I returned to Focus Plaza and Dandan’s Guilin Rice Noodles this time for dinner.
Focus Plaza was just as sprawling as I remembered it. I tried to grab a spot in the two level underground lot to get my aging car out of the sun. No luck. In the summer months those are the first spots to fill up. I did manage to find some shade though beneath a tree.
The first time I came I was on a dumpling hunt. This time I was free to sample their entire menu. There’s very little English at Dandan’s. The menu has English translation but the order form is all in Chinese with numbers so be careful what you point to. The waitress spoke very little English but it didn’t get in the way of my ordering.
Like all Sichuan and other Western Chinese restaurants they offer a selection of cold appetizers. You can get a combination of any three for $3.99. I decided to go spicy and protein heavy. I ordered Super Spicy Beef, Super Spicy Pig’s Ear, and Super Spicy Shredded Tofu.
All three items arrived piled onto one plate. All three dishes glistened with red chili oil. There were red pepper flakes and stems of cilantro. The taste was numbing hot, that mixture of red chili and Sichuan peppercorn that I find completely addictive. The red chili burns at the same time the Sichuan peppercorns numb the mouth and tongue. It’s a taste sensation unlike any other. The beef was dried to almost jerky consistency and sliced paper thin. The pig’s ears were also sliced thin, chewy and gelatinous with strip of cartilage running down the middle that has a bit of a crunch. It might not be for everyone but Chinese food is all about a variety of flavors and textures. The shredded bean curd was something new to me. The bean curd was compressed until nearly the consistency of hard cheese then sliced thing and cut into strips like short noodles. To see it on the plate, it looked like a cold pasta salad. The tofu shreds held their texture until you bit into them then they melted inside the mouth.
The next dish was a bowel of their rice noodles. I chose the Guilin Spicy & Sour Beef Rice Noodle.
It was a large bowl of rice noodles, wilted lettuce and sliced cooked beef topped with pickled vegetables, toasted peanuts and a healthy dose of red chili flakes. You pour the broth over the noodles and start eating. The rice noodles are thicker than the one you find in Vietnamese Pho. If Pho noodles are vermicelli then these would be more like Thick Spaghetti. They made the soup very hearty and filling. The heat was intense with no Sichuan peppercorns to provide relief. The sour component came from the pickles, mustard greens and green beans. They had a strong vinegar taste that spread through the soup. This was a filling meal and at $5.99.
I also ordered something from the Guilin Country-Side Style Dishes. I got the Guilin Special Preserved Duck. I’ve had the Hunan version of preserved duck before. This was nothing like the Hunan preparation. The Hunan duck is like Prosciutto. What arrived at my table looked like, well, duck.
It was topped with peanuts and had nice flavored jus all around it. It didn’t taste preserved at all. No excess saltiness. The meat showed no signs of drying or pickling. It appeared to be just a well seasoned stewed duck (maybe that was the point.)
I’m glad I returned to Dandan’s Guilin Rice Noodles. It’s authentic, rustic, and very affordable. My entire meal of 3 appetizers and two main dishes came out to $20.28.
Dandan's Guilin Rice Noodles
140 W Valley Blvd
San Gabriel, CA 91778