I had a quick trip up to Orange County recently and my dad let me pick a place for us to have lunch at. I love when people let me pick the place (and the food) and I wanted to try something that we couldn’t get a whole lot of down here in San Diego – namely, delicious dumplings! I scouted around on Yelp and on a few other food blogger’s sites and ended up reading Kirbie’s post about 101 Noodles Express and decided that’s where I wanted to go for lunch.
This place is pretty conveniently located right off of I-5. The restaurant is small and tucked into the corner of a pretty packed shopping center with a few other Asian restaurants and shops. There’s a clipboard outside that serves as the waiting list and you just write your name in and wait to be called. We didn’t have to wait too long before being seated.
[beef roll – $7.45]
I made sure to order the beef roll that Kirbie had so raved about in her post. You get two pretty hefty looking rolls that sort of look like a burrito but cut into manageable, quartered pieces. It’s got slices of beef with tons of onion, cilantro and other goodies tucked into it and all wrapped together to form a pretty pinwheel-like package. This tasted very fresh and bright from all of the seasonings packed into it and the beef had a nice flavor to it as well. I dug it!
[cilantro-jalapeno side condiment]
This little jar of stuff is on all of the tables. It’s a condiment made with cilantro and jalapeno. I put a little daub onto my beef roll and it did kind of kick up the flavor a bit. I consider it to be for “oomphing” purposes. Did I really just say “oomphing purposes?
Yeah, I guess I did.
I didn’t think the beef roll really needed the condiment and while I didn’t dislike it, I did kind of prefer it without. To each their own!
[dan dan (minced pork) with hand torn noodles $6.99 / regular noodles – $5.99]
My dad and I were sitting at a long table shared by another group and my dad noticed this dish and he asked them what it was. We decided it was tasty looking enough that we ought to order it, too. You can get either regular noodles or hand torn noodles for a dollar more. I’ve never seen “hard torn noodles” on a menu before so I had to try it!
[hand torn noodles closeup]
These noodles had a very distinctive chew that I really, really enjoyed. The minced pork was delicious. My dad thought it needed a dollop of soy sauce but I liked it as-is. It was so simple but so delicious. The pork covered the noodles and coated them really well – I think I could eat this all of the time.
They have all kinds of noodle concoctions too – beef tendon, hot spicy beef, lamb soup, spare ribs, pig feet, eggplant, seafood and more!
[steamed mini pork buns / xiao long bao – $6.99 for 10]
Of course I could not pass up getting an order for Xiao Long Bao – or steamed mini buns. I got kind of boring though and just ordered the Pork buns. They also have crab meat, duck, beef, lamb and fish but I couldn’t get pork out of my head that day.
[dumpling innards with hot soup]
Here’s a peek inside of the steaming soup dumplings. I always eat the top off, slurp down the soup and then stuff the rest of the dumpling into my mouth. It’s the only way to not get a load of soup all over your shirt! As I have a tendency to do such things and hot soup is, well… hot… I do my best to be careful.
My dad did not heed my advice. He got soup on his shirt.
The dumplings were … just okay. The filling didn’t really do it for me. I felt like it needed something more. A little more flavor or something else mixed in with it. The pork filling was just kind of plain. But the hot soup and the wrapper were good, it just fell short with the filling. Oh well. Maybe duck next time! Or lamb! Mmm.
[shrimp pork fried dumplings – $7.49 for 10]
The parade of dumplings does not stop there, my friends! I also had to get some fried dumplings, OF COURSE.
I mixed it up a little this time. I got pork with SHRIMP. Aww yeah.
[inside the wee little fried dumplings]
These little fried dumplings were outstanding! Loved the golden crisp bottom and the fact that they were not greasy at all. The crisp bottom gave them a wonderful texture and the filling was well seasoned and balanced. There were a few veggies and seasonings thrown in to make this filling a total winner. The dumpling wrapper was soft with an excellent chew, too. My favorite item of the day!
In addition to pork & shrimp dumplings, they also have pumpkin shrimp, wild vegetable & pork, celery pork, fish, lamb, leek … the list goes on and on, really. Pork and shrimp though. What a mighty fine combination if you ask me.
Here’s a peek at some of the pages of their menu:
[fried dumplings menu]
[steamed mini buns menu]
[rolls & pan cakes]
This is not their full menu – I didn’t take photos of the whole thing, just the parts that I ordered from! I definitely want to revisit this place just to get some more of those delicious fried dumplings!
101 Noodle Express
5408 Walnut Ave
Irvine, CA 92618
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