” I have to admit that he’s right.
When I married a Chinese-American guy from Los Angeles, I didn’t realize that I was also gaining an entree into the alternate world of the San Gabriel Valley. A world where supermarkets, restaurants, dentists, churches, chiropractors, and foot massage parlors are all casually Chinese. A friend of mine confided that his parents don’t even need to speak English. They get Hong Kong cable TV, read Chinese newspapers, and wander off to eat in various holes-in-the-wall where the daily specials are scrawled on a white board – in Chinese.
Homesick as I was for SE Asia, I was thrilled. But besides some very good Chinese restaurants, the San Gabriel Valley has a few other hidden gems. Here are some of my favourites:
1. Golden Deli
My love affair with Vietnamese food is all due to Golden Deli, a restaurant that has lines of people standing outside it day and night. I like their pho with tripe and tendon, as well as their rice plates (91A gets you broken rice, grilled pork, shrimp cake, and steamed egg. The rice is dusted with peanuts and shredded pork skin). Also, their fried egg rolls are to die for. Rolled up in a lettuce leaf together with mint, cilantro and cucumber, it’s like a salad with a deep-fried secret. Don’t forget to order a soda chanh – lime juice, sugar, and sparkling water over ice.
2. Half & Half
This recent addition to my list is the best bubble tea I’ve found in N. America to date (although I’m always open to trying new candidates), so much so that I wrote an entire, besotted blog post about it.
3. Senor Fish
Soft corn tortillas stuffed with a generous helping of tender fried and battered fish, topped with shredded cabbage, salsa, and crema. Nothing really says Southern California like a fish taco paired with an icy cold Coca-Cola (regular, not diet) on a burning hot day.
4. Euro Pane
A dreamy, Japanese take on a European artisanal bakery, Euro Pane serves the best open-faced egg salad sandwiches around. Although they’ve opened a chic new location further south on Colorado, I still prefer the original because that’s where you can get a smoked salmon sandwich with dill mayonnaise on their signature sourdough bread (the new location only serves it on a kind of hard, crunchy biscuit). An unsung star is their ham and cheese sandwich, as well as all of their baked goods. There’s something about Euro Pane’s ambience and excellence that reminds me of Hayao Miyazaki’s movies – specifically, “Kiki’s Delivery Service”, which takes place in a vaguely European town.
One of the best indie bookstores in the country, Vroman’s is a place that I always end up at. I’ve discovered so many good reads there, as well as gifts, pens, calendars etc. I could easily go on a giant shopping spree there every day of the week. And so, when I heard that Vroman’s would host me for a book reading, I was incredibly excited.
“Wow!” I said to my long-suffering husband. “Vroman’s!”
“Are you still planning to eat 4 meals tomorrow?” he said. I told him I would think seriously about it. Especially since Half & Half’s bubble tea is probably 1000 calories per cup.
I’m in Los Angeles for the next few days to do an author event at Vromans, on Tuesday Sept 10 at 7pm. I’ll be giving a talk about ghost marriages, signing books, and giving away collector’s cards. Please sign up and share on Facebook here.
And if you’re on the West side, I’ll be doing an informal meet-the-author event on Monday, Sept 9, from 6-7pm at the Funnel Mill coffee shop, where I’ll just be sitting around to chat, sign books, and answer all your burning questions.
Please come join me – I’d love to see you! And please share! 🙂