Let me tell you, I don’t even know how many times I’ve woken up hungover in my three years at UCSB and been like, “Wow, I think I’ll go outside and get some Asian food!”

Actually, I do. The answer is zero. Notwithstanding the fact that I generally don’t want to eat when I’m hungover, Isla Vista just doesn’t have authentic, affordable Asian food within walking distance.

Until now.

Lao Wang is IV’s latest and greatest, marketing itself as “Asian street food.” It recently moved from Old Town Goleta to Pardall Road, replacing its predecessor, Otaco (RIP, you will be missed).

The menu is simple, boasting only three choices: malatang noodles (a mixture of noodles, toppings, and soup that is similar to hot pot), buns, and sides. And this might sound super easy to navigate, but ya girl somehow managed to awkwardly stand in front of the cash register for upwards of ten minutes anyway.

It was with great effort and struggle that I finally placed my order: Pork Belly Bao and Hot n’ Spicy Malatang noodles with chicken and beef tendon.


They say you never forget your first, and it’s true—I’ll never forget the piercing, burning pain of taking a mouthful of too-hot egg noodles. And they also say spitters are quitters, but that is exactly what I did; I gracefully and elegantly spat out my mouthful of hellfire and decided to turn my attentions to the bao in front of me.

Tiffany Wong

I would argue that the bao is actually the star of the menu. It’s exquisitely soft, fluffy, and holy cow the portion size is tiny. I drizzled Sriracha on the bao before actually eating it, because let’s face it—Sriracha makes everything better. And when ya girl does food, she does it right.


Tiffany Wong

I had absolutely no expectations for the malatang, so I was pleasantly surprised to discover that it was average. My “hot n’ spicy” soup base would be more appropriately named “bland n’ oily,” but it was acceptable after I liberally doused it with vinegar, white pepper, chili oil, and soy sauce.

cookie, pizza
Tiffany Wong

The toppings, beef tendon and chicken, were pretty underwhelming. The tendon’s taste and texture were standard, but I found the chicken to be tough and dry—when I did find chicken to begin with.

The overall verdict? Both foods were fine in the moment, but tasted pretty salty afterwards—almost as salty as I was about the prices. Two baos for $5.59, plus $9.95-$12.95 for noodles? Eh.

For a quick craving fix, Lao Wang is definitely the place to hang. But for the rest of us humble folk, I’d advise spicing up your ramen at home or sliding on over to Hana Kitchen.

TL;DR: Not bad, but too bougie.