All throughout Chinese Food Week, we'll be interviewing the chefs and restaurateurs behind some of LA's hidden gem Chinese food establishments. Today: JTYH.
Chef Shi ("?", not pronounced like "she") of JTYH shaves 20 pounds of dough into individual noodle strands a day. Here, he speaks of pho, of Hunanese kitchen pains, and being reviewed by Jonathan Gold.
Where did you learn your culinary skills? At 20, I learned Western cuisine at ?????? or Kiessling Restaurant, Tianjin. Kiessling came with the Germans, after the Eight-Nation Alliance and the Boxer Rebellion. It's 110 years old now, started by Kiesssling & Bader. I've been in America for 10 years. Right before I came, China held a "Western Food Festival," and Kiessling was prominently featured. At that time, after eight years, I realized my Western-centric cooking had a narrow focus, and it was time to go. I wanted to learn Lu (Shandong) cuisine, Yue (Cantonese) and started staging everywhere. I didn't learn how to cook "Chinese" food until I was 28. But I know Halal Chinese cuisine! When I came to the US, that was all wasted. I cooked Western food, the Chinese buffet just wanted a mass production line cook.
So how did this ?? (Shanxi) knife cut-noodles business come about? I didn't touch noodles back in China. I never shaved noodles in China. Didn't pull 'em, didn't cut them. This requires technique, and you know, cooking really interests me. At the end of 2002, I joined Heavy Noodling, stayed for four and a half years. The Heavy Noodling brand name has been around for almost 20 years.
But Heavy Noodling closed in 2007. We wanted to buy it, but the rent hike was insane, the interior decrepit. So we all worked here and there for a couple years, until we convinced the owner to re-open. I tried cooking Hunanese food, but the spiciness choked me. I wanted a cleaner place, less smoke. I also developed the noodle menu at "Hui Lau Shan" (Tasty Dessert, San Gabriel, CA).
You opened JTYH mid-2009. April of 2012 will be 3 years.
And then the newspaper [LA Weekly] article came out! So you know the writer [Jonathan Gold]? Is she the same writer as the Pasadena paper. The critic who came was a woman, with glasses.
[Mass confusion follows. Have to convince Chef that Jonathan Gold is a man and doesn't wear glasses. And that the woman was a photographer.]
Is Heavy Noodling II much different from the original? Old Noodling had a rather simple menu. Here, we appease the loyal customers, but we also expanded to cover Southern and Northern cuisine. All kinds of people come. We have a small kitchen. The menu can take no more expansion, else nothing would make it to the pass.
What do you like to eat outside of your own joint? Me? I like pho. That big place? By the supermarket, down
Valley [Pho Pasteur].
Do you get an MSG headache? Yah, I don't drink the soup. Last time, I drank the soup. Had to drink bottles of water. My soups? Pure stock. What you're tasting are ingredients.
And your most famous dish at the restaurant? Xian La lamb riblets. It's great beer drinking food. But the white people, they bring the article, and they order everything!
·All Chinese Food Week 2011 Coverage [~ELA~]
— Tony Chen