By Wei-zhou Chang
Shangri-la isn’t much to look at, with eight tables and spare walls. That doesn’t stop patrons from lining up out the door every weekend, with parking spots long gone by noon. The crowds at this nondescript restaurant let you know you’ve arrived at the right place.
The service can be spotty and the décor is far from luxurious. However, Shangri-la’s authentic Taiwanese small plates can’t be beat.
I ordered the simplest “you tiao,” or deep-fried dough pulled into long sticks, with soymilk. The soymilk was rich, warm and had just the right amount of sweetness, putting supermarket soymilk to shame. It was the perfect complement for the crispy fresh-made “you tiao,” which did not suffer from staleness or sogginess. The owner told me the “you tiao” and soymilk are made from scratch each morning, which frequently run out on Saturdays and Sundays. She recommended adding unsweetened silken tofu to the soymilk, which brought out the fragrant notes of soybeans.
My friend loves buns and is addicted to Shangri-la’s “yin si juan” or silver thread rolls. The dough is pulled into threads like noodles, then covered in a dough wrapper that is steamed, baked or fried. It is a Northern Chinese treat that is crisp on the outside and soft with dough “threads” on the inside. Shangri-la’s fried silver thread rolls combine crunch and tenderness irresistibly.
We ordered two succulent appetizers, shredded dried tofu and cold cuts of pig ears with tripe. The tofu was refreshingly cool with a hint of salt, perfect for the summer heat.
And the cold cuts were expertly made: the crisp pig ears and sliced tripe were set off by fiery spices. The owner told us the cold cuts are sliced by hand each day, for freshness and marvelous flavor. The cold cuts must be enjoyed in the store, before they get mushy.
Despite being halfway full, Shangri-la’s beef noodles are a must. Unctuous beef tendon and generous slices of meat contrast with sweet pickles, coming together for a satisfying bowl that is not too greasy. The noodles and meat are served in a spicy broth, with the slight taste of herbs making it just perfect.
My Taiwanese friend was impressed with Shangri-la’s authentic flavors and couldn’t wait to come back. We were full and paid just $12 a person. The menu has many more mouthwatering treats, which are best sampled with a group of friends.
149 Belmont Street, Belmont, MA 02478
This post is also available in: Chinese