Dalian-Style Cuisine in Los Angeles

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Originally posted on my KCET Food column, ‘Have You Eaten?‘.

Dalian is a city in Liaoning, a northeast coastal province in China that borders North Korea. We’ve featured another city (Shenyang) in Liaoning before, but Dalian, which is surrounded by the Yellow Sea and Bohai Sea, distinguishes itself from the rest of the province with its seafood-centric fare.

And, as is typical of northern Chinese cuisine, buns and dumplings are more common than rice-based dishes. Here are two Dalian-style restaurants in Los Angeles:

Tasty Noodle House
Here, start off with a jellyfish and cold cucumber appetizer. The texture of jellyfish can be off-putting for first timers; it’s an interesting mix between chewy and crunchy but it works well with the garlic-dressed cucumbers. It absorbs the sauces well. Jellyfish at Tasty is done multiple ways. If you’re adverse to garlic, you can opt to get the dish with chili sauce and black vinegar. Seafood even manages to edge its way into the dumpling selections. There are pork potstickers stuffed with oysters as well as shrimp dumplings and a rendition with sea cucumbers, chopped into pieces and folded into a dumpling with more pork and shrimp. Oyster soup makes for a warming winter escape and their whole fish, slow-cooked with tofu and clear glass noodles, is a great way to end the meal. It’s steamed and the flaky flesh is imbued with the umami combination of ginger, scallions, and soy sauce.

Dalian Small Stone Restaurant
Our favorite dish at Dalian Small Stone Restaurant is the fried oysters. The oysters are larger than quarters and are deep-fried, served with a small mound of white pepper on the side. This dish would work perfectly at a local pub. Too bad they don’t serve beer. Fried foods are a thematic occurrence. There’s fried pork, fried fish, fried chicken, fried eggplant, and fried intestines. Try the guo bao rou, known as double-cooked pork on their menu. It’s a northeastern Chinese specialty — a version of sweet and sour pork that’s deep-fried. The pork is coated with a sweet and sour sauce flavored with vinegar, ginger, and garlic.