Sunday, December 21, 2014

Chinese Food Truck- Los Angeles (University Park), CA

Chinese Food Truck Exterior

Previously, authentic chinese food options were quite limited in the University Park neighborhood. Bamboo Express in the former University Village food court offered some authentic options if you knew how to read the chinese only menu, as well as how to pick options from the steam tray that were not geared for the typical Americanized Chinese palate. However, now Bamboo Express no longer exists, with the demolition of the University Village for the new USC Village.

Thankfully, this fall, a new food truck offered some authentic Chinese options: the Chinese Food Truck.

Chinese Food Truck: Menu
Chinese Food Truck: Menu

The Chinese Food Truck offers quite a lot of authentic Chinese options previously unavailable in the area, from potstickers, dumplings, and wontons to noodle dishes, like the spicy and sour rice noodles and sesame sauce cold chicken noodles. Some options are also only written in Chinese, so it would probably be best to translate them yourself or bring a friend who can read Chinese for some assistance. Most of the people ordered in Mandarin (as I did myself) when visiting the food truck.

Chinese Food Truck: Cold Sesame Chicken Noodles

For my first visit, I went with the Sesame Sauce Chicken Cold Noodles (5.99 USD, but they charged 6 USD instead). Above the bed of toothsome noodles were some chicken shreds, roasted salted panuts, cucumber, carrot, green onion, spicy pepper oil, and the smooth sesame sauce. This proved to be quite scrumptious, with a good interplay between creamy, spicy, and bright flavors. The only problem? Portion sizes were rather small. This would serve well for a light lunch, but if you were quite hungry, then you might want to order more or go elsewhere for more food.

Chinese Food Truck: Stir Fried Beef Noodles

Craving some Cantonese food, I went with the Beef Fried Noodle (7.99 USD) my second visit. Chinese Food Truck's rendition wasn't spectacular, probably due to some of the limitations of the truck itself. The noodles didn't have that "wok hey" fragrance that you typically expect, and the noodles themselves were light on the seasoning. The chow fun noodles, however, were nice and chewy, and there were plenty of vegetables--bean sprouts, onions, and green onions--and tender beef slices (not tenderized by baking soda).

Overall, the Chinese Food Truck fills an important void in the culinary scene in the University Park neighborhood, and helps serve the appetites of those interested in authentic Chinese food. The portions might be a bit small, but the food is tasty and nicely prepared. Make sure to also ask what is fresh or just made while you visit to ensure that you get the freshest options.

Chinese Food Truck
Typical location on weekdays: Jefferson Blvd., next to Cardinal Gardens Apartments (across the street from the University of Southern California University Park Campus), alongside all the other food trucks. Intersection of McClintock Ave. and Jefferson Blvd.
Los Angeles, CA 90089

Tuesday, December 16, 2014

McDonald's China: Sweet Taro Pie

McDonald's China: Taro Pie

One of the items that I always make sure to get when visiting McDonald's in Asia is the Sweet Taro Pie (in China, 2 for 9 RMB).
McDonald's China: Taro Pie
McDonald's China: Taro Pie

There are several differentiators to McDonald's China pies:
1. As its outer appearance suggests, it is a fried, not baked product. Thus, the exterior is fragrant and crispy, while the interior of the dough is tender, slightly chewy and elastic.
2. The flavor! Taro, pineapple, and banana were the flavors I saw while I was on my trip, but all of these flavors are not available in the United States.

Taste wise for the sweet taro pie, it all comes together: a lightly sweet, tender taro filling with an slightly savory exterior and chewy interior covering. It isn't particular heavy either, for the taro filling consists of pieces of taro in a sweet purple colored syrup; you are not eating mashed taro in each bite, but rather a more fluid filling with the fried pastry dough.

McDonald's China: Taro Pie

No, it might not be the healthiest dessert around, but the combination of fried dough and sweetened taro filling is a tasty treat. Try it out!

Multiple Locations
Visited Location: Wangfujing, Beijing, China

Another item to try at McDonald's China: Green Tea Ice Cream

Thursday, August 7, 2014

Wuyutai Tea- Wangfujing, Dongcheng District, Beijing, China: Jasmine and Matcha Soft-Serve Ice Cream (and a comparison to McDonald's version)

Wuyutai Tea Shop/ Ice Cream- Wangfujing, Dongcheng District, Beijing, China: Exterior/ Long Lines for Ice Cream

During the summer, in the touristy shopping area of Wangfujing, one will quickly notice two things:

1. Lots of people are enjoying ice cream cones. At least half, or greater, have green tea flavored soft-serve ice cream in them.
2. There is one place that sustains a long line at its storefront throughout the day: Wuyutai Tea.

But what is this line for? And more importantly, why are people waiting for about 5 minutes to reach the storefront for?

Wuyutai Tea Shop/ Ice Cream- Wangfujing, Dongcheng District, Beijing, China: Ice Cream Storefront
Wuyutai Tea Shop/ Ice Cream- Wangfujing, Dongcheng District, Beijing, China: Ice Cream Prices and Limit

Ice cream! More specifically, soft-serve jasmine tea and matcha ice cream for 6 RMB/CNY/yuan, or approximately 1 USD, with a per person limit of only two cones. That may sound cheap, but you need to compare to its local competitors. McDonald's green tea ice cream (offered as is or with a swirl with vanilla ice cream) cone costs 4 RMB each, and if you get two, the second is currently 50 percent off, making each cone worth only 3 RMB. Or in other words, you could get two McDonald's ice cream cones for the same price as one Wuyutai ice cream cone. KFC's regular vanilla ice cream cone is just 2.5 RMB.

So how does Wuyutai get so many customers when its ice cream cone is double the price?  Wuyutai's ice cream was introduced in 2009 as part of an initiative to reach out to younger clientele. From previous visits to Beijing, I knew that Wuyutai Tea is a time-honored brand in China and that locals highly regard it. However, to answer the question about why the ice cream is so popular, I had to line up myself and try it out.

(Overhearing some people speak also revealed these pointers: the ice cream has a lot of tea flavor, and thus parents were telling their kids they might not like it, even if it is ice cream. The two cone per person limit also becomes valid: some people wanted to order as much as they could, and others went back in line for another round right after they got their ice cream!)