Shandong cuisine is one of the four great traditions of Chinese cooking. Located near the coast, in northern China, the province is rich in dough-based dishes and seafood.
We've covered this region before. Beijing and Tianjin cuisines are branches Shandong's cuisine. The food is defined by a heavy use of salt, soy sauce, fermented bean paste, and vinegar. (In fact, Shandong is one of the leading provinces for soy and vinegar production in east Asia.) And it's one of the only areas in China that uses a variety of grains like millet, wheat, oat, and barley.
It's one of the most influential styles of Chinese cooking and widely beloved among Angelenos. All of the Shandong-inspired restaurants in the Los Angeles serve noodles, scallion pancakes, and dumplings -- all selections you can hardly go wrong with.
Earthen, located in Hacienda Heights, has been open for years but still manages to attract a steady stream of customers that are willing to wait for a seat on busy evenings. What to order: pork dumplings, beef noodle soup, green onion pancake, and their signature dish: the Shandong chicken. The chicken, served room temperature, is boiled, deep-fried, and then served in a dressing of black vinegar, chili, soy sauce, and coriander. Earthern adds diced cucumbers underneath for a refreshing crunch, and tops it all off with cilantro and scallions. Cash only. 1639 S Azusa Ave., Hacienda Heights, CA 91745.
101 Noodle Express
101 Noodle Express has five locations scattered around the Southland, and luckily for those over on the Westside, there's one in a food court in Culver City. The specialty here is the Dezhou chicken, a succulent, black-skinned chicken that was popularized in the Qing Dynasty. It's named after the city of Dezhou in the Shandong province. The poultry is deep-fried and, before served, is marinated in a mixture of soy sauce, cloves, malt sugar, and mushrooms. The chicken is a must-have dish, but 101 Noodle's real claim to fame is their Chinese beef roll. The dish is made up of tender beef flanks, soybean paste, hoisin, scallions, and chopped cucumbers rolled up and enclosed in a flaky scallion pancake wrap. A lot of food writers have dubbed these Shandong beef rolls, but that's not entirely true. This particular version was invented in America. It's a morphed version of Shandong's jianbing juan (translation: pancake roll), which uses a thin, millet crepe paper as a wrapper instead of a thick scallion pancake. The jianbing juan originates from Mount Tai in Shandong and is over a thousand years old. Salty bean paste is still used, but the traditional rendition doesn't use beef. Common ingredients are egg, green onions, carrots, and cucumbers. 1408 E Valley Blvd., Alhambra, CA.
Qing Dao Bread Food
Qingdao is coastal city in Shandong and by virtue of its location, seafood dominates the menu. Qingdao Bread Food is a dumpling specialist and makes an amazing fish dumpling stuffed with cilantro. The eatery is a small lunch joint in Monterey Park with no more than a handful of seats. Dumplings can be pan-fried or boiled. 301 N Garfield Ave, Monterey Park, CA 91754.
To read more on Chinese regional food in Los Angeles, go here.