Since Monterey Park’s Beijing Pie House opened in late 2010, the meat pies—xian bing—have received steady praise from the food-writing community and diners alike. The lamb-filled version, served in the cozy confines of the humble diner, are singled out in particular, making favorite-dish lists and helping to propel the restaurant itself onto other best-of lists.
While it’s understandable why the lamb pies have been the focus, there are a couple of pies on the small menu that have gone woefully underreported. In a restaurant known for their meat pies, the two vegetable selections are worthy of note.
If you aren’t familiar with them, xian bing are a Northern Chinese specialty. Described as hockey puck or doorknob sized, they’re wrapped in a fairly thin skin of dough and pan-browned before serving. Which brings us to the vegetable options at Beijing Pie House, the radish pie and the wild vegetable pie.
The radish pie is one of the most unique items I’ve come across, with its filling of shredded radish that somehow mimics fish through its texture and mouthfeel. It’s moist, flavorful, and not likely what one would expect. The wild vegetable pie is filled with a mélange of Chinese greens, mushrooms, wood ear and glass noodles, all of which are so finely minced that it’s difficult to figure all of the ingredients.
A tabletop caddy features Chinese black vinegar, chile oil and soy sauce. A small splash of any is well-suited to the xian bing, though to our taste, the vinegar works better with the meat pies than with their veggie counterparts. A few drops of chile oil give an added dimension to the radish pie, while a light sprinkle of soy sauce compliments the wild vegetable pie. Both are fine unadorned as well.
A word of caution to vegetarians. While China has a rich history of vegetarian food, one should never assume a vegetable-centric dish to equate to meat-free. It’s always best to check with your server, and knowing a bit of Chinese helps. While there are no obvious signs of meat, there are always broths—and possibly lard—to consider. Regardless of that, these two vegetable options provide a great alternative to the meat-intensive pies, and warrant some love of their own.
Beijing Pie House, 846 E. Garvey Ave., #A, Monterey Park
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