Food: Economical Noodles Make Hacienda Slog Worthwhile

Malan Noodle Shop, located in one of the thousands of nondescript mini-malls that dot the San Gabriel Valley, is a paradise for noodle aficionados. Before even choosing what to have with your noodles (and a meal here would be pointless without noodles) you must choose the noodle size and shape. It seems like a democratic process where the diner can choose “small round,” “triangle,” or my personal favorite, the half-foot wide “large flat” behemoth. However, our wonderfully helpful waitress recognized my table of friends as newbies at the Malan Noodle art of noodle selection. Practically every time one of us ordered a dish and requested a noodle size, she pointed out that our selection was not the wisest, and recommended a better fit our chosen sauce. Every time, her advice was spot on.

Those of us living in Claremont may consider the San Gabriel Valley to be just a big canyon that we drive through en route to the lights and glamor of Los Angeles. Yet it is truly a gold-mine when it comes to Chinese cuisine. Americanized chop suey and kung pao Chicken are absolutely forbidden in this area.

Malan Noodles is in the neighborhood of Hacienda Heights, which is one of East LA’s many dense Chinese enclaves. Unfortunately, there is no way for Claremont-ers to get to Malan without a car, but it is a fairly easy drive from 10 West to 57 South to 60 West. I know, it sounds about as easy to get to as organic chemistry, but it really is simple by LA freeway standards.

Ratings:

Malan Noodle Shop:2020 S. Hacienda Blvd. #B, Hacienda Heights(626) 369-5602Hours:Open daily 11 a.m. to 9 p.m. for lunch and dinnerPrices: $4.95 to $9.99, most noodles are $6.95Food: **1/2Service: **1/2Atmosphere: *1/2Overall: **1/2

Restaurants with table service are rated with a grade from 0 to 4 stars on food, service, and atmosphere, along with an overall star rating. Restaurants without table service receive only one overall rating and are assessed with more of an emphasis on their overall value. All overall ratings take into account a restaurant’s prices.

4 stars: Extraordinary3 stars: Outstanding, very reliable, perhaps 1 area to improve slightly2 stars: Good but several flaws1 star: Avoidable, I probably did not get food poisoning at least0 stars: Should be closed/dangerous to a diner’s sanity and health

It’s only about 18 minutes from the campuses. The trip will require some gas money, but that expense is erased by the fact that 39 out of 40 menu choices cost less than $7.95, and the gargantuan servings provided me with two additional meals worth of leftovers.

Any restaurant that puts forth the extra effort to make its own products always wins brownie points with me. It is not easy to crank out seven varieties of noodles from scratch each day, so Malan deserves a round of applause. Diners can taste the freshness and care in this love story between Malan and its noodles. The restaurant’s signature dish is the Malan Beef Noodles, best with the thinner, round noodle variety. The broth is clear, the beef slices razor thin, and the noodles a perfect complement to the soothing broth. It is nothing spectacular, but I can’t imagine a better dish when rainy weather hits the valley. The most expensive item on the menu is the $9.99 “Chicken with Chef’s Spicy Sauce,” which features the large, flat noodles served in a forest of garlic cloves, chicken slices, random chicken bones, leeks, onions, and some sinus-cleansing peppers.

The chow mein section is on the less adventurous side of the menu, although the noodles in “brown sauce” combines delightful, wispy-thin noodles with a sauce somewhat reminiscent of an Italian ragu but beefier and, well, more brown. The pork chow mein was a tad on the greasy side and the noodles with spicy pork a bit plain. Just a warning, when they say “spicy pork,” they mean it.

There is also a menu section featuring 24 cold appetizers, which sit in a rather unappealing refrigerator to satisfy your tofu, chicken gizzard, and bean curd needs. The celery with broiled peanuts was enjoyable but completely overshadowed by the sublime peanuts. These peanuts are an entirely different species from the salted, roasted peanuts the we are used to. But do not dare leave Malan without trying the scallion pancake: crispy on the outside and not too mushy on the inside.

The atmosphere of Malan is a step above the traditional fast food restaurant, but don’t expect much in the way of decoration beyond a television playing a re-run of “The Office.” Service is very friendly and efficient, particularly when it comes to filling up the constantly empty water glasses. My one little beef is that the noodles all came out at different times, creating awkward waits for some diners. Malan seems to be popular mostly with locals who stream in as family groups, smiling couples, or by themselves for takeout. For lots of cheap but high quality noodles, along with a great introduction to San Gabriel Valley Chinese dining, Malan is your place. You just need to figure out which noodle size to choose.

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