Sunday, November 1, 2009

May Mei Restaurant: Another Update


Sorry for another update on a restaurant! I was planning on writing about Sam Woo-San Gabriel for this week. However while I was editing the photos for the post this week, I put my computer on sleep as usual. So yesterday, I opened up my computer only to find out both Firefox and Photoshop were closed. Bye photos! Now what blog posts I forgot to read (always leave at lest 10 on my browser to read and comment)??? Since I am sick this week, I decided not to edit those photos again today. Shows how important it is to turn off your computer and finish tasks ASAP or save a copy of it!

So instead, this week will be about May Mei. I've been meaning to write about May Mei after at least another seven visits to May Mei over the months. I did tell you though before on my last post on May Mei- their food is good in the restaurant as well as for take out! So today I have a combination of dishes from our take outs and in restaurant dining experiences.

Since I have not really told you about the restaurant enough to my standards, May Mei serves authentic, homestyle Cantonese food at low prices. This is not one of those HK style cafes like Tasty Garden or Garden Cafe that are modern and cater especially towards the younger crowd with the modern plates and international cuisine. Instead it is a stop for locals, families, and other people who want good, heart-warming Cantonese food at affordable prices (all lower cost compared to Tasty Garden and Garden Cafe). Do not expect very attentive service during very busy hours but the employees are very friendly and enjoy talking to you if they remember you.

Also, cash only, which may be trouble to some people, so be prepared.

Slow Cooked Soup

How about we start with a soup today after all this chilly weather in California this past week. May Mei offers plenty of soups- ranging from soups like chicken with corn to "low foh"soups like the one above. May Mei's slow cooked soups (on the menu it is the Soup of the Day (5.95USD for a large bowl-fills about 8 small bowls like you see above) change daily just like Embassy Kitchen- you may find a totally different soup with different flavorings, meats, and vegetables from visit to visit. The one above has daikon, pork, and wood-ear fungus. Quite nice.

Take-Out-Rice-Plates

Above from a take out visit are the minced beef on rice (5.75 USD) and seafood with vegetable on rice(6.50 USD). I have said this before- the minced beef on rice is one of my dining companion as well as my favorite dishes here at May Mei due to its deep beef flavor. The seafood with vegetable on rice dish was very light in terms of flavor. There was a slight ginger flavor and the rest of the dish was flavored by the seafood (scallops, shrimp, sole, squid) itself.

Chicken Fried Rice
(Do you see a difference in this photo compared to other photos I have taken?)

Last Tuesday, where it was windy enough to break branches and trees, we ordered take out again and when we arrived home, we had a power outage. That means this is the second photo on the blog where when I took the photo the room only had candles nearby the food as a light source. (first photo was Sesame Glutinous Rice Balls with Sweet Potato and Ginger Sweet Soup).

Anyways, back onto the food. The dish that you see above is the chicken fried rice (6.50 USD) and had crisp lettuce, flavorful and lightly salty pieces of chicken, green onions, and wispy thin pieces of savory scrambled egg (which you can get at home with a combination of plenty of oil and high heat). It was very flavorful and fragrant and the portion was quite large- I was able to eat it for dinner and then pack the rest for lunch the next day. It is however better to eat it when it is fresh- you get the textural difference of the crisp lettuce.

Rice Plates

Now we transfer back again to items taken at the restaurant. Above are the beef brisket with vegetable on rice (5.75 USD) and beef with soft scrambled egg on rice (5.75 USD). Both are great dishes, with the beef brisket with vegetables a steal. You see, my dining companions and I love beef tendons and so whenever we order it at May Mei we simply request that we get more tendons. In return we usually get about 75 percent tendon and 25 percent brisket on the plate. The amount of tendon/brisket was way more than you would find at places like A&J in their soups- if you took two pieces of May Mei's beef tendons and cut them up that would be what you would find in a noodle soup dish at another restaurant. The tendons/brisket are beefy tasting (if not I would be quite worried about returning to May Mei) and they have been slow cooked in orange peel, soy sauce, cloves, and other ingredients. If you are wondering about the vegetables they are mushrooms, carrots, and gai lan.

The beef and soft scrambled egg rice is also one of our frequent orders just like the minced beef on rice and the beef brisket on rice. It has plenty of beef (at least 10 large pieces) and so sometimes I may just finish all the dish with exception of the beef since there is such a large amount of it! Otherwise it is quite a lightly flavored dish perked up with the green onions they place into the gravy. Like what they say on the menu, the soft scrambled egg is SOFT- think the egg that you would get in egg flower soup or fish maw and corn soup.

Preserved Meat Pot Rice

This photo of a half disassembled Assorted Preserved Meat Pot Pot Rice (Lap Mei Bou Zai Fan) (7.95 USD) also has a story to it like the chicken fried rice. I took this photo, and then the waiter said to me, "Next time you should tell me beforehand before you take the photo." How nice! And then I remembered I had already taken a picture of the hot pot rice as is without the server doing anything to it other than bringing it to the table and opening the lid. Well in any case, this photo shows you the preserved meats better (as well as the take out version). As you can see there are:

-Duck (preserved or smoked I do not know but I think preserved)
-Chinese sausage (Lap Cheong)
- Pork belly (?- preserved or smoked)

Like I explained before:
"This is another great item, and it is great to eat in the winter and any cold days. The rice comes out screaming hot and is scented with the meats on top. Unlike other places, May Mei doesn't use the electric cooker, but uses fire. Fire in return gives a great rice crust when cooked slightly longer and also gives the rice some great flavor as well... Pot rice cooking also gives the rice a different feeling in the mouth than in steamed rice." - From my January 2nd, 2009 post on May Mei

To be more specific-
The places that use the electric cooker include Tasty Garden and Green Island, among other places. Which is why I would much prefer to order May Mei's version over their versions as-
-the serving sizes are larger at May Mei (electric cookers have a small and simple shaped clay pot- the bottom and sides are coarse and natural clay looking after usage)
-Costs less...and tastier as well! Win-win situation.

So why the higher cost? Not only cooking time is more (20 minutes+ cooking but May Mei does prepare beforehand when they know pot rice will be ordered by cooking more of them earlier) compared to the plate rice dishes (easy- about 5-10 minutes cooking and then place on already cooked steamed rice), it also requires careful watching of the chef and more gas to cook. Since they are using gas and not the electric cooker they only know by experience if the rice crust is perfect and not burnt to pitch black.

The rice itself is not only fragrant but also has the preserved meat flavor in it due to the cooking process. It feels slightly oily and very smooth on the surface.

Beef Stew Noodle Soup

Not feeling for rice but want a nice large bowl of noodle soup instead? Well, May Mei's beef brisket noodle soup (4.95 USD) is a good choice. It has the pieces of tender, slow cooked beef brisket (again we asked for more tendon and you see the results), and along with that are bouncy, cooked to al dente thin egg noodles and a rich slow cooked beef broth, as well as some gai lan and yellow chive. Ordered this for both take out and in the restaurant many times now and its a good choice besides going to Tasty Garden- cheaper than Tasty Garden too as expected.

If you want wontons too, they are an additional 70 cents- not a dollar like at Tasty Garden.

Fish and Rice Noodle Soup

The Fish Fillet with Rice Noodles in Soup is also pretty good but we still like the beef brisket noodle soup more. The fish pieces are sole (I saw their fish delivery...), and the vegetables you see are carrots, gai lan, and mushrooms- they have a savory gravy by themselves but that is then combined with the soup after you mix the noodles around. Like other restaurants, the rice noodles at May Mei were cooked to our liking- bouncy with a nice bite to them. Yum.

Seafood Tofu Pot

For a main course, the Mixed Seafood with Bean Curd (8.95 USD) is a good choice if you are craving for both tofu and seafood and want something very warm (hot pot dish). Along with the fried pieces of bean curd (not crispy as they have been soaking in the sauce before it reaches the table) and seafood (again scallops, squid, and shrimp, and sole), are green onions, re-hydrated dried shitake mushrooms, and a soy sauce gravy to combine everything together. Quite nice on any cold day. Make sure you get some rice to go along with this dish! You'll want plenty of rice. :)

Veggies

Of course I did not forget about the vegetables. Although you have seen plenty of vegetables like the gai lan mixed into their dishes already as you have been reading this post, the vegetables are not really that big of a serving. Thus, ordering a vegetable dish is good to go along with the meal. Above you see the Snow Pea Leaf with Supreme Sauce (not on the take out menu so I made up the name) and Tong Choy in Spicy Tofu Sauce (7.95 USD- AKA Ong-Choy/ morning glory/ Chinese water spinach with Fermented tofu ("Fu yu") sauce).

Snow pea leaves are one of my favorite vegetables and the addition the the supreme sauce (broth) makes it even better as it does not get oily. The snow pea leaves at May Mei are very well cooked- still slightly crisp in the middle but cooked throughly, and the broth is great along with rice- or just to slurp alone.

The tong choy (sorry for the blurry pic) with spicy tofu sauce is also very nice. Tong choy was not fibrous/woody in the stems (not old/ carefully selected) and had a nice crunch as expected from it. The spicy tofu was not too heavily placed into the dish-just a slight hint of it and it was mixed well into the sauce so that it was completely mixed into the sauce with no apparent chunks. I do not like the fermented tofu much by itself in large amounts a lot but a hint/ accompaniment with something else is acceptable and favorable to me. So I enjoyed this dish a lot. Order it if you enjoy a bit of spice in your veggies and if you are not afraid of trying (or enjoy eating) fermented tofu.

So as you can see, I still really enjoy May Mei. So many dishes to choose from and all are very likable in terms of taste. May Mei is always a nice substitute for days when we are too tired to cook dinner, or a weekend meal when we do not want to drive for long periods of time. It's also a restaurant that we know friends will enjoy after a visit there. Very dependable choice for lunch or dinner. I hope this place will never close down or change to some other restaurant, because as seen by Liang's Village Cuisine and 101 Noodle Express, both new restaurants in the area, the new restaurants in Arcadia's dining scene are not looking as good as their predecessors or their competition with restaurants serving the similar style food in the SGV.

May Mei
639 W Duarte Road
Arcadia, CA 91007
(626) 574-1318

May Mei Restaurant on Urbanspoon

*side note: all names in English are directly from the menu for your convenience and I have not altered them)

7 comments:

joanh said...

seems like really good prices and good dishes... it's really too bad there aren't any good Chinese eateries on the Westside!

KirkK said...

Hey ETE - Oh man, a double whammy! I hope you feel better soon, and resolve those PC issues. Take Care!

Mochachocolata Rita said...

wow! you eat hk food much more than i do heheheh

EatTravelEat said...

joanh,

These types of restaurants need to expand everywhere so that everyone can enjoy good Chinese food! I would think they would instantly earn many customers if they did.

KirkK,

Aww...thanks! I'm getting better as the days progress.

Mochachocolata Rita,

No, probably not. I'm just on a HK food binge right now, trying to write about all the HK restaurants in my queue. I do have to admit I eat a lot of Chinese food though :)

tigerfish said...

I have been cooking a lot of such soups at home recently ;)

I like that fish noodles - reminds me of my home country.

noobcook said...

nice asian food! I like the looks of the fried rice and the veggies hehe

EatTravelEat said...

Tigerfish,
Same here! It is getting cold out.

Noobcook,
Yup! My order of fried rice last Tuesday enticed me to order it again last Sunday. Wow...I am eating here way too much!