Modern Chinese Cuisine Steeped in Tradition, but Accessible to a Wider Audience and New Generation – Succulent Roasted Pork Shoulder Char Siu, Supple Hainan Chicken Rice, Outrageous Pork Chop Buns and More! – Needle and Pearl River Deli [Thoughts + Pics]

Garden cafe in Alhambra which I used to frequent allowed me to do a number of customizations within reason. YMMV


Update 3:

With Needle opening back up during the pandemic (after shutting down initially), we wanted to support Chef Ryan Wong and see how his cooking was holding up for Takeout.

String Beans (Blue Lake String Beans, Allium Condiment, Dried Shrimp, Fresno Chili):

Excellent Wok Hei (Breath of the Wok), Chef Wong delivers one of the best versions of this classic Chinese Vegetable dish. The String Beans are still toothsome, beautiful Allium flavors, light brininess from the Dried Shrimp and just enough heat from Fresno Chilies. :slight_smile:

Pork Chop Bun (Pork Loin, Milk Bread, Spicy Salt Relish, Pickled Cucumber):

Chef Wong’s version of the Pork Chop Bun is a totally different take on the dish compared to Pearl River Deli’s Macau Pork Chop Bun. Here, the Pork Loin Chop has a gorgeous sear, is moist, the Green Onion, Ginger Sauce really punches up the flavor with every bite. :heart:

I think overall, we prefer Pearl River Deli’s Macau Pork Chop Bun just a touch more (different preparation), but this version at Needle is standout in its own way.

Pork Chop Fried Rice (Pork Loin, Egg Fried Rice, Pickled Vegetables):

A great Pork Chop Fried Rice has been hard to find recently. With Din Tai Fung’s drop in quality, we haven’t really found a good version around town. Needle’s new Pork Chop Fried Rice is very good: The quality of the Pork Loin Chop is clear, meaty, lightly porky, nice seasoning with each bite. This is definitely leaner and meatier than some Pork Chop renditions that have excessive fat caps / striations throughout.

The Fried Rice has good Wok Hei like the String Beans, but it was a touch too salty for our tastes (just a touch). It might’ve been an off day, but it was still quite tasty.

The Pickled Vegetables really helped add a nice crunchy, tart bite to break up the oiliness in the Fried Rice.

4th Visit:

Braised Beef (Braised Beef, Tendon, Lobok, Chee Hou Sauce):

In an interesting bit of coincidence, both Needle and Pearl River Deli debuted a Stewed Beef & Tendon dish recently (although Pearl River had a version of Beef & Tendon since last month, but it’s come back this past week at the same time as Needle).

Needle’s Braised Beef & Tendon has nice tender chunks of Beef (tastes like slow cooked Beef Shank), Star Anise and Five Spice flavors coming through and a beautiful Soy-Garlic long stewed flavor as well. :blush:

If there’s a minor quibble it’s that Needle’s version is mainly Beef and Radish, which are both tasty, but very little Tendon. Still this was great eating this over some Steamed Rice. :blush:

Hong Kong-Style French Toast (Milk Bread, Peanut Butter, Condensed Milk, Maple Syrup, Butter, Sea Salt):

I’ve never heard of Hong Kong-Style French Toast before, but it sounded amazing. Hearing @JeetKuneBao @beefnoguy talking about it, it seems like a wonderful dish. :slight_smile:

  • First, make sure you arrive a few minutes before your scheduled pickup time. You don’t want French Toast steaming in a To-Go container.

We got Chef Wong’s version right as it was packaged and opened it up immediately in our 4 person dining room (our car):

Beautiful crunchy, golden brown exterior, when topped with Melted Butter, Maple Syrup and a bit of Condensed Milk creates a crazy addictive “Dessert”: The center is melted Peanut Butter which just makes it even more ridiculous and absolutely delicious! :open_mouth: :heart: :blush:

(@JeetKuneBao @PorkyBelly @J_L @attran99 @hanhgry @paranoidgarliclover @TheCookie and others.)

Almond Jello (Almond “Jello”, Orange, Nectarine, Mango, Goji Berry, Lychee Jelly):

Needle’s take on Almond Jello is silkier, lighter and less dense than most typical Almond Jello Desserts offered around town. Actual fresh Fruit instead of Canned Peaches / Fruit. Wonderful. :slight_smile:

While Needle’s legendary Char Siu Pork is still missing, it’s encouraging to see them open up again for Takeout, albeit with a limited menu. Here’s to hoping they get enough business to make more of their excellent dishes before the pandemic.

PSA: Needle is now open for Lunch on Saturdays (11:00 a.m. - 4:00 p.m.) which is great for all of us that couldn’t make it to Needle for Dinner Takeout. (@Ns1 @attran99)

3827 W. Sunset Blvd., #C
Los Angeles, CA 90026

Pearl River Deli (Revisit)

11th Visit:

Beef Short Rib, Tendon and Radish Stew:

One of Chef Johnny Lee’s outstanding specials from previous visits, instead of using a chunkier, tougher Beef Brisket, Chef Lee uses Beef Short Ribs here and the Stewed Beef Short Ribs are so tender, sumptuous morsels of deliciousness! :heart:

The Stewed Beef Tendon is perfectly cooked, also soft, gelatinous (in a good way), and outstanding! :heart: (and the Stewed Tendon is a lot more generous here than at Needle.)

The Stewed Radishes soak up all of the nuanced Soy Sauce-based Stew, and there’s even a bit of fragrant citrus notes from the Sun Dried Orange Peel. :slight_smile:

When eaten with a bit of the Steamed Rice… total comfort food of the best sort (and I didn’t even grow up eating this)! :heart: :blush: :heart: (@J_L @PorkyBelly @paranoidgarliclover @JeetKuneBao @beefnoguy and others.)

Mapo Tofu:

Spicy, numbing, incredible flavor! As great as the previous visit. :blush: One of the best versions of Mapo Tofu in the city (even if this isn’t a Szechuan specialist). The use of Meiji Tofu continues to be a major highlight for this dish.

Salt and Pepper Tofu (Vegan):

Don’t let the fact that this dish is naturally vegan (no fake meats) turn you away from trying it:

Wonderfully crispy, incredible exterior, and a perfect balance of Salt & Pepper without veering into salt bomb territory (as many “Salt & Pepper (Protein)” dishes turn out in the SGV). One of the best dishes on Pearl River Deli’s menu. We devoured this. :heart:

Pandan Tofu Pudding (Tofu Flower) with Gingery Syrup:

Chef Lee has decided to make a Housemade version of Tofu Flower (Tofu Pudding) using Meiji Soymilk and infused with Pandan Leaf(!).

Initially it looks like it’s just liquid but then you realize it’s actually a silky Tofu Pudding “set”, and it has a noteworthy deeply earthy-soy bean note when eaten by itself.

But make sure to add the Housemade Ginger Syrup, with a gorgeous fresh Ginger infusion in every sip. Lightly sweet, spicy from the fresh Ginger, this is a fantastic version of the Tofu Flower Dessert. :heart: (@J_L @PorkyBelly @attran99 @hanhgry @TheCookie @paranoidgarliclover and others.)

Pearl River Deli continues to build on its foundation, putting out specials like the incredible Stewed Beef Short Ribs, Tendon and Radish dish, and now a Housemade Tofu Pudding with wonderful Ginger Syrup. I can’t wait to see what Chef Lee does next.

Pearl River Deli
727 N. Broadway #130
Los Angeles, CA 90012
Tel: (626) 688-9507


You can find that at any Hong Kong cafes here around town. It’s always dipped in egg batter and deep fried.


Thanks @moonboy403! Clearly I don’t go out to Hong Kong Cafes enough. :wink: Do you have any favorite versions?

Honestly, they’re all about the same because it’s such a simple dish. It’s really hard to improve it. After all, it’s just fried egg-dipped bread!


I think this was more of a food stall re-invention of the classic. Before the idea of inserting satay beef, there was a brief period where red beans inside was the rage for a short period of time.

Some HK cafe’s will allow remixing if it’s within reason… replacing peanut butter with satay beef will require more work than say, asking for instant noodles instead of spaghetti for that stir fried black pepper beef. So it’s really up to the owner/manager/kitchen. Hence floating the idea to the restaurant, might be a better approach than requesting it when you put in your order.

The classic version in HK looks like this (from wikipedia). Those those lightly crispy and flakey edges (like with some fried eggs) really adds to the experience and mouthfeel. The butter is either already on top or you place it yourself. Syrup however is always on the side and you pour to your heart’s content then chase it down with a piping hot classic ceramic cup of strong HK caffeine.


Thanks for the info @beefnoguy. :slight_smile: I had no idea French Toast and with Peanut Butter no less was a big thing in Hong Kong. The remixes sound really tasty. Do you have any favorite versions near you that you’d recommend I try next time I’m in the area? Thanks.

This is just an excuse to return to Hong Kong Cafe (Garvey x Garfield) for the rice noodle rolls and HK milk tea. But hey they also have HK French Toast!


Unfortunately no, the last two places where I really enjoyed up here have closed for good.

You could try the HK style French Toast at Tak Kee Lee in SF or maybe Smile House Cafe (both are now doing takeout only), perhaps as afternoon tea. They will likely not be willing to do oddball remixes on the fly.


I love PB on my french toast & waffles.


I must be Chinese.


Update 4 (To-Go):

Pearl River Deli (Revisit)

We were hoping to enjoy Chef Johnny Lee’s amazing Hainan Chicken Rice again, but it was sold out. :sob: (But we’re really happy business seems to be doing well!)

BBQ Combo 2 Item (Soy Sauce Chicken, Charsiu Ribs):

The Soy Sauce Chicken was very good today as usual. Nice savory Soy Sauce flavoring saturating beyond the skin.

The Charsiu Ribs however was disappointing: It seems perhaps the kitchen was rushed, but the Ribs were barely cooked through (which normally is fine on many meats), but in this case, the fat wasn’t rendered, the meat lacked the crisped outer bark and fall off the bone tenderness within. It was very meaty and with more chew than usual.

Considering the other ~5 - 6 times we’ve gotten the Charsiu Ribs have been spot on wonderful, we chalk this up to an off day.

Beef Short Rib, Tendon, Radish Stew:

Absolutely delicious! :heart: :blush: :heart:

For those that haven’t tried Chef Lee’s Beef Short Rib, Tendon and Radish Stew, it’s a must order! Slow stewed chunks of meltingly tender Beef Short Ribs, Tendon and Radish in an excellent Soy Sauce-based braise. With some Steamed Rice, and it is pure comfort food! :heart:

What’s even crazier is that Chef Lee’s Gyudon variation is even better(!). :open_mouth: We can’t wait for that special to return.

Pearl River Deli
727 N. Broadway, #130
Los Angeles, CA 90012
Tel: (626) 688-9507

(Check their IG for latest specials and updates):

Needle (Revisit)

When we first heard that Chef Ryan Wong was finally bringing back Needle’s legendary Char Siu Pork, we were like @PorkyBelly on Mango Passion Fruit Pie release day at Republique! :wink: :blush:

But when we read about the details, it turns out the Char Siu is Needle’s recipe, but they switched from Pork Shoulder to Pork Belly (because it’s more forgiving to cook at home), and there’s no cooked to order dishes, you have to make it back at home. No matter, we were still excited and wanted to see how this turned out.

Pork Belly Char Siu Kit (Cook At Home):

Some notes: This is a full on cooking process (not just a “reheat 5 minutes” type of situation that some FTC’ers might be thinking of from places like Providence, Vespertine, other To-Go menus, etc.). In total it’ll take about ~35 - 40 minutes total before you’re ready to eat.

Visually, it’s gorgeous! :slight_smile: Taste-wise? It’s what we feared:

The Pork Belly is more forgiving in terms of cooking through, but following the instructions exactly, there are still huge swaths of Pork Fat that are chewy, with gristle / connective tissue leading to an unpleasant mouthfeel. :cry: And it was about one-third to 40% Pork Fat per slice. (@TheCookie @PorkyBelly and others who are sensitive to this.)

To note, I love a great Buta no Kakuni (Stewed Pork Belly) at a stellar Izakaya, even with some Pork Fat in there, because the great versions have meltingly luscious Pork Fat with the super tender lean Pork as well. Here, the lean Pork segments are meaty and tender and tasty, but the Pork Fat and gristle detracts from each bite. :frowning:

Flavor-wise, it is the best Char Siu Pork I’ve ever made at home (it is the first one as well!), but truly it is better than average SGV Hong Kong BBQ places like Sam Woo BBQ, etc.

But for enjoyment, we’d rather have Chef Lee’s Char Siu Pork Neck and Pork Jowl at Pearl River Deli currently, and above that Chef Ryan Wong’s amazing, legendary Pork Shoulder Char Siu he served for dine-in at Needle.

It is so stunningly amazing and delicious that it’s a Best Bite of the Year contender. Here’s to hoping we see it return soon.

3827 W. Sunset Blvd., #C
Los Angeles, CA 90026


Guess what’s for dinner? :grin:

1 Like

Nice @TheCookie. Just saw it. :slight_smile: Is it your first time at Needle? Have you ever had their original dine-in Pork Shoulder Char Siu?

40% pork fat? Sign me up!!


Nope, first time at Needle @Chowseeker1999.

Ah OK. Hopefully they’ll add their original Pork Shoulder Char Siu back on the menu for you to try one day. I think you’ll appreciate how impressive Chef Wong is from extracting the textures, flavor, balance (and using a leaner meat) to make a fantastic Char Siu. :slight_smile:

Update 5 (To-Go):

Chef Johnny Lee and Pearl River Deli just announced a slew of specials for this weekend, but the one that caught our attention the most was his take on the classic Hong Kong dish, Wonton Noodle Soup. For those that didn’t get to try Noodle Boy (not to be confused with Noodle World, Noodle Planet, Noodle Galaxy or any other variation on “Noodle”), :sweat_smile: it was a hole-in-the-wall in the San Gabriel Valley that was making the best Wonton Noodle Soup (by a wide margin) in L.A. / O.C. Sadly, it closed a few years back and it’s been a sad state of affairs ever since. :frowning:

So we couldn’t wait to try the debut of Chef Lee’s Wonton Noodle Soup today(!), and brought along another dear friend from Hong Kong (socially distanced, eating 6 feet apart) to get her thoughts.

New social distanced outdoor tables:

Salt and Pepper Tofu:

This dish continues to shine: Chef Johnny Lee’s homage to the classic “Salt and Pepper (Insert Protein)” Hong Kong / Cantonese dishes, but here, made with excellent freshly made Meiji Tofu.

Make sure you uncover this dish immediately after picking it up to prevent steaming (and softening). Each bite is still a wonderful crispiness, a beautiful balance of Salt & Pepper and Chilies, but never too salty. The flavoring is addicting and so delicious (and 100% naturally vegan)! :heart:

Our friend from Hong Kong couldn’t stop eating this. :blush:

Macau Pork Chop Bun:

Just as incredible as before! :heart: The soft, fresh Pineapple Bun continues to be a great starting point, lending a touch of light sweetness, before you bite down into the ridiculous succulent, moist Heritage Pork Chop that is tender, not dried out, not overcooked, but just pure tastiness. Then the Housemade Maggi-Aioli for umami, the Caramelized Onions and you continue to have one of the most outstanding new items on the culinary scene in Southern California! :heart:

Still a menu highlight.

(New) Wonton Charsiu Noodles:

Wonton Noodle Soup is a classic, simple, humble dish. Our friend from Hong Kong tells us of it being a comforting, quick meal growing up in Hong Kong. She hasn’t found a good version here in L.A. yet.

Taking a sip:

Delicate, light, the Housemade Wonton Soup is a combination of Pork, Chicken and Shrimp Heads, and there’s a delicate brininess (very light) in the background. It is wonderful and the best Wonton Soup we’ve had since Noodle Boy! :heart:

But then you take a bite of the Housemade Wontons, a combination of Marinated Ground Pork and Shrimp:


Seriously, shut the front door! :smile: :open_mouth: :heart: :blush: :heart:

It’s got an incredible crave-worthy delicate porcine note, tender meatiness, and a sweetness from the Shrimp! Note that this is an incredible achievement as every Wonton we’ve tried locally tastes like Frozen Shrimp (briny, oceanic in a bad way, or tasting of freezer burn). Not so here!

It tastes like the sweetness you get from quality, Live Shrimp (but clearly there’s no way it can be at these prices). But it’s very fresh.

The combination with soft, pliant Wonton skins makes this:

The Best Wontons in L.A.! Hands down! :heart:

This is better than Noodle Boy! Easily! :open_mouth: :heart:

(Included) Pork Neck Charsiu:

You have an option to have the Wonton Noodles with Chef Lee’s Housemade Pork Neck Charsiu. For those FTC’ers who were on the fence about Chef Lee’s Pork Neck Charsiu previously, it’s gotten even better.

Today’s Pork Neck Charsiu was meaty, but tender, enough bits of fattiness, but mainly lean meat and still so tender and moist, it is the Best Charsiu for Takeout in L.A. right now! It was outstanding today! :heart: (This is until Needle brings back their Pork Shoulder Charsiu for dine-in.)

The Egg Noodles are tasty, and springy and matches the Wonton Soup perfectly well.

Together, a sip of the Housemade Broth, a bite of the incredible Housemade Wontons, and you have:

  • The Best Wonton Noodle Soup in L.A.! :heart: :blush: :heart:

Do not miss this! (@PorkyBelly @J_L @A5KOBE @attran99 @paranoidgarliclover @TheCookie @JeetKuneBao @beefnoguy @Sgee @CiaoBob and others) (I wish I could @ FTC because it is that good.)

Thinking about what Chef Johnny Lee and Pearl River Deli are doing right now is mind-blowing: This is some of the most exciting cooking in L.A. right now, honoring traditional Chinese recipes, but elevating it and making it more accessible to a wider audience (not by watering down, just presenting and executing it to another level entirely).

Pearl River Deli is already making the Best Hainan Chicken Rice in L.A., the Best Macau Pork Chop Bun (do not miss this!), a “Sandwich” that is worthy as the next big thing after Howlin’ Ray’s Fried Chicken Sando.

Add to that, very good Charsiu (and today’s Pork Neck Charsiu was ridiculous!), amazing standouts like the Salt & Pepper Tofu, Map Tofu, Beef Short Rib, Tendon and Radish Stew, and so many specials that rotate in and out.

But today marks yet another culinary highlight:

The Best Wonton Noodle Soup in the City of Angels. Our friend from Hong Kong slurped down an entire bowl by herself and turned to us to say: “This is comfort food! It reminds me of Hong Kong. Thank you!” :blush: It is a testament to Chef Lee’s skills and his passion for cooking, and is something worth seeking out and celebrating.

Pearl River Deli
727 N. Broadway, #130
Los Angeles, CA 90012
Tel: (626) 688-9507

(Check their IG for latest specials and updates):


If one makes great wontons, they will come…


I am so jealous that bowl looks so good! Yup appearance wise it seems the char siu is so much better than before (see my review).

Wow better than Noodle Boy! I hope he makes this a regular item on the menu! Maybe us FTCers can convince him @JLee ! Wonton Noodle Soup is so fundamental to HK food I hope he keeps it as a regular item. I am glad he nailed that broth. I was a little wary because the IG post said pork and chicken, but than later in the day he confirmed with a story that there is shrimp shells in the broth.

Are you going to try his Vietnamese specials? And thanks for the being the first to try out PRD’s Wonton Noodle Soup.

Who knew that HK food will be revived in 2020 by these 2 (PRD and Needle)