It’s almost unfathomable to imagine a Chinese meal without rice. But for much of China—and Chinese O.C.—bread is just as essential.
At 101 Noodle Express, the beef roll reigns. It’s probably as close as you’ll come to a Chinese burrito—a flaky flatbread mottled with char and wrapped around hoisin-slicked beef and sprigs of cilantro. Its charms are instantly evident in the warm, crispy, salty-sweet pleasure of the beef. Yet it wouldn’t be nearly as memorable if it weren’t for the flatbread, a street food staple about as thin as a crepe but with added strength and heft.
Many of China’s Muslims live in the country’s northern and western expanses where the arid land is more suited to wheat than rice. And so it’s no surprise that at Mas’ Chinese Islamic Restaurant, it’s all about the stellar sesame bread. The thick sesame bread (something like a steroidal cousin of shao bing) is a sight to behold: a perfectly browned disc of fluffy, spongy bread as thick as a deep-dish pizza and so studded with sesame seeds that it seems as if each slice could sprout. It’s excellent eaten alone and even better when soaking up the sauces of accompanying dishes.
Breakfast isn’t often a sugary affair in Chinese kitchens. But there’s always room for a little decadence. At A&J Restaurant, it calls for a cup of soymilk and a crispy cruller called youtiao. Dipping this unglazed, still-steaming donut (A&J calls it a Chinese churro) into the cool soymilk is so satisfying that it easily could become your new morning ritual.
The beef roll, brawny as it is, only accounts for about half a meal at 101 Noodle Express. Add a bowl of dan dan noodles, too—a skein of chewy noodles topped with a meaty slurry of spicy pork and julienned cucumber. Just make sure to keep a cup of soymilk nearby to quench the burn.
101 Noodle Express
5408 Walnut Ave.
Mas’ Chinese Islamic Restaurant
601 E. Orangethorpe Ave., Anaheim
14805 Jeffrey Road Irvine