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Chinatown Uses Its Noodle, Draws Crowd

June 20, 2004|David Pierson | Times Staff Writer

In the parking lot of the shuttered Little Joe's Italian restaurant in Chinatown, noodles were celebrated in innumerable ways.

They were being handmade, boiled, fried and slurped-up by hundreds of people at the first Chinese Food Festival, which transformed the corner of Broadway and College Street into an epicurean Eden.

"There's nothing like fresh pasta," said Roj Brandston, a chef from New York who said he attended because, "I love Chinese food."

Twenty-two vendors in makeshift stalls offered a diverse taste of Chinese cuisine, including Cantonese roast meats and fluffy Mandarin dumplings. The event, organized by the Chinatown Business Improvement District, was billed as a tribute to the neighborhood's history and its significance to the Chinese community in the Los Angeles area.

To the delight of onlookers, Chef Frank Wang pounded, twisted and stretched dough until it formed rubbery strands of Asian pasta.

"It's easy," said Wang, owner of Malan Noodles in Hacienda Heights and Monterey Park. "As soon as people try my noodles, they fall in love with it."

The noodles and four kinds of soup to go with them are made fresh each day at his restaurants.

Brandston, who until recently ran a healthy-food delivery service, watched Wang's every move, enthralled. He said he had believed the best Chinese food was found in Manhattan -- until he dined in Los Angeles' Chinatown and the San Gabriel Valley.

"It seems more intense out here," he said. "There's so many Hong Kong chefs, it's wild."

When the festival opened at 2 p.m., hungry revelers charged the Empress Pavilion stall. The famous Chinatown restaurant served steamed roast pork buns, sui mai and sesame balls.

"It's the best dim sum," said Santa Clarita resident Walter Bacall while standing in line with his wife. "We've been coming to this restaurant for years."

Two stalls down was Kim Chuy, a northern Chinese restaurant that served stewed pig intestine.

"Lots of people are eating the pig intestine," said Matthew Lim, owner of the nearby restaurant. "We had to serve it. It's our style. We had to stay true to our food."

A flier being handed out by organizers dared children to taste unusual fare such as chicken feet, tripe, jellyfish and 1,000-year-old egg. Anyone who did could receive a prize from the Nestle stall.

Other vendors included a traditional tea store with imported brews from Taiwan, an acupuncturist, arts and crafts, and produce sellers.

The festival continues today from 11 a.m. to 6 p.m.

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