Northern Chinese Dumplings and Baos at You Kitchen 婆婆家 in Alhambra, CA
You Kitchen, 1402 East Valley Boulevard, Alhambra, California 91801, Telephone: (626) 977-8088. Hours seem to be from 10:00 am to Midnight, daily.
Open since October, You Kitchen offers an array of Northern Chinese style dumplings (from Shen Yang) from xiao long bao (soup dumplings) to won tons and pan-fried dumplings. However, the menu offers up so much more such as cold appetizers like the Spicy Cucumbers and the Halogen Peanuts (made with star anise), steamed or pan-fried buns (shen jian bao), pancakes and meat rolls, noodle soups, and dessert (the one category of food we didn’t have enough room left in our stuffed bellies for).
As you enter, you’ll see the computerized kiosk you’ll use to place your order (dine in or to go), and the offerings are broken up into a few categories: Appetizers, Buns, Dumplings, Pancake, Wontons, Noodles, Desserts. And you can choose to order in Chinese or English. Strangely, though, when you finalize and submit your order, the final windows are only in Chinese, so if you don’t read Chinese, you may need to ask for assistance by someone who does, and the owner and dumpling maker, Mary Shao, can offer assistance as well.
All dumplings and buns are made from scratch and to order, so you’re getting the freshest available (as well as delicious), as long as you don’t mind a little wait. Owner Mary Shao works with 2 other employees in the kitchen, and she is the only one making the dumplings and buns.
For the most part, everything we had was delicious. The xiao long baos were so full of broth, they looked like they were ready to burst.
Pancake category included Scallion Pancakes, Hand Grasping Cake (which is a loosely shaped pancake before being pan-fried to a golden brown on each side. The Hand Grasping Cake had a hint of sweetness, and it was crispy and not greasy. The category also featured Pan Fried (Chinese) Chive and Egg Pillows (aka turnovers), and was crispy on the outside and very flavorful on the inside. Pork Stuffed Pockets, Beef Rolls, Sesame Chinese Pizzas and Meat Stuffed Pancakes (aka meat pies) were also part of the category. Everything, again, were tasty, crispy and not-greasy. Even the very thick and heavy Sesame Chinese Pizza was eventually finished off by our table. The Beef Stuffed Pancake we ordered could have been a bit crispier, but the wrap was nice and thin — easy to bite into.
They also offer steamed buns, as well as pan fried buns (shen jian bao). The bun itself was very thin and light, allowing you to enjoy the meat filling without having a mouthful of bread.
Dumplings can be ordered boiled, steamed, or pan fried. We ordered one You Kitchen Dumplings, made with marinated ground fish and coriander. Though served with a soy based dipping sauce, for me, the dumpling tasted better without it.
The final dishes of our meal included Shanghai Wonton Soup, Spicy Beef Noodle Soup (made with the thin noodle option), and Zha Jiang Mian (pork and bean paste noodles, made with the wide noodle option). Wontons in the light broth with seaweed and wood ear fungus was nice and refreshing, a good break from all those pan-fried foods. The Spicy Beef Noodle Soup was probably the weakest dish. The beef could have been cooked longer so that it would just melt in your mouth, and hopefully would have added more flavor and dimension to the broth. The Zha Jiang Mian was really good. The bean paste wasn’t as aggressive in flavor as the Korean version, and the additional of the ground pork and sliced cucumber made for a great bite. It also helped ordering this with the wide noodles, which were cooked a bit al dented and had that nice chew.
It was a delicious, but an extensive meal. Yet, I’m ready to go back and try some of their other offerings. And the owner and her staff are very friendly. It was fun to eat here.