Critic's Choice: Hitting the Rowland Heights

You've cruised Valley Boulevard through Alhambra and Monterey Park, hitting all the culinary hot spots: 101 Noodle Express for the Shandong-style beef roll, Savoy Kitchen for Hainanese chicken rice or Taste of Chong Qing for Sichuan baked fish in pickled peppers. A few miles east might lie less-explored territory, Rowland Heights. The neighborhood's a trove of Taiwanese and other delights, including its bakeries, noodle shops and theme restaurants (cave women and elementary school among them).

Stinky Tofu King: The original Rowland Heights branch of Tofu King reigns over a shopping mall alleyway food court. It's a tiny corridor of a shop colored three shades of bright pastel. Patrons can sit at one of the three cramped tables, soaking in the humid perfume of frying stinky tofu, or sit outside at one of the white plastic patio tables. It's still tops for old-school Chinese night-market, street-food charm. There is, of course, the stinky fermented tofu, but another bestseller is mushroom and sliced-pork rice with soy sauce egg, a melty concoction of fatty joy.

18414 Colima Road, Rowland Heights, (626) 964-6250. (Also, 713 W. Duarte Road, Suite C, Arcadia, 626-254-0223.)

Java Spice: The nasi bungkus here is a magnificent Indonesian meal, a picnic banquet swathed in fresh-cut banana leaf. Inside are generous chunks of coconut-infused chicken, chile-laced beef rendang, brightly spiced jackfruit curry, chunky fish cake, tofu nuggets and a blazing scarlet sambal-topped egg. Nasi bungkus is served only on weekends. During the rest of the week, try the always-popular nasi goreng (shrimp and egg fried rice) topped with chicken sate, or gado gado (peanut-sauced raw vegetable salad).

1743 Fullerton Road (in Yes Plaza), Rowland Heights, (626) 810-1366,

Class 302: The waitresses are dressed in school uniforms, the menu is written (in Chinese) on a big blackboard at the front of the room and diners sit at wooden desks. After-school specials — "railroad-style" pork chops and egg roll-like chicken "rolls" — come stacked in old-fashioned lunch tins. But everybody comes for the shaved ice: a mix-and-match affair with options such as tapioca, almond tofu, red bean, grass jelly and fudge. If you want the waitress' attention, raise your hand.

1015 S. Nogales St., No. 125, Rowland Heights, (626) 965-5809.

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