Kang Kang Food Court
It took me a few moments to spot Kang Kang Food Court in Monterey Park. That was because the sign over the top still says “Shau May Restaurant.” If you’re driving up Garfield from Garvey, look for the big yellow ABC Café. Right next to it you’ll see lettering say Shau May Restaurant but once you get to the door, the menu says Kang Kang Food Court.
Kang Kang is a Taiwanese style food court a cafeteria style eatery where you can get 1 to 4 items with steamed rice and soup. But they serve things you won’t find in Panda express. Kang Kang offers dishes from all over China. Their menu includes selections from Taiwan, Northern, Eastern and Southern China as well as several house specialties, breakfast items and number of drink options.
I decided to go with the “Shanghai Pan Fried Small Bao” from Eastern China and the “Jing Dong Meat Pie” from Northen China. I placed my order at the counter and picked one of the numbered tables to sit down at. My food arrived on plastic trays with disposable plates and a plastic spoon. I had a flashback to my high school cafeteria.
The Shanghai Bao where a like the “Soup Dumplings” (XLB) I had sampled at Din Tai Fung or Mama’s Lu with one big exception. These were pan fried. They were gorgeous to look at. That had wonderfully golden bottoms and their white tops were sprinkled with black sesame. The only problem came when I bit into them to release the hot soup inside. The wrapper was hard and crisp even on top. It wasn’t like a dumpling or noodle at all and completely like a bao or bun. I’d almost describe it as a Beard Papa crème puff but with soup and meat inside. That posed a few challenges. For one the didn’t give me a soup bowl or a wide Chinese style soup spoon. I had to make do with a small plate and a regular sized plastic spoon. That may have just been a mistake on their part. They have a lot of soups on the menu, I’m sure they have wider spoons and actual bowls available. The second challenge the stiffer structure meant that there were often little pockets of hot soup still waiting inside even after I had chewed off a little hole and dumped out the broth onto the plate. Too bad I had so many difficulties because the taste was excellent. The crispy coating, the big nugget of pork filling inside and even the broth which I ended up squirting over the table all worked together beautifully. I’ll have to make sure I’m better equipped next time I order them.
The Jing Dong Meat Pie however was the exact opposite of the Shanghai Bao. Where the Shanghai Bao were complex and intricate, this was as simple as it gets. It was a ground meat with cabbage, green onions, and ginger wrapped in a pancake and then deep fried. The large pie was sliced into pieces and served. It sat on the plate plain and unadorned. It was fantastic. Part of the reason I loved it so much is that it triggered a taste memory for me. My family used to make our own egg rolls. We made them our own way with lots of meat and only a little bit of cabbage, not the restaurant version that was 80% vegetable. This meat pie took me back to those days. It had the crunchy wrapper and inside was pork with a big hit of ginger and a little tang from cabbage. It was simple, filling and inviting. It’s the kind of thing I could eat everyday and not get tired of.
I rounded out the meal with a trip to Taiwan for dessert. Kang Kang Food Court serves Taiwanese Ice Slush, a simple dish of 3 or 4 items on a plate covered in a mountain of shaved ice and a squirt of sugar syrup. I went with the 3 items and picked peaches, pineapple (both from out of a can apparently) and for my third I went with the sweeten read bean. The lady behind the counter scooped everything onto a plastic plate and then proceeded to bury it under a mini mountain of shaved ice. When I got it back to my table it looked like I had the top of Pike’s Peak sitting on my tray. The first few spoonfuls were nothing but ice and it was hard not to cause some small avalanches as I dug deeper into the fruit and bean mixture on the bottom. The peaches and pineapple were a really cold fruit salad. The red beans were sweetened but still had that texture and taste to it. It was strange eating beans for dessert but I started to like it after my second bite. The dish was mostly water so it was a relief on that blistering hot summer’s day.
The prices were reasonable. My three course dinner cost me $15. The price range went from under $1 to $11. The place was fast and cheap but still good. Don’t go there for an elaborate banquet. But if you’re low on funds and craving a little Chinese, don’t waste those dollars on Panda Express. Check this place out instead.
Kang Kang Food Court
104 N. Garfield Ave.
Monterey Park, CA 91754
Price Range: From under $1 to $11