Hidden and holed up in an unassuming, no frills, no-nonsense strip mall, Happy Garden shines stands out as a diamond in the rough.
It features a bona fide and traditional Taiwanese food, and having all characteristic Taiwanese of America’s standard family owned and operated Mom and Pop restaurants.
Regardless of repeated homesick journeys to Happy Garden, San Gabriel Valley has no other befittingly crowned king of authentic Taiwanese comfort food.
If you believe you have a firm understanding of Chinese and Taiwanese cuisine, think twice about registering other shopping center mainstays as genuine authenticators of Chinese cuisine’s blanketing umbrella.
What Taiwanese cuisine fundamentally boils down to is the meat and potatoes — untouched by byproducts, straightforward honest-to-goodness plates with seafood du jour or garden-fresh vegetables steaming from 200-degree woks.
However, Happy Garden’s 165-dish bill of fare may seem unusual compared to other lightweight menus.
Notwithstanding Happy Garden’s shoddy drab exterior and San Gabriel Square Plaza milieu, I ordered Simmered Pig’s Ear and Seaweed in Oyster Sauce and Sliced Goose Meat as appetizers and Papaya Milk as a counterbalancing beverage.
Following a styrofoam cup of Papaya Milk and nibbling on gelatinous Simmered Pig’s Ear and Seaweed, I spy from the corner of my eye Sliced Goose Meat and Mayonnaise-dipped Bamboo Shoots. Straightaway, I dived for the Sliced Goose Meat — sans an unpalatable gaminess and markedly analogous to beef’s grain.
Unsurprisingly, Mayonnaise-dipped Bamboo Shoots were unappetizing as they were lukewarm and fibrous.
Hotdog Fried Rice and Fried Oysters were underneath the buckling poundage of generous cups of green pea and orange carrot freckled golden fried rice and camel-hued Fried Oysters.
The last thing you expect is a free dessert — homemade Green Bean Soup.
Amidst Taiwan’s newfangled fallout with plasticizers, Happy Garden takes the liberty of whiting out boba from the Green Bean Soup recipe and in turn churning out mouthwatering ambrosia. Happy Garden concretely fits the bill as a San Gabriel Valley staple and heart and beacon of Taiwan’s entrenched food culture.
Location: 1227 E. Valley Blvd., Alhambra, CA 91801
Phone Number: 626-281-9261
Take Out: Yes
Price: Fluctuating prices dependent on category of dishes
Side Orders: $0.75 to $7.95
Soups: $4.50 to $7.50
Main Dishes: $4.50 to $20.95
Drinks: $1.25 to $4.50
Order this: Papaya Milk, Sliced Goose Meat, Fried Oysters, Hotdog (Substituted for ham) Fried Rice, Simmered Pig’s Ear and Seaweed with Oyster Sauce (Side Dishes)
Skip this: Mayonnaise-dipped Bamboo Shoots
Closed Mondays and 3:00 p.m. to 5:00 p.m. daily
Sunday through Thursdays: 11:00 a.m. to 10:00 p.m.
Friday through Saturday: 11:00 a.m. to 10:30 p.m.
Details: Lot parking
Editor’s Note: Ms Liu is a local resident and a student who contributes to the Journal.