la dumpling crawl
Two weekends ago we embarked on yet another food crawl. This crawl’s theme? DUMPLINGS.
Now, while I love dumplings and I love San Diego, San Diego has a serious lack of delicious dumplings so we headed north to Los Angeles for a dumpling crawl. Sorry, San Diego. I still love you.
The following dumplings are in order of visitation. I’ll give you the low-down on the numbers and statistics at the end of this post (or you can skip to end if you hate photos of food, I guess…) and who “won” the dumpling crawl.
My dumpling crawl sheet which was adjusted from the Red Velvet Cupcake one. I wasn’t feeling creative this time, what can I say?
Dumpling Crawl Stop #1: Din Tai Fung
1088 S Baldwin Ave
Arcadia, CA 91007
We left a little before 8AM from my house to head north to LA. We took two cars and got to Din Tai Fung right around 10AM when they opened their doors at the original location. We got free tea here! Score on free tea (I swear this didn’t bribe us. I think.)
Steamy dumpling room!
The manager, Andy, came by to chat with us and noticed we were in this big ass group (10 of us) with sheets of paper. We told him what we were up to that day. He was very nice and accommodating.
Item A) Xiao Long Bao aka Soupy Dumplings / $8 for 10 pieces
“So pretty! Nice little twirl and good chewy texture.”
“18 folds per dumpling. Great QC.”
“Decent soup amount. 18 folds. No break.”
“Wrapper doesn’t add much.”
“Really juicy and tasty. Filling a little salty. Very good in appearance, almost artistic looking.”
“Good consistency. Impressive presentation with lots of folds in the dough.”
“Perfect balance of soup & pork!”
“Perfect bite sized pieces. Good filling to wrapper ratio.”
“Tastes like chicken noodle soup!”
Item B) Pork Buns / $2 each
“Juicy pork sans soupiness. Very fluffy!”
“Bun was very good.”
“Fluffy bun, pork yeast bun good.”
“Good wrapper but tastes the same as the last one.”
“Really moist meat, lots of flavor, fresh bun.”
“Chewy and yummy. One critique is that the pork falls out of the bun easily.”
“Light, spongy + slightly sweet bun – very tasty!”
“The filling was my favorite, super tender, generous meat to bun ratio.”
“Just like the soup bun, but drier.”
Item C) Red Bean Buns / $2 each
“Red bean tasted different… almost…. too beany?”
“It was good but not a big fan of red bean. Would give a ‘5’ if filled with chocolate/pizza/hot dog.”
“Red bean filling nice, creamy, not overly sweet.”
“Delicious, filling, and hot.”
“Red bean paste was a little too sweet and was falling out of the dough.”
“Respectfully decline – don’t like red bean!”
“Spongy bread, very finely ground red bean filling, lightly sweet.”
“Excellent flavor, red bean was not mealy.”
Dumpling Crawl Stop #2: Luscious Dumpling
704 W. Las Tunas Dr.
San Gabriel, CA 91776
Our next two stops on the dumpling crawl were actually right next door to each other, sharing the same wall. Luscious Dumpling was the only place where we had to wait for a table (about 30 minutes or so). Before our table was ready, we were able to put in our order ahead of time so when we were seated, we were given our food right away.
The guy made sure to let us know that we could not order any more food once we sat down if there was a wait for tables. He seemed skeptical of our small order for our large party of 10. It’s okay, dude. We know how it looks.
Item A) Xiao Long Bao / $7 for 8 pieces
“Wrapper broke. A bit… purse shaped. Bit salty. Thick wrapper.”
“Wrapper seemed gluey. Was better with the hot sauce.”
“Salty! Difference appearance. Nice thick skin but SALTY.”
“Not so pretty, but tastes ok. Meat is flavorful.”
“Wrapper was a little chewy and bland. Chewy and salty. Good level of soup.”
“Looks gummy and formless. Wrapper a little too thick and the meat is crumbly, greasy. Not a fan.”
“Chewier, denser wrapper. Much stronger ginger than pork flavor.”
“Not very juicy.”
Item B) Pan Fried Pork / $7 for 10 pieces
“Served all stuck together. Nice crispness on exterior but weirdly gummy… what was that texture?!”
“Good crunch, filling fell out before eating.”
“Came out fast. Crispy skin. A bit dry, pork filling ok.”
“Greasy. Not complaining.”
“Well fried, not much meat but it is tasty.”
“Wrapper tasty, good level of crispiness. Bit too oily. Flavor was good.”
“Little wet & mushy, not very crispy. Not a whole lot of flavor.”
“I liked the rich, though greasy, flavor. Wrapper is a little thick.”
Dumpling Crawl Stop #3: Hui Tou Xiang
704 W. Las Tunas Dr.
San Gabriel, CA 91776
While we were waiting for a table over at Luscious Dumpling next door, we were hanging out in front of Hui Tou Xiang because it was a little crowded. T needed to use the restroom and asked if he could use the one in Hui Tou Xiang… and they told him to go next door. I’m pretty sure they were pissed we were waiting for Luscious. Little did they know we’d be in here next!
This was the point in the crawl that everyone got hungry and ordered extra stuff. We also ordered extra dumplings here because if you buy 5 you get the 6th free. Okay, twist my arm.
Item A) Xiao Long Bao / $6.75 for 10 pieces
“Weird spice. Good wrapper. Not as hot. Wrapped to order.”
“Good folds and wrapper.”
“A bit dry. Great price!”
“No, don’t use our restroom…”
“Really good, thin wrapper, good consistency.”
“Flavor was a little weird, but can’t pinpoint why. Good presentation, uneven folds. Wrapper was okay, little chewy.”
“Wasn’t a fan of the more anise flavored filling.”
“Best! Nice flavor.”
Item B) Potstickers / $6.75 for 10 pieces
“Ugh, too much cabbage. Did I order Cabbagestickers?”
“Crunchy wrapper, filling was juicy with great flavor.”
“A little doughy but meat is good.”
“Odd, but nothing spectacular.”
Item C) Hui Tou Pork Pan Fried Dumplings / $6.95 for 8 pieces
“Love the crispy exterior. Good chewiness. Yummy filling.”
“Good wrapper texture. Filling was flavorful.”
“Free kimchi was delicious! Crispy skin!”
“Looks like a chimichanga.”
“Well fried, tasty and large. Others say they look like chimichangas.”
“Wrapper was a great consistency. Crispy on the outside, doughy on the inside. Pork a little bland and not enough of it.”
“Large, almost flat egg-roll-ish shape. Good wrapper, a little thicker, not a whole lot of flavor but tasty.”
“Really liked the chewy skin, similar to a gyoza or potsticker.”
“Nice crunch, like a chimichanga.”
Item D) Hui Tou Beef Pan Fried Dumplings / $6.95 for 8 pieces
“Hella weird filling… what is IN that?! Like poached meatloaf.”
“Same as pork, beef was savory.”
“Good beef flavor + meat. Also fried well.”
“Wrapper was a great consistency. Beef was a little salty/wet.”
“Not as good as the pork.”
“Good but not as flavorful as the pork. POOOOOOOORK!”
“Okay. Beef didn’t have a lot of flavor.”
Item E) Pork Shumai / $6.95 for 10 pieces
“Porky onion flavor. Wrapper super thin.”
“Made to order! Good pork flavor.”
“Looks like a present when unwrapped, a little empty, filling is good.”
“Meat was too salty and a little chewy. Wrapper was a little sticky. Good presentation.”
“Very thin wrapper, very pretty. Looks lacy or frilly. Pork mix was grainy/choppy.”
“Pork was good, wrapper didn’t taste like it was cooked.”
View of the innards of the Hui Tou dumpling and the XLB!
Dumpling Crawl Stop #4: Jin Jian
301 W Valley Blvd #109
San Gabriel, CA 91776
At our fourth stop, the 10 of us all huddle around one little table in the corner though there was no one else in the restaurant. It was cozy up in here.
Item A) Steamed Pao / $6.95 for 10 pieces
“Bit salty, lil chemically tasting. Lots of soup, very hot, chewy, decent wrapper.”
“2nd best so far, soup was savory and perfect on salt.”
“Full of hot soup! Most soup so far. Love the fresh ginger on the table. No busted XLB.”
“Filling really good, dumpling is full with lots of flavorful meat.”
“Liked the dough and the soup/meat proportion. Tasted kind of sour and too salty.”
“Slightly leaky on one, thicker wrapper, pork had gingery taste. Good but little salty.”
“Larger dumpling of the bunch, like the extra soup. Pipping hot, which I liked.”
“Great flavor, very juicy.”
Item B) Pan Fried Chinese Bun / $6.95 for 8 pieces
Okay, honestly, I don’t know why there are 12 buns in the photo when the menu states you get 8 pieces, haha!
“Very pretty, looked nice and crisp. Filling just okay, odd chew, almost gummy.”
“Looked better than it tasted. Liked the service here.”
“Beautiful presentation, lots of ohhs/ahhs. Wrapper a bit thick & gummy. Perfectly fried. Great service!”
“Little too hot.”
“A little dry.”
“Ohhh when first presented. Filling good, wrapper is a little chewy and overcooked.”
“Colorful, pretty presentation. Little doughy, little sour flavor again but overall good.”
“Pretty plate of dumplings this one tastes better with the vinegar and soy sauce. Way too much of the wrapper.”
“Super thick wrapper, not a huge fan. Not a lot of flavor but paired well with soy sauce and vinegar.”
“Wrapper was unique, kind of dry inside.”
Here’s our Dumpling Crawl gang after stop #4. We actually went to one more stop, which would have been Dean Sin World but then I found that it wasn’t there… or at least, the banner that used to be in the front was gone. The owner has changed, the hours were changed and Faye tried really hard to get the lady to serve us… but she was freaked out by our party of 10 and didn’t know how to make one of the items I wanted. So… we blew it off.
And what do you do when you blow off the last location of a dumpling crawl?
You go get dessert of course. DUH.
BUT FIRST… let’s tally the dumplings, shall we?
Dumplings were rated on three categories on a scale of 1-5. The max overall score is 150 points. For items that people didn’t rate or try, I gave an average score of 9.
DUMPLING CRAWL RESULTS
|Din Tai Fung XLB||127|
|Hui Tou Xiang Pan Fried Pork||125|
|Din Tai Fung Pork Bun||124.5|
|Din Tai Fung Red Bean Bun||123.5|
|Jin Jian Pan Fried Bun||118.5|
|Jin Jian XLB||115.5|
|Hui Tou Xiang Shumai||111.5|
|Hui Tou Xiang XLB||111|
|Hui Tou Xiang Pan Fried Beef||111|
|Luscious Dumpling Pan Fried Pork||106|
|Hui Tou Xiang Potstickers||103.5|
|Luscious Dumpling XLB||96|
I think overall we can say that Din Tai Fung won overall, but that we seriously adored those pork Hui Tou dumplings! The beef ones… ehhh, not so much. We were all surprised there was a wait for Luscious Dumplings with no wait at Hui Tou Xiang since Luscious was kinda sucky sauce. Maybe everyone was ordering something else…
You know you’re with the right people when they’re still willing to eat more food after the “official” crawl was over. Dumplings are small though. I bet we could have eaten more dumplings (or maybe that was just me. Hm.)
The gang spotted a nearby place called Salju Dessert where they have snow ice, crepes, brick toast and other things like that.
This is Allision’s snow ice. I think… it’s….. lemon? Wow, I should have taken notes.
David Minion’s. It’s got red beans and mochi. I can tell you nothing else.
Minion’s friend, Frank, was all different and got a crepe. What an rebel! It had nutella, bananas, and strawberries. It looked really good.
Jake said I could get “whatever I wanted” so I got a Vietnamese Coffee snow ice with sliced almonds, mochi and coffee jelly with condensed milk.
I love love loved the flavor of this as it tasted very much like my beloved coffee drink. I forgot no one else likes this but me though. T hated it (sorry, T) and Jake barely had any since he didn’t like the flavor. I should have gotten a small. I figured it’d be sweeter and they would like it but I was wrong. (oops).
PS – Coffee jelly is grody. Not getting that again.
A portion of their menu! Which naturally doesn’t list any of the Snow Ice flavors.
On the same block as Salju Dessert was THE HAT. We have been telling T about the Hat for years now.
So guess what? Road snacks. OF COURSE.
Minion got himself some pastrami gravy fries, or just gravy fries, I don’t remember. But we got a pastrami sandwich and a pastrami burger to go so we could try it later. T loved it. Their pastrami was as good as I remember it.
Thanks to the dumpling crawl gang and joining me on my crazy crawl adventures!