I have always idolized and adored Anthony Bourdain. I love the offhanded, frank style of his utterly engrossing memoirs, I love that he has a bad-ass, drug-addled past. The fact that he has now somewhat softened, demonstrating an ability to appear at ease in any situation while still employing his dry, sardonic wit reminds me of my Dad, only serving to feed my fondness for this man who has traveled and tasted more than any other person alive. So of course I tune in, rapt, to his new show, “The Layover,” even though I come away from each episode devastatingly jealous. Nothing can inspire feelings of great, gut-wrenching jealousy in me so much as watching someone else eat food in Hong Kong. (My friend Bryan Tan’s daily Facebook posts entitled “Hong Kong Daily Food Photojournal” are trying to kill me.) Since spending a week in Hong Kong last year, I have become so enamored of the city and all of its gastronomical offerings that even the mention of Hainan chicken rice or Hong Kong milk tea sends me into a frenzy. In Tony’s recent “The Layover” episode in Hong Kong, one of the many dishes he enjoyed was a soup with shrimp wonton and egg noodles. Sounds simple, but this dish evokes a feeling of fondness in me—upon arriving in Hong Kong last year, we immediately dropped off our bags at the hotel and headed to Central in search of Mak's Noodles. These spindly, springy little egg noodles are, as I understand, something of a dying art, and they are wondrous. It had been a long time since I had eaten them, and when I saw Tony enjoying a bowl full, well, I had to have them immediately.
Thank God for the San Gabriel Valley. Very nearly anything you will find in China you can find there. And we did find my egg noodles in soup with wontons, and a perfectly executed version. Noodle Boy in Rosemead is, as one might expect, a highly unassuming, sterile looking strip-mall restaurant that smells of boiling fish parts. Their menu selections are more or less as follows: soup, noodles, or soup with noodles. There are toppings: shrimp wonton, (strangely lemony) fish balls, beef, cuttlefish balls. There was a special: noodles with shredded pork and special sauce. It was wonderful. There is also one vegetable option, steamed Chinese broccoli with oyster sauce or without oyster sauce. I would suggest getting that as well. You can really order anything you desire, because the soups with noodles are $4.75, and the portions are large; the broccoli is $3. You can add any toppings you like to your soup—throw caution to the wind, in fact. Your bill won’t amount to much. For a soup with noodles and wonton, another soup with noodles, fish balls and cuttlefish balls, a shredded pork noodle special (which also comes with a bowl of soup), and an order of Chinese broccoli, our grand total was $20.36. We had leftovers.
There are other places in SGV where you can get soup with spindly egg noodles and wontons—I’ll have to try B Open Kitchen's version and I know they have it at Tasty Garden, my new after-midnight go-to. But at Jonathan Gold’s suggestion I opted for Noodle Boy first, and as usual, JG was astute. The broth was really perfect, clear and thin like a consommé but with deep flavor. My craving thus satisfied, I am safe for now from the fits of jealous rage I experience each time I watch Tony Bourdain eating on TV. I’ll soon be back to my DVR for more punishment.