Popcorn Chicken (Sawtelle Japantown): A Pictorial Essay

A relative newcomer to the Taiwanese dining scene on the Westside (Sawtelle Japantown, to be exact), Popcorn Chicken is serving up some surprisingly great eats these days. With other locations in Irvine and Riverside, Popcorn Chicken is very apparently trying to please a mostly (UC) student clientele. I went on two separate occasions, and found consistency in the quality of their offerings.

Enough talk - Onto the chow!!!

Beef noodle soup… OK this is wrong. Westside Taiwanese food is not supposed to taste this good. This is pretty much a perfect bowl of Taiwanese niu rou mien - well, at least as good as can be found outside Taiwan. First off, the broth is magical, on par with Dai Ho’s, and even better than Bull Demon King’s broth - A hint of anise, with depth rarely found in many other places SoCal places serving beef noodle soup. The noodles themselves, while not hand-made, nonetheless have that great “Q”. The beef is tender and flavorful, and the restaurant doles out plenty of it to the customer. Spice level is a few notches below “mala” - Just right for enjoyment of all the elements in this creation. The only thing I’d ask them to improve on is the addition of some beef tendon. GET THIS BOWL.

I also ordered an appetizer of fried “tempura” (actually in Taiwan, the term “tempura” holds a different meaning than in Japanese - Taiwanese “tian bu lah” is actually made of fish cakes). I enjoyed it, though more for sentimental reasons than actual awesomeness of taste.

On a follow-up visit, I tried the braised pork rice combo. This was really tasty as well, with gorgeously rich braised pork on fluffy rice, served with a half tea egg. The combo also came with a nice clear seaweed dashi broth, pickled cabbage, and corn.

The stir-fried shrimp and eggs (AKA ‘The @CiaoBob Special’), was nice. Portioning was very generous.

The appetizer chicken wings were quite delicious, with this densely-peppered marinade, which made the whole dish quite addictive.

Desserts: Buttercream brick toast was decent, as were the sesame balls.

Beverages: The milk teas I had were legit. But honestly Volcano down the street is a better bet for straight-up Taiwanese drinks.

'Dat beef noodle soup, tho…


Popcorn Chicken
2224 Sawtelle Bl.
Los Angeles, CA 90064


Damn I pass by Popcorn Chicken a few times already and never thought to give them a try. On par with Dai Ho? Good enough for me.

Thanks for the heads up @J_L. I can’t believe it’s so close and convenient and I don’t have to drive to the SGV to get a real bowl of beef noodle soup! :slight_smile: I can’t wait to try this.

Yes - that is one incredible bowl of NRM.
The richness of the broth is close to a great dark roux gumbo. The noodles were so chewy I thought they gave me tan boba strings.

I cannot believe you had the reporting disipline to go back and NOT get that nu ro mein.

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Such is the way of Foodi…

What about the eponymous popcorn chicken?

Our @J_L is a ‘readbetweenthelines’ kinda guy one might surmise that if he didn’t mention the popcorn chicken that they are ‘meh/whatever/nothing special’

Did not try it.

Fair enough I just wanted to use “eponymous” in a sentence… I’ve always wanted to but never had the opportunity to!

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We think the popcorn chicken is really good - with beer - which means we did take out and headed straight home with it.

There’s a nice curry/chili powder thing that I guess is sprinkled on the outside of the nuggets. Even the deep-fried tofu is good - just wishing it was stinky tofu.


Going in with such low expectations (I slog through a ton of medicocre to bad places not worthy of reporting before finding one of these gems), I was too gobsmacked after the beef noodle soup to try the popcorn chicken.

(Hey, I got to use the word ‘gobsmacked’!!!)


Thanks for slogging!

Whoa, never tried those chicken wings before. Looks great!

Did today. It is fine, if nothing special.
Dark meat, small-to-medium sized chunks, meat was quite moist after frying and crust not greasy, with a decent (optional) spicing.
They say they use lots of Sichuan MaLa flavor/peppercorns in the water boiled fish and beef dishes – that will be my next visit, I guess.

West LA Chinese continues to improve at a glacial pace, but moving in the right direction.


Did you get another bowl of NRM to wash it down?


I’m in DC for work right now and all I can think about is getting these beef noodles when I get home.


If you’re in DC, then stop by China Boy in Chinatown.

Good beef noodle soup, and good chow fun. All home spun.

China Boy
815 6th St NW
Washington, DC


+1 for China Boy. My only rec in that neighborhood. (Owl Restaurant doesn’t count,)

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Tried to escape to try China Boy but couldn’t get free. But I’ll file the recommendation for another day.