Eat This Now: Chicken and Pork Noodle Soup at Yu's Garden

At many restaurants, $20 buys a limp salad and a couple drinks for dinner. At Yu's Garden in Irvine, $20 buys a Taiwanese feast. (It's a $20 minimum purchase to use your credit card, because who carries cash?) Order your meal to go, and you'll choose from a buffet of ready-made hot and cold dishes that beckon with their bright colors and smells; order in, and choose from an expansive menu board that spans the length of said buffet. Menu headings list an array of seafood, beef, pork and vegetarian meals and sides, though the chicken section inexplicably contains only two (delicious) chicken preparations. Whatever and however you order, you'll get an obscene amount of cheap, no-frills comfort food.


The menu's best offering is the chicken and pork noodle soup, satisfying in its simplicity. A face-sized bowl nearly spills over with al-dente noodles and a light broth, then topped with bone-in hunks of fried chicken, a ground pork mixture and spinach. The light broth is an ideal neutral base, as the soy-sauce laden pork and the smoky chicken pieces lend the dish its savor. The chicken's crispy-skin is reminiscent of the crackled exterior of lechon kawali, or fried pork belly, while spinach provides a much-needed bitterness to cut through the soup's richness. And that nebula of noodles take the dish from hearty to rib-sticking. Save room though: that $20 left you with a table full of other dishes to work through.

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