Guess what’s for dinner?
Modern Chinese Cuisine Steeped in Tradition, but Accessible to a Wider Audience and New Generation – Succulent Roasted Pork Shoulder Char Siu, Supple Hainan Chicken Rice, Outrageous Pork Chop Buns and More! – Needle and Pearl River Deli [Thoughts + Pics]
Nice @TheCookie. Just saw it. Is it your first time at Needle? Have you ever had their original dine-in Pork Shoulder Char Siu?
40% pork fat? Sign me up!!
Nope, first time at Needle @Chowseeker1999.
Ah OK. Hopefully they’ll add their original Pork Shoulder Char Siu back on the menu for you to try one day. I think you’ll appreciate how impressive Chef Wong is from extracting the textures, flavor, balance (and using a leaner meat) to make a fantastic Char Siu.
Update 5 (To-Go):
Chef Johnny Lee and Pearl River Deli just announced a slew of specials for this weekend, but the one that caught our attention the most was his take on the classic Hong Kong dish, Wonton Noodle Soup. For those that didn’t get to try Noodle Boy (not to be confused with Noodle World, Noodle Planet, Noodle Galaxy or any other variation on “Noodle”), it was a hole-in-the-wall in the San Gabriel Valley that was making the best Wonton Noodle Soup (by a wide margin) in L.A. / O.C. Sadly, it closed a few years back and it’s been a sad state of affairs ever since.
So we couldn’t wait to try the debut of Chef Lee’s Wonton Noodle Soup today(!), and brought along another dear friend from Hong Kong (socially distanced, eating 6 feet apart) to get her thoughts.
New social distanced outdoor tables:
Salt and Pepper Tofu:
This dish continues to shine: Chef Johnny Lee’s homage to the classic “Salt and Pepper (Insert Protein)” Hong Kong / Cantonese dishes, but here, made with excellent freshly made Meiji Tofu.
Make sure you uncover this dish immediately after picking it up to prevent steaming (and softening). Each bite is still a wonderful crispiness, a beautiful balance of Salt & Pepper and Chilies, but never too salty. The flavoring is addicting and so delicious (and 100% naturally vegan)!
Our friend from Hong Kong couldn’t stop eating this.
Macau Pork Chop Bun:
Just as incredible as before! The soft, fresh Pineapple Bun continues to be a great starting point, lending a touch of light sweetness, before you bite down into the ridiculous succulent, moist Heritage Pork Chop that is tender, not dried out, not overcooked, but just pure tastiness. Then the Housemade Maggi-Aioli for umami, the Caramelized Onions and you continue to have one of the most outstanding new items on the culinary scene in Southern California!
Still a menu highlight.
(New) Wonton Charsiu Noodles:
Wonton Noodle Soup is a classic, simple, humble dish. Our friend from Hong Kong tells us of it being a comforting, quick meal growing up in Hong Kong. She hasn’t found a good version here in L.A. yet.
Taking a sip:
Delicate, light, the Housemade Wonton Soup is a combination of Pork, Chicken and Shrimp Heads, and there’s a delicate brininess (very light) in the background. It is wonderful and the best Wonton Soup we’ve had since Noodle Boy!
But then you take a bite of the Housemade Wontons, a combination of Marinated Ground Pork and Shrimp:
Seriously, shut the front door!
It’s got an incredible crave-worthy delicate porcine note, tender meatiness, and a sweetness from the Shrimp! Note that this is an incredible achievement as every Wonton we’ve tried locally tastes like Frozen Shrimp (briny, oceanic in a bad way, or tasting of freezer burn). Not so here!
It tastes like the sweetness you get from quality, Live Shrimp (but clearly there’s no way it can be at these prices). But it’s very fresh.
The combination with soft, pliant Wonton skins makes this:
The Best Wontons in L.A.! Hands down!
This is better than Noodle Boy! Easily!
(Included) Pork Neck Charsiu:
You have an option to have the Wonton Noodles with Chef Lee’s Housemade Pork Neck Charsiu. For those FTC’ers who were on the fence about Chef Lee’s Pork Neck Charsiu previously, it’s gotten even better.
Today’s Pork Neck Charsiu was meaty, but tender, enough bits of fattiness, but mainly lean meat and still so tender and moist, it is the Best Charsiu for Takeout in L.A. right now! It was outstanding today! (This is until Needle brings back their Pork Shoulder Charsiu for dine-in.)
The Egg Noodles are tasty, and springy and matches the Wonton Soup perfectly well.
Together, a sip of the Housemade Broth, a bite of the incredible Housemade Wontons, and you have:
- The Best Wonton Noodle Soup in L.A.!
Do not miss this! (@PorkyBelly @J_L @A5KOBE @attran99 @paranoidgarliclover @TheCookie @JeetKuneBao @beefnoguy @Sgee @CiaoBob and others) (I wish I could @ FTC because it is that good.)
Thinking about what Chef Johnny Lee and Pearl River Deli are doing right now is mind-blowing: This is some of the most exciting cooking in L.A. right now, honoring traditional Chinese recipes, but elevating it and making it more accessible to a wider audience (not by watering down, just presenting and executing it to another level entirely).
Pearl River Deli is already making the Best Hainan Chicken Rice in L.A., the Best Macau Pork Chop Bun (do not miss this!), a “Sandwich” that is worthy as the next big thing after Howlin’ Ray’s Fried Chicken Sando.
Add to that, very good Charsiu (and today’s Pork Neck Charsiu was ridiculous!), amazing standouts like the Salt & Pepper Tofu, Map Tofu, Beef Short Rib, Tendon and Radish Stew, and so many specials that rotate in and out.
But today marks yet another culinary highlight:
The Best Wonton Noodle Soup in the City of Angels. Our friend from Hong Kong slurped down an entire bowl by herself and turned to us to say: “This is comfort food! It reminds me of Hong Kong. Thank you!” It is a testament to Chef Lee’s skills and his passion for cooking, and is something worth seeking out and celebrating.
Pearl River Deli
727 N. Broadway, #130
Los Angeles, CA 90012
Tel: (626) 688-9507
(Check their IG for latest specials and updates):
If one makes great wontons, they will come…
I am so jealous that bowl looks so good! Yup appearance wise it seems the char siu is so much better than before (see my review).
Wow better than Noodle Boy! I hope he makes this a regular item on the menu! Maybe us FTCers can convince him @JLee ! Wonton Noodle Soup is so fundamental to HK food I hope he keeps it as a regular item. I am glad he nailed that broth. I was a little wary because the IG post said pork and chicken, but than later in the day he confirmed with a story that there is shrimp shells in the broth.
Are you going to try his Vietnamese specials? And thanks for the being the first to try out PRD’s Wonton Noodle Soup.
Who knew that HK food will be revived in 2020 by these 2 (PRD and Needle)
I wish you were able to enjoy this bowl with the rest of us!
Yah, we were shocked. Chef Lee’s Housemade Wontons are definitely better than Noodle Boy’s. So good! And I think you had a hand in nudging the broth a bit!
Thank you for bringing PRD to light (along with @PorkyBelly) in the first place! We hope to try the weekend specials!
And yah, with HK food dying in general (@chandavkl and others had talked about this), it’s great to see a revival and improvement on the dishes in LA at least.
Them’s fighting words
I know, we were really surprised as well (in a good way). Also, you just reminded me (because you had the great recommendation back then!):
Pearl River Deli doesn’t have bottles of red vinegar for their wontons (then again, I don’t think any restaurant is going to put out condiment bottles right now for everyone to touch). Is red vinegar a must have for Wonton Noodle Soup? (@beefnoguy @J_L @JeetKuneBao @PorkyBelly @moonboy403 and others.)
Red vinegar and chili oil is the preferred dipping sauce for wontons!
May I suggest - superior dosage calibration too
Thanks @JeetKuneBao @Sgee @J_L. What was impressive was that Pearl River’s Housemade Wontons stood on their own, so delicious, without any condiments. Whereas some of the local places like Sam Woo BBQ feel like you want to add the chili to help make the mediocre Wontons taste better.
This topic is sorta like eating sushi with ginger.
Traditionally, the “correct” way, whatever that means, is to use red vinegar only for the noodles because it’s to minimize or neutralize the alkaline flavor. It’s meant for dipping rather than pouring them into the broth like many. Otherwise, it’ll mess with the purity of the broth and wonton.
However, if one enjoys pouring vinegar into their broth like my mom does, who are we or anyone else to tell them what’s good and what’s not? You paid for it so you do what you want with it!
Ooh, fascinating. So do folks “dip” the noodles into the red vinegar in a… container like Soba Noodles? Or just on the plate? (And from what you described, what we saw at Noodle Boy (and Sam Woo) are people just adding some of the red vinegar into the bowl (or not using it).)
Whatever floats your boat!
Lau Sam Kee in Sham Shui Po (Hong Kong) - some photos could be dated so not entirely representative of what they have now
two kinds of chili sauce made from fermented sweet potatoes with no additives. The more famous brand is Yu Kwun Yick which is legendary (and not exported…but maybe you might be able to find some in Toronto or Vancouver, not sure). YKY as @Ns1 has experienced before, is based off of I believe a family Shunde recipe. Either way this is the classic style chili sauce for won tons.
red vinegar (2nd photo) and black vinegar (first photo, same type you would use for
Northern dumplings, XLB etc). The idea is to help neutralize the alkaline water / kansui taste from the noodle making process.
this is vital and super traditional, house pickles/pickled sour daikon. Not many traditional shops do this anymore. Call it Cantonese tsukemono if you like, it’s super addicting!
Mak Man Kee (Jordan)
- red vinegar
- white pepper
- unknown chili sauce (less remarkable than the old school kind Lau Sam Kee uses)
- anyone’s guess what the other two are, but could be soy sauce and chili oil (oil only)
Depending on the style of the noodles and how heavy the alkaline water, adding vinegar is really up to you. Generally I just use a light dab of chili sauce. I find red vinegar a better choice to add to pan fried noodles with pork strip shiitake bean sprouts and yellow chives. Sometimes the stir fry chefs in California make the non noodle mixture too cornstarchy thick, so a little vinegar helps cut it, and even if not so, brings out some additional aromas.
This (about the purity). I was kind of “worried” when I heard about/saw the charsiu in the broth b/c, for me, the broth should have a relatively clean and light (and not [edit: BBQ-]porky) flavor.
Whole thing sounds delish, @Chowseeker1999.