Fu Zhou Cuisine, 643 West Duarte Road, Unit B, Arcadia, CA 91007, Telephone: (626) 254-0800. Open every day from 10:00am to 10:00pm. Located in the corner of the plaza to the east of the supermarket.
One cuisine that’s generally missing in the Los Angeles/Orange County area is Fuzhou cuisine (Foo Chow in Cantonese), a sub-set cuisine of Fujianese cuisine. While there is a Fujianese community here in the San Gabriel Valley, the last Fuzhou restaurant that shutter due to lack of sufficient business was back in 2013 when Fu Zhou Xi Xi Homemade Fish Balls had a 2 year run in Monterey Park. That restaurant was small and offered at least a dozen items on their menu, most of which were Fu Zhou cuisine.
Here at Fu Zhou Cuisine offers a more extensive menu, one that features some dishes that are from Fu Zhou, while the rest are Chinese dishes that they felt they need to serve in order to appease their non-Fujianese customers. One of the owners admitted that they believed that they cannot remain in business if they were to only sell dishes from Fu Zhou. They realize they had to offer popular items such as chow mein, boiled dumplings, soup dumplings (xiao long bao), wonton soup and fried rice. The co-owner added that non-Fujianese customers find the cuisine unusual because of their lack of familiarity with it — that customers may find the pungent (whether cooked in vinegar or red wine) aspect of some of their dishes to be not very favorable.
We learned more from the co-owner that Fu Zhou cuisine consists mainly of small dishes/tapas, fish and meat balls, thick rice noodles (similar in size as spaghettini), and large dishes have a pungent flavor to them. After that introduction to Fu Zhou cuisine, we placed our order, focusing only on Fu Zhou dishes. Some of the dishes were mildly seasoned, while others were bolder in a sweet and pungent way..
Though the small plates were main staples in Fu Zhou cuisine, we opted to try only two of them: Tea Boiled Eggs. and the Chinese Chives Donut. The eggs had a light flavor to them. The donut was crispy, but unlike the Chinese Donuts that accompany a bowl of congee, these donuts were made out of a whole wheat flour. That give them a tougher chew. Deep Fried Taro Cakes were a hit. They were crispy on the outside, but light and airy on the inside.
Two of the most popular dishes were the Stuffed Fish Balls, which was seasoned minced pork stuffed into a fish meat ball and served in a light peppery broth (white pepper); and the Fu Zhou Meat Balls, which resembled more like the Fu Zhou version of wonton soup, and it’s served in broth as well. The meat balls are made of minced pork, while the wrap is a “yanpi,” literally translated as “Swallow’s Skin,” but it is made from flour and a thin layer of pork. I really enjoyed both and can literally enjoy a whole bowl for a meal.
Stir fried rice noodles are offered in thin (vermicelli) or thick (similar to spaghettini). We opted for the thick rice noodle just to find out how different in texture it was from the vermicelli. Small pieces of pork and squid were tossed in with cabbage, shredded carrots, and scallions. Flavor was mild, not aggressively seasoned.
The Pork Belly in Red Wine had the most unique flavors of all the dishes we tried. There was a slight pungent and sourness to the dish from the use of the red wine.
The Lychee Pork and the Sweet & Pungent Pork Spare Ribs looked alike and had very similar flavor profiles, according to my dinnermates. I had the Lychee Pork but somehow missed the opportunity to try the Spare Rib. So I can’t say for certain if the flavor profiles were that similar. Guess I’ll have to go back and try them both side by side again.
According to the co-owner, there is one dessert widely served in Fu Zhou, and that’s the “Chilled Rice” (literal translation of the Chinese name. It consisted of cold cooked glutenous rice, watermelon, grass jelly, aiyu jelly (yellow jelly made from the gel of the seeds of the awkeotsang creeping fig), canned pineapple, roasted peanuts, and lychee syrup in a shaved ice bath. The texture of the cold glutenous rice takes some getting used to, but I enjoy the refreshing aspect of the dessert along with the different textures you get from every bite.
Definitely something different from the usual Cantonese, Sichuanese, Hunan and Shanghainese fare you find in abundance in the San Gabriel Valley. Oh, and they also sell bags of frozen Stuffed Fish Balls and the Fu Zhou Meat Balls, so that you can prepare them at home.