Thursday, August 04, 2005

Giang Nan

Here is the finest Shanghai/"Jiangzhe"/eastern Chinese food I have tasted! Cuisine from cities in Jiangsu and Zhejiang provinces is famous for its deeply flavoured sauces, often featuring a lot of sugar and oil - quite dissimilar to the limpid Cantonese style. Giang Nan, [306 N Garfield #A12, Monterey Park; 626-573-3421] whose name means "south of the [Yangtze] river", is a comparatively new entrant into the scene. The other Chinese name is something like "building that chases the moon" as diagrammed on the takeout menu where a full moon rises above a pagoda-like structure. I went with my Chowhound friend Yimster, his sons and my labmate Peng (of Jiangsu extraction) for a meal that we will long remember:

House special de-greased and braised pork knuckle. A huge pork shank cooked in rock sugar and soy until it's falling apart, this is a classic dish. Nestled on a bed of spinach, it's a huge serving of delicious fatty pork that will serve at least four. Lambert commented that using a slightly smaller pork shank allows the flavour to penetrate even further into the meat, but he conceded that he has not had so fine a version in many restaurants. The waitress brought this to the table and said "everyone in the restaurant can smell this dish you have ordered".

"Lion's head" meatball with duck egg yolk. An unusual treatment of the distinctive Shanghai dish, featured a salted duck egg yolk in the middle of the large meatball. Texture and flavour were good, but Lambert found the cooking method somewhat unorthodox - not clear if it was deep fried, then simmered in the traditional way.

Chicken in wine sauce. A very winy version of this Shanghai cold chicken dish.

Jade celery. A simple preparation of celery in sesame oil. Nice contrast to the heavier fare.

Crab Meat and Pork Steamed Buns. Everyone's favourite Shanghai dumpling, the xiao long bao or soupy pork dumpling, here served with crab meat. Skin not as delicate as Din Tai Fung but the soup and filling are exceptional.

Chinese Bread, fried. Trashy but delicious, here the slightly sweet "small knife bread" is deep fried on its edges and served really hot with condensed milk for dipping. I loved it. Careful of your fingers!

Deep-fried flounder. Cooked with green herbs (fungus? I didn't know it) in the batter and served with dipping salt. Perfectly fried and delicious, I've also enjoyed this dish made with yellow croaker at Green Village.

Rice Noodle with Fish Head Casserole. Peng hadn't had this legendary Jiangsu dish for five years, and wasn't disappointed. By this time the waitresses had cottoned on to Lambert's enthusiasm and may have said a word to the kitchen, as there was a large portion of fish attached to the head. The rich fish stock had a tremendous flavour, each spoonful was savoured and we picked the head clean. Best of all were the homemade rice noodle sheets underneath the fish, which had absorbed the wonderful taste of the broth. A must-try dish.

Glutinous rice balls in fermented rice mash. Although we had eaten enough food for ten, the waitresses insisted that we try this dish, amazingly only $3.80 for a portion that served 5. The sweet fermented rice mash is very slightly alcoholic and delightfully scented with osmanthus flowers. Best of all are the tiny rice balls, about the size of Maltesers rather than the comparatively giant Japanese mochi. They have a fabulously soft texture and are filled with black sesame. Possibly the finest dessert I've ever had in a Chinese restaurant.

It's no exaggeration to say that Giang Nan joins Shiang Garden, Yungui Garden, Little Sheep and Sea Harbor in the absolute highest rank of San Gabriel restaurants. For the quality, the price is very cheap, and there are many other dishes to explore.

091905 note
Check out the incredible eel with acorns in claypot, it's the third eel dish on the menu. Outstanding, whole garlic cloves and luscious eel meat. The essence of eastern Chinese flavours.


Anonymous Kirk said...

Sounds great Simon - I've added to my LA list for my visits.

8:56 PM  
Anonymous Anonymous said...

The "fungus" you call in the deep fried flounder is the seaweed. That's why it's called Fried Seaweed with Yellow Fish.

9:27 AM  

Post a Comment

<< Home