Macau Street - Artesia
Universally known fact No. 1: China is a big country.
Universally known fact No. 2: It's the most populous country on Earth.
Given these two facts: Is it any wonder that regional differences in its foods are vast?
In the north, for example, bread is more common than rice. Near the coast, seafood is eaten more than pork. So Chinese food isn't just Chinese food.
For every province (Anhui, Cantonese, Fujian, Hunan, Jiangsu, Shandong, Szechuan, and Zhejiang), there's a unique cuisine. And that's just naming a few. I haven't even begun to talk about the spin that the Chinese diaspora puts on its mother cuisine in countries like Indonesia, Peru and the Philippines.
Funny then that when most of us think of Chinese food, it's usually Kung Pao Chicken or Beef and Broccoli.
But if you live in the Chinese enclave of San Gabriel Valley, you are well aware that there's more to Chinese food than what Panda Express cooks up.
Macau Street is a recent addition to SGV's already voluminous repertoire of Chinese eateries. Its owners hail from Macau, a tiny territory between mainland China and Hong Kong that, until recently, was a Portuguese colony.
A new Macau Street has now opened in Artesia, a city that is building up a burgeoning Chinese enclave of its own (and yet another reason why I think we should annex Artesia and its prettier sister Cerritos as part of OC).
Stylistically, the food is on par with Cantonese cuisine, but there are Portuguese influences, like egg custard tarts, which are divine here.
But the most coveted dish is their House Special Crab where a crustacean is dismembered, rolled in a light batter and then deep fried until all is crisp and crackly. Its final resting place; a plate, whereupon it is showered with golden fried granules of garlic, rough chopped scallions and toasted chili peppers.
The best part of the dish are the egg sacs and unmentionable innards which dangle from the underside of the carapace dome. These are the soft, glandular objects that look like they shouldn't be eaten, but pop one in your mouth and it melts like ice cream on a hot plate -- ice cream that is doubly dosed with cholesterol.
Cholesterol-schemesterol. You're already eating crab. And it's deep fried. No point in worrying now.
And the sea's other notorious carrier of cholesterol, the shrimp? We ordered two kinds; Salt and Pepper Shrimp and that perennial wedding banquet staple, Honey Glazed Walnut Shrimp. The former I ate whole (why bother peeling when the entire animal can be readily consumed, spiky appendages included), the latter I savored with rice to counter its mayonnaisey creaminess.
While you're throwing dietary caution to the wind, go for the Spare Ribs, which are really deep fried morsels of pork fat, and maybe a smidgen or two of meat clinging to bone.
In your mouth, crispness leads to chewiness, and chewiness leads to an oozing meltiness of what I like to call "pig butter". Once you finish gnawing off every edible bit, you spit out the bone. To keep the richness in check, it's lubed in a spicy sweet and sour sauce, which utilizes red food coloring (FD&C Red No. 40) to good effect.
To give your heart hope that it will survive through dessert, get the Stir Fried Chinese Broccoli. It's cooked just enough to get it good and green, but still as crunchy as when it was pulled from the ground. Each stalk is full of chlorophyll and a firm, snappy bite unkind to dentures.
And if you need fish as part of your meal, there's no better way to eat your daily recommended allowance than the Deep Fried Flounder. It's a species as flat as a pizza and just as wide. Encased in raucously crunchy, golden batter and presented head on and tail intact, it's served wading in a salty pool of sweetened soy sauce. Beneath that crackly coating: a mild, supple flesh.
Some bivalves would also be good at this point. Sauteed Clams gets a sluicing in a sauce chock-full of onions, unpeeled nobs of ginger and whole roasted cloves of garlic. It's a fitting end and heady accompaniment to these slippery, squishy buggers, which were alive mere seconds before they were tossed into the wok.
And for starch, a nice plate of noodles is better than rice. Not just any noodle though, the House Special Noodle -- a crispy nest of deep fried noodle doused with a gravy-rich stir fry of meats and veggies. Act quickly if you want to eat it at its full potential. Because as the gravy seeps through it, the crackle of noodle mesh subsides. But even if you dawdle, don't worry; the dish is still delectably edible even when soggy. It makes for great leftovers the morning after.
Other than the egg custard tarts (which you have to order), Macau Street will put out a complimentary finisher to your meal. Ours was almond pudding poured and set inside hollowed-out egg shells. Freebies like this are rare, only seen when a Chinese restaurant is new and the servers are actually happy to serve.
And, after you crack, peel and eat them, you'll discover two new revelations: not every Chinese restaurant has rude waiters, and not all Chinese meals have to end with a fortune cookie.
To read Wandering Chopsticks' post on her trip to the original Macau Street:
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11614 South St
Artesia, CA 90701