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Gold's picks for best Chinese food in the San Gabriel Valley

Los Angeles Times food critic Jonathan Gold has narrowed down his favorite Chinese restaurants in the San Gabriel Valley. In honor of Lunar New Year, the Hammer Museum and L.A. Times published his top picks and organized them by regional cuisine. Check out the map below or read the full list.

What's your favorite Chinese restaurant in the San Gabriel Valley?

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9 thoughts on “Gold's picks for best Chinese food in the San Gabriel Valley”

  1. M. Payne,

    Chinese people seeking gluten-free options do exist. Some of us deal with gluten allergies. Some of us have celiac disease. Gluten-free is *not* merely an upper middle class Caucasian concept.

    Chinese food, whether Cantonese or non-Cantonese, is full of gluten unless you make a real effort to remove all of it in your home kitchen. Restaurants are full of cross-contamination, so if you’re trying to avoid gluten, you can’t really eat out at Cantonese, other Chinese, or most other kinds of eateries.

    Here’s a short and very incomplete list of Chinese dishes that contain gluten: anything with soy sauce, anything cooked with commonly available oyster sauces, hoisin sauces, etc., chow mein (the “mein” is a wheat noodle) lo mein (“mein”=wheat noodle), mu shu pork/chicken/veg/etc (wheat wrapper), XLB “soup dumplings” (wheat wrapper), pot stickers (wheat wrapper), har gow crystal shrimp dumplings (wheat starch wrapper, technically the gluten is removed, but it’s very possible there could still be gluten contamination), sui mai (wheat wrapper), bao/baked or steam buns) (wheat bready exterior), spring/egg rolls (wheat wrapper), onion pancakes (wheat flour), wontons, (wheat wrapper), you tiao/cruller (wheat flour), custard pie (wheat crust), etc. — the list goes on and on.

    Additionally, eating anything prepared on surfaces or with utensils that have touched gluten and that have not been washed down with soap and detergent likely will contain gluten.

    Whether a person can eat at a restaurant with so-called gluten-free dishes depends on lot on that person’s gluten tolerance, whether or not the eatery prepares gluten ingredients in the same kitchen, and how knowledgeable the eatery is about ingredient sourcing and segregation.

    Gluten is everywhere and very hard to avoid unless you’re cooking in your own kitchen. I apologize for my late response; I’ve been too busy cooking gluten-free Chinese and other food in my own home! 🙂

  2. @ M. Payne: I wish it were that simple. Before entering the world of food allergies and intolerances, I was like you and didn’t fully understand how complex the world is or what people with the various forms of interolerances go through to eat safely.

    Gluten is a protein found in barley, rye, and wheat. It is what gives wheat flour dough its elasticity, springiness, and sponginess. If you’ve ever used wheat flour in your kitchen, whether baking breads or desserts or just making a roux, you are very familiar with how flour gets everywhere when you cook. For that reason, it is very easy to end up with gluten in foods that don’t normally include gluten. To avoid this cross-contamination, kitchens need to take very specific steps to avoid cross-contaminating food with gluten. But most chefs and home cooks in America don’t know what gluten is let alone know what steps to take to limit cross-contamination or how to clean up before making gluten-free foods.

    Moreover, cross-contamination doesn’t just occur in the kitchen, it happens all up and down the food chain. All of the ingredients that go into a gluten-free meal must be gluten-free as do all their ingredients. For example, although oats do not naturally contain gluten, it is difficult to find oats that are gluten-free. This is because wheat and oats are grown in the same areas and the same silos that store wheat are also used to store oats. Even when farmers only grow oats, the oats may be handled, processed, and stored in the same facilities that also handle, process, and store barley, rye, and wheat. The gluten protein easily transfers to oats and other food stuffs.

    Gluten intolerance isn’t just a concept and it isn’t limited to wealthy whites. My son is Chinese and is allergic to gluten. Like people allergic to peanuts or bee stings, his immune system reacts to the presence of the gluten protein by producing a very strong histamine reaction. Ming Tsai’s son – also Chinese – had the same allergy. In addition, an increasing number of people are being diagnosed each year with Celiac disease. The presence of the gluten protein causes a number of issues in their large intestines that limits their ability to absorb basic nutrients. I also know Chinese people in the SGV who have Celiac’s.

    Back to Chinese food. While it appears from the outside that Cantonese food may be gluten-free because it uses a lot of rice, it isn’t. For example, the whitish, translucent wrapper used for ha gow (shrimp dumplings) in dim sum restaurants is made from wheat. So are egg noodles. Soy sauce also has wheat in it. Furthermore, Chinese food in the San Gabriel Valley Chinese is much more diverse than simply Cantonese food. Jonathan Gold’s list contains at least 8 restaurants that I know are not Cantonese just by looking at the names (e.g. Beijing Pie House [yum!]).

    Properly preparing gluten-free food is a lot of work. It isn’t simple, it takes a lot to prevent cross-contamination, you need to experiment a lot to make up for the loss of gluten in recipes, and you need to patiently contact food manufacturers to identify gluten-free ingredients. Thankfully, there is now a broader marketplace for gluten-free foods so food manufacturers are starting to certify more gluten-free ingredients. One day, some enterprising Chinese person will open a gluten-free Chinese restaurant. Until then, it isn’t sufficient to order something that appears gluten-free; chances are, it isn’t.

    btw: I trust Jonathan Gold. I’ve eaten at a lot of places he’s recommended and never been let down once.

  3. Dan – Just order something without gluten. Most Cantonese food is made from rice, not wheat/gluten. But no, there will not be an official “gluten-free” restaurant because that upper middle-class Caucasian concept is foreign to Chinese people.

  4. Why go to Chinese when you have Wahib’s. Even in Arabia I have met MidEasterners who remember Wahibs…although they have gone somewhat fusion. I reproach them for chicken and fries – children are unfamilar with most MidEast foods.

    Even my Chinese wife likes Wahib’s
    OR go for Malayasian at Jasmins
    OR go to Big Three near Big A or at the corner of Main/Marengo/Palm

    Don’t go to Mahan’s for good indian food better on Rosemead

    BUT I don’t like Cantonese food though

  5. Went gluten free 3+ years ago due to Celiac disease. I miss Chinese food soooo bad! Any ideas where to get a truly gluten free Chinese meal (no soy sauce, oyster sauce, wheat flour, etc)? DON’T say PF Chang! I’ve lived in the SGV for over 10 years. That’s not real Chinese food! Thanks.

    1. Sadly, I’m not aware of a gluten-free Chinese restaurant in the SGV. Our son is gluten-free so my wife has to make all the Chinese food he eats. If you’re interested, she has a web site where she’s posted recipes such as har gow and highlights ingredients that she use such as tamari. Also, celebrity chef Ming Tsai‘s son is allergic to gluten so his recipe books are often good for finding gluten-freen Asian recipes (although with a fusion twist).

  6. The best Chinese food is in my own kitchen. Home cooking for me.

  7. Not one in the city of Alhambra. (:()

  8. Noodle King on Valley has excellent Taiwanese beef noodle soup.