>> Cindy's Kitchen | Eat the World Los Angeles

Wednesday 10 August 2022

Cindy's Kitchen

Colima Road facade

๐Ÿ…ฟ️ Ample parking in plaza.
๐Ÿฅค No Alcohol.

When you walk into Cindy's Kitchen you will see customers perusing the refrigerated cases and frozen goods, buying six big bags of vegetable buns at a time, bags of dumplings, and quite a few of the dozens of homemade chilled dishes displayed with pride. The case holding these cold gems is what you will probably see first when walking in, large bowls set out in a deli format ready to be ladled into takeout containers or into dishes to be served immediately at tables.

Named for the owner's daughter, twelve year old Cindy's Kitchen looks and feels a lot older than it is in reality. It would be easy to believe if someone told you this restaurant had been serving happy customers for 50 years. While the prices have of course risen a bit over the past year, the full smack in the face of inflation happening in the restaurant industry has not quite shown its ugly head here. Getting homemade quality dishes around $10 and not more than $15 somehow feels really good.

Spicy pig ears and cucumber salad

Of the over 30 rotating dishes in that refrigerated case, it is hard to narrow down the choices. Thankfully, they allow you to combine two in one dish, usually coming out to $7 or $8. The four in the photos above and below were all winners, including spicy pigs ears that come in wide cross sections. There is a great crunch in each sliver of cartilage, but this is unmatched to that of the chilled cucumbers which come with a delicious savory garlicky coating.

The seaweed salad has some bean sprouts for extra crunch and plenty of vinegar added to the savory tastes of its marinade. The seaweed itself is ever so slightly sweet and pairing them with the hot and sour shredded potatoes is a great choice on these blisteringly hot days. You can also find interesting cold drinks like the popular mung bean barley (็ปฟ่ฑ†่–ไป, $3, not shown) to wash everything down and further lower the temperature.

Shredded hot and sour potatoes and seaweed salad

If someone is not that familiar with Taiwanese food, there is still a good chance that they have seen and probably tried the island's beloved beef noodle soup. Cindy's Kitchen has always had a serviceable bowl but was never known to be one of the best in town. This seems to have changed in recent years, as they may have taken some of the comments to heart.

The broth of the beef stew noodle soup ($11.50, below) is still very clean but now there is a richness and depth in each slurp that may have been missing if you visited the restaurant before the pandemic. Choose the larger noodles, which do the soup more justice, and make sure to ask for their homemade pickled mustard greens. A big spoon or maybe just a full fist of them are a necessary addition to the savory, soy sauce broth.

Beef Stew Noodle Soup ็บข็ƒง็‰›่‚‰้ข

Big chunks of tender beef bob at the surface of the bowl but also underneath, the price to quality ingredient ratio of this dish will bring a smile to your face even if grandma's version is still better. Bring grandma anyways to secretly enjoy this bowl while claiming it is missing something, she deserves a break every now and then.

The second dish someone will probably reference, especially if they have taken trains in Taiwan is the bento boxes with fried chicken or pork chops served over rice. Those meat dishes are not the specialties here at Cindy's, but they do the ground pork that usually comes with those bentos about as wonderful as you could ask for.

Ground Pork Mushroom Over Rice ้ฆ™่‡่‚‰็‡ฅ้ฅญ

The beautiful bowl of ground pork and mushroom over rice ($10.95, above) is a must order, the kind of dish you take a first spoon of and look across the table at your dining partner nodding your head. Both the mushrooms and pork are very finely chopped and spread generously over a pile of fresh white rice, but what sends this over the top is that it is not just lean pork in there. Instead, it is also joined by smoky pork belly, which really puts this version on another level no matter what spices its competitors are using.

The tea egg that comes standard with the bowl is pleasing enough, but more enjoyable is the marinated tofu that they use with this and other dishes, firm and delicious in its own right. Do not push this to the side even if you are salivating for more pork and mushroom.

Hometown Braised Pork Belly ๅฎถไนก็บข็ƒง่‚‰

Another way to enjoy even more of this tofu is with an order of the irresistibly named hometown braised pork belly ($14.95, above), which leaves the pieces of its namesake in their full fatty glory. With no knives on the table, the intention here is to pop the full piece in your mouth at once to enjoy its many layers of deliciousness. Grab those near the bottom to make sure and get plenty of the dish's sauciness in that bite.

With so many bags of frozen dumplings practically staring at you from the freezer while you dine, it is hard not to order some. The usual suspect ingredients are all their for these Taiwanese-style dumplings, but the best choice might be the pork, leek, and shrimp combo ($9.50, below). These three very different parts combine for the right tastes and textures, especially when you craft your own dipping sauce from the condiments on the table.

Pork leek shrimp dumpling ไธ‰้ฒœๆฐด้ฅบ

Biteaway view of pork leek shrimp dumpling ไธ‰้ฒœๆฐด้ฅบ

Kids that grew up with Taiwanese grandparents here in Los Angeles might decry the thickness of the wrappers at Cindy's, but these godly dumplings are meant for feeding the masses and to fill the freezers of their many customers. The skin can not be too thin for dumplings like this or the wrappers will have too many tears by the time people have them ready at home. For those that enjoy a thicker skin, you are in for a treat.

They also have stacks of green onion pancakes in the freezer, certainly better than those now found at Trader Joe's. Eat them in house or take some home on a second visit, as well as the mustard green and pork noodle soup, the homemade Taiwanese pork jerky, and plenty of those other chilled dishes. The menu also has a long list of vegetable options for those that might find this article a bit to porky. Something for everyone.


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