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There are those among us indifferent to the pleasures of the Chinese dessert, the candied snow-frog ovary, the sugared haw, the bowl of sugary kidney-bean soup that often follows a Chinese meal. But beyond the mango cream and black-rice porridge and unspeakably exotic tong shui made with pearl dust and tortoise shell are the unlovely confections known as sweet-rice balls, marble-size spheres of pounded rice stuffed with payloads of ground peanuts, black sesame or toasted seeds. As served at Giang Nan, a Shanghai-style restaurant in Monterey Park, these rice balls are orbs of pure, gooey texture, a miraculous, dense substance that seems only a molecular bond or two from collapsing into liquid, that modulates into little bursts of pure, sweet flavor as it oozes down your throat. You may have had decent sweet-rice balls before - Japanese mochi is a somewhat cruder take on the form - but the ones at Giang Nan, floating in a warm, tangy broth flavored with rice-wine lees the restaurant specially imports from Shanghai, are so much better that they might as well be from a different galaxy, where glutinous rice tastes better than apple pie. It has everything you could want in a modest East Chinese restaurant- a dish of pork, firm tofu and bamboo shoots, for instance, cut into precise matchsticks and stir-fried in less oil than it would take to lubricate a gnat's bicycle, tastes of the pure, fresh flavors of its own mild ingredients, nothing more. But the soup dumplings, with or without crab, are impeccable, the bean curd with ham is delicious, and the Shanghai spring rolls are nothing short of amazing, almost liquid under their shattering golden skins. See full review.
Photos by Anne FishbeinChina, of course, enjoys the greatest food in the world, a cuisine capable of such subtlety and regional variety that French or Italian menus seem as one-dimensional as Hamburger Helper. A good Chinese chef can render... More »
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