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Kang Kang Food Court ( Shengjian Bao + cheap Chinese food FAIL) – Alhambra, CA

As I mentioned in my last post, I had to come up to LA last minute to help family with a few things. It was a bit last minute and I tried to come up Saturday night but was too tired. So first thing early Sunday morning, I jumped in car with dogs and drove up. I didn’t have another Easter bunny moment BUT I drove up in record time. There wasn’t a lick of traffic. None. Zilch. Not even in the crappy I-5 section where it becomes 3 lanes and cars get jammed up. It was THE smoothest/quickest drive in my life.

I was in THE ZEN you know. I knew what I had to do once I got to LA and I was laser focused on that. Just calm thoughts, rainbows and butterflies (you know what I’m talking about)…so serene…then I look over at passenger side and see Mochi swaying…

Ohhhh no….Mochi?!…don’t!….no…it’s ok!…no…noooo….don’t!…..

Then she barfed.

Ahhhh mannnn…..

She usually doesn’t get car sick either :(  So not sure what happened. I was able to grab a towel in the back seat and throw it over the yuck area. But greatttt. There goes my rainbows and butterflies zen thingy I had going.

Once in LA, I was able to resolve a few things but was starving by the time 4p rolled around. I ate a quick left over breakfast before I left but that was around 7a or so. I have been craving shengjian baos for the longest time now. I went thru my stupid xiao long bao phase for some time but now that obsession has turned to SJB.

My ultimate shengjian bao can only be described as a xiao long bao BUT with a pillowy/yeasty/fluffy dough, pan fried to a golden brown, and filled with lots and lots of dumpling soup (inside the bao).

Is that too much to ask. I remember seeing a few of Kirk’s post from his food crawls in San Gabriel but had a hard time tracking down exactly which post had me first salivating for these things. Then I finally found Kirbie’s post about an SJB place that had a link to Kirk’s post as well

Kang Kang Food Court wasn’t even on my top 3 SJB list that I had picked out. BUT, the pics of their shengjian baos had me blown away. It destroyed my other 3 SJB places so I quickly asked sis if we could go there for late lunch/early dinner. She never gets excited about food like I do but she said sure let’s go and it’ll be her treat :)

I’ve SEEN Kang Kang when I’ve driven in the area BUT I always thought it looked shady and terrible. It looked so familiar but whatever, so does everything else in SGV right. I heard there was only street parking so I was dreading that. But when we got there, sis said that she remembered she had been to Kang Kang before and that there was indeed parking in the bank. Thank gawwwwd….

It was totally empty. I didn’t know if I felt lucky (b/c crap, if their SJB are soooo great, then I’m SOOO lucky to be the first in their non-existent line right) or if I missed the rush?

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It’s not a food court. It’s a Sam Woo type ordering system where you can pick and choose 1 or 2 or 3 item combos and they smash it all together in a container for you to take home or eat there. But don’t be fooled into ordering that. The cafeteria style fast food looked HORRIBLE. Like it had been sitting there 3 hours too long.

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There’s a lot of colorful pictures of their offerings on the walls but the best thing to do is get a copy of their to go menu and browse through the tons of items they have listed. Sis and I made pact that we would NOT order any of the already-made combo items sitting out.

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They have Taiwanese, Hong Kong, Northern China, Eastern China on their menu. Sis is able to read and write Chinese so she was able to help me decide on what to order. And she knew we’d be ordering a truck ton of food for the both of us that night :)

You go to the cashier, tell her the items number you want to order, pay for the items, tell her the table you are sitting at (look behind you when you order and you’ll see Carl’s Jr style numbers on each table), and they bring the food out to you when it’s ready. Pretty simple.

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- Number on each table

Each table comes w/ a jar of hot sauce, white pepper (soo much better than black pepper), salt, soy sauce, and I have no idea what the other thing is.

The hot sauce wasn’t my cup of tea. It was too fermented and pungent for my own taste.

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- FREE hot tea!

Comes out in a legit aluminum Asian pot :)

CASH ONLY. There is an ATM right at the back entrance though. Wayda keep it classy Alhambra :)  (that’s my Ron Burgundy impression…get it…b/c I’m from San Diego…no?….not funny?)….

So we ordered 5 items. We didn’t even flinch ONCE when we ordered either. Perhaps it was b/c it was empty and we both weren’t scared of being judged for being the piggies that we ere. I don’t know.

Be warned though, I took a lot of pics of the shenjiang baos. So use your mouse to scroll thru this section if you don’t care for these things.

So the SJB’s came out first which surprised me as I thought it would take much longer to make or something. But they literally came out in 8 min. WTF.

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- Pan fried shengjian baos $6.65  (8 pieces)

Dayummm. These things are beauties no. They looked handmade as each one had it’s own unique shape. And the sprinkling of sesame seeds and green onions was such a nice touch.

The pan fried bottom was browned nicely (not perfectly in my opinion but nicely).

It comes with a side of black vinegar for each person.

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LOOK at the soup!!!! Are you kidding me!!! Amazing. How do they manage to keep the soup in a fluffy, yeasty dough dumpling thing? Doesn’t the dough absorb the soup? Doesn’t the dough become soggy? I mean, it MUST be magic how they make these things right?! I was SOOO excited to take my first bite.

And well…this shengjian bao was weird tasting to me. I didn’t like it at all. I heard the soup pretty much splashes you in the face upon biting into it so we were really careful to take the first bite.

Did it sweep me off my feet like the way a good xiao long bao has romanced me in the past? Did I close my eyes and fantasize of immediately ordering another 8 pieces?

Nope.

The SJB soup tasted sweet, like weirdly candy sweet or something. It made me literally stop drinking the soup and pull the bao away from my mouth and take another look at it. Like is *THIS* what I’ve been waiting for all day? Is *THIS* what I’ve been dreaming about all my life? This CAN’T be it

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The browned bottoms are thick. Almost too thick.

I love regular dumplings/gyoza that are pan fried b/c I LOVE the crust that it develops when the dough reacts with the hot oil in the pan. But the bottom of these things had no taste. It tasted gummy but with a weird hard crust at the end of the bite.

The top of the SJB fared better as it had a nice pull and chew to it but the taste – sigh – there just wasn’t any taste or flavor to this dough IMG_3055 (960x1280)

The pork filling inside was alright but just salty. They listed their beef SJB on the menu but they were sold out that night so we opted for the pork (which is what I wanted anyways) IMG_3054 (960x1280)

I’m sorry – it was just sad for me b/c I love xiao long bao but was hoping to give that reign to the shengjian bao that night. SO HOPING. Maybe that’s been my downfall with most things huh.

But I can recall each time a xiao long bao has literally taken my breath away. Sigh…

Ok onto the rest of the food:

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- Squid stew soup $5.96

This is a soup that I grew up having in Taiwan. I love squid and we thought this would be the Taiwanese version we both grew up having. The squid is usually squid ground up into a meatball type thing. And that was my favorite part of a squid soup stew.

Well, this soup didn’t have that. It actually had squid. Like baby skin colored pink squid.

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That wouldn’t normally be a problem but the squid tasted really off. Sis and I both put our noses to the squid to take a sniff to make sure it hadn’t gone bad. But we both stopped eating the squid after two bites.

The soup itself is a huge portion. Incredibly generous for the price (and what’s up w/ these dishes ending in weird numbers like 5.96).

The black mushrooms (which tasted canned), bamboo, carrots, and cilantro didn’t do anything for this soup. And I was sad that this soup didn’t come out piping hot. It tasted hotter than the normal ‘warm’ but that’s not hot enough for this type of starchy soup.

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- Beef stew noodle $7.11

This was their claim to fame I believe (or at least this is why sis ordered this b/c there’s a posted article on the wall saying this beef noodle soup won some sort of award or something). They have a knife shaved noodle version of this soup as well but sis wanted to have the regular noodles.

It comes w/ a side of sour mustard greens (my fave!) so that was a great touch to this noodle soup.

But, sorry, again, the soup was warm and not hot. It’s just off putting b/c something like this, in my opinion, has to come out HOT.

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The noodles itself were plentiful (too plenty if you ask me). And the beef tasted, as sis described, ‘chewy’. It was tender but it tasted grisly (or mushy) of fat and tendons.

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- Meat and Vegetable wonton soup $5.96 (10 pieces)

These were huge a** wontons!! I couldn’t believe it when they brought this out (which BTW, the waitress said ‘you guys ordered all THISSSSS for only two girls????’

Thanks Lady – thanks a bunch man…

This was the one item that sis really wanted to have (which made NO sense considering she ordered the beef noodle soup AND I ordered the squid stew – well, it made no sense for *me* either to order the squid stew too huh upon knowing all these soups we were wanting). I asked what’s the difference in these wontons and she said that there is more vegetables than meat in these things.

When soup came out and I got all giddy about size of wontons, she said that they actually are served quite big in Asia and that she wasn’t impressed by the size of them here.

The wontons tasted like they were hand made but nothing exciting to write about here. And the soup, and I quote sis, tasted like ‘water with a lot of green onions thrown in’. BUT – I thought the soup had the best temperature of the three soups that night (silent internal hooorayyy)…

I’m seriously getting nauseous thinking about how much food we ordered that night. Writing and posting these pics right now is making me want to upchuck. I think I need some of that papaya enzyme Ben was talking about the other night…

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- Jin Dong Meat pie $5.73

This is pretty much a savory crepe pancake that is stuffed w/ ground beef seasoned w/ spices and ginger.

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There are about 4 layers to this crepe with the outer layers being incredibly crispy and delicious. There is quite a bit of ginger inside the filling so that was a plus for me. The only minus for me about this dish was that the filling was sooo salty. I guess that was the underlying theme in all the dishes that night.

We weren’t making much of a dent on the food AT ALL. I came in starving but only managed to eat a few bites here and there. WTF. And poor sis was having same issues too and she eats like a champ every time. But she had a hard day so she said her appetite wasn’t as strong (and the food wasn’t that great).

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- Our meal

Yeah. We weren’t getting anywhere at this point. Time to start packing it to go.

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- Beef noodle soup

This is HOW HUGE this bowl was. I don’t have no Shrek hands but look at how big the bowl is compared to my entire hand and a set of chopsticks. And the bowl of noodles took up an ENTIRE container (and that’s after sis ate a bowl of noodles too).

I forgot to mention that one of the best parts of this meal was the side of mustard green meant to put into the BNS. I pretty much munched on the mustard greens that night instead of eating anything else.

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- Meat pie and Shengjian bao

Pretty much filled to the brim of this to go container.

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- Squid stew soup

So much left over that we couldn’t put entire soup into the container. Here’s a sign for you – we didn’t even ask for a 2nd container for the extra soup left in the bowl b/c we really didn’t even want it. That’s like blasphemy to me and sis. But neither one of us wanted the extra soup.

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- Sis packing up the two soups

Youngest sis does the funniest stuff sometimes and doesn’t even know it. We only got ONE ladle for all three soups that night so it sucked b/c it’s not yummy to dip BNS ladle into Squid stew soup when you want some squid stew.

Sis only wanted the wontons from the wonton soup. No problem. I packed up the wontons, no soup, in a separate container.

She then starts ladling the beef noodle soup in container. After she’s done, she realizes she needs ladle for the squid stew. Look at the brilliance that ensues…

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She didn’t want to use ladle that had BNS (all over it) for the squid stew transfer. So she used the wonton soup (minus the wontons) to RINSE THE LADLE before she used it for the squid stew!

Sniff sniff…I’m so proud of my baby girl…

Needless to say, there will be lots of left overs for her and family. Was it a depressing meal? Not really. Was it a defeating meal? Maybe.

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- Total $34.24 (with tax)

So not terribly bad for 5 dishes right. But it just FELT like a lot at the end of the night when we realized that we didn’t really enjoy the food all that much.

Kang Kang Food Court
27 E Valley Blvd
Alhambra, CA 91801
Neighborhood: Alhambra
(626) 308-3898

Hours:  Mon-Sun 7 am – 12 am

….

….

I was confused during the meal b/c I asked sis if she knew about a restaurant named Shau May in Alhambra. She said no, *THIS* (Kang Kang) *IS* Shau May. I told her that’s impossible b/c I went to Shau May years ago when I was in college and we used to go to ghetto Shau May, late at night, for cheap food. She said the entire name of this restaurant is literally translated to “Alhambra City Kang Kang Xiao Mei”

I was scratching my head b/c my best friend lives down the street from here (back then) and I could have sworn we went to THIS location all those years ago after a late night study fest. Or was it the Monterey Park location that is actually called Shau May? Are they sister restaurants? They look like they have same menu.

The funny thing is that back then, when we went to Shau May, we thought it was a Taiwanese restaurant that had shaved ice and such. It was a total dump. I mean, back then, I think they actually displayed “D” ratings in the windows but people didn’t care. In fact, my dad used to joke w/ me that the LOWER the rating, the more AUTHENTIC the food.

So yeah, I couldn’t quite put two and two together. Have I ever been to this SGV location as I used to go to my best friend’s house in Alhambra all the time in college . But the SGV location is pretty clean and big so that’s why I’m confused.

Anyhow, it’s just that Shau May holds a very special place in my heart (not trying to be dramatic and all here) b/c I have quite a bit of memories here with my best friend and some college buddies.

Which is why I must be getting old as frek’ if I can’t remember which dang location I went to (!!!!)…

SIDE NOTE: I saw my best friend twice Monday and asked her about Shau May. She looked at me like *I* was a complete idiot and said ‘Faye!! That WAS the one we went to in college!” Then I asked if she was sure b/c I’m PRETTY sure it was the location in Monterey Park. Then she thought about it and said “oh, you might be right”. So we were both confused. 

I finally made it home to SD last night around 10p. It was another beautiful quick drive (beautiful b/c it was quick, not beautiful as in the scenery or thoughts or something). And none of the pups puked so that was a plus. Sometimes there’s nothing better than crawling into your own bed, snuggling with fluffy blankets, and watching Shahs of Sunset.

Make it a great week…

 

8 thoughts on “Kang Kang Food Court ( Shengjian Bao + cheap Chinese food FAIL) – Alhambra, CA”

  1. I just realized that you take like a gajillion pics for each post. And you said you take all those with an iPhone, right? I wonder exactly how many food pics you have on your phone. And I thought I had a lot. When people look through my phone and see all them food pics, they’re like wtf dang~ I bet yours totally tops mine lol.

    BTW how many dogs do you have? In the pic of you with all them dogs, are they all yours? Dang! Give me one lol. My friend recently got a new puppy that I’ve been getting so attached to. He’s so cute and I love playing with him, but I’m glad I don’t have to deal with the poop scooping, bathing, getting the house all messy, etc. I just get the fun stuff.

    1. Hi MK,

      It’s pretty sad but true but 95% of the photos in my phone are of food. I transfer all my photos to the computer every other day so my phone doesn’t get too bogged down. It would be funny to compare our photos on our phones though.

      I have two dogs. Mochi used to live w/ sis but has lived w/ me since last year. And Lifu, well, we all know his story :)

      You’ll have to take a pic of your friend’s puppy. Puppies are the best aren’t they? But yeah, you’re lucky you get the ‘good stuff’ – I SO don’t miss the poop, bathing, waking up few times in the middle of the night, etc etc of raising a puppy …

        1. No ma’am – no Instagram for me. I think I had it some years ago when I was on FB. I just saw your pics – cute pup!

  2. It’s sad when you’re looking forward to something and then it just turns out to be “meh”. Like… why was I waiting all day for this?! I personally like the dumplings/foods at Dean Sin World, I haven’t been there in forever but really want to go again one of these days…

    Poor puppy throwing up in the car, too! My dog threw up in my car only when she was a little puppy, she doesn’t anymore (thank god since she loves car rides). I once told my co-workers that I made it up to LA with no traffic and they looked at me like I was lying hahaha it’s great when that works out!

    1. Hi Mary,

      Oh I haven’t been to Dean Sin – did you write a post on that? I’ll have to check it out. I forgot your love of dumplings for a sec -

      At least our mutts are little – can you imagine if a big dog yakked in the car :(

      Driving with NO traffic to LA is seriously like seeing a double rainbow.

      Happy Wed!

        1. I liked the review but hate how it’s making me want to try SJB again!!

          Happy fri eve to you too – I totally forgot it was Thurs – wth…

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