Dim Sum – 888 Restaurant – Rosemead, CA

Food Adventures, San Gabriel Valley

Brunch is definitely the “thing” to do in Los Angeles on sunny weekend mornings. But as much as I love my crab cake benedicts and mimosas, there’s nothing that quite compares to a dim sum “brunch.” Dim sum is traditionally known as the food that accompanies yum cha, a session of enjoying tea with the main star being the tea and the dumplings, etc. acting as secondary characters. In the US, dim sum is commonly used to refer to the whole meal inclusive of tea. The meal includes fried or steamed dishes such as bao (steamed buns) and dumplings of all shapes, sizes, and fillings.

Dumplings

Dim Sum Dumplings

One of our favorite places to partake in dim sum is 888 Restaurant in Rosemead, Martin’s hometown. The food is pretty darn good, the service is friendly enough, the prices are very affordable, and they serve dim sum until 3pm. 3pm! That means we could sleep past noon just like the good ol’ college days and still make it there from the Westside in time to enjoy a smorgasbord of dishes! Yes, this happens quite often.

Here are some of our favorite dim sum staples:

1) Har gow (pictured above, left): steamed dumplings with a clear, chewy rice flour wrapper encasing a ball of shrimp and ginger. A dim sum staple, this and shiu mai are the most popular dumplings, but fear not — the dim sum places know this too and always have plenty available for purchase.

2) Xiao long bao (pictured above, right): Taiwanese steamed soup dumplings. They don’t quite measure up to the ones at Din Tai Fung, but if you’re really craving it, these soup-filled pork dumplings will hit the spot. Don’t forget the vinegar!

Sticky Rice (before)

Sticky Rice (before)

Sticky Rice (after)

Sticky Rice (after)

3) Lo mai gai: savory sticky rice steamed in lotus leaves. Tender, gooey rice drenched in saucy braised pork, fragrant with the infused aroma of the lotus leaf wrapper — so yummy!

Tripe & Daikon Stew

Tripe & Daikon Stew

4) I’ve seen this referred to as “niu za” but if you ask for tripe, usually they’ll know what to give you. A hearty bowl of daikon (radish) cubes and stewed beef tripe in a flavorful broth, this one is one of the more “adventurous” dishes but definitely give it a go.

Xia chang fun - shrimp rice noodles

Xia chang fun – shrimp rice noodles

5) Xia Chang Fun: sheets of freshly steamed rice noodles rolled up with whole shrimp and served drizzled with a sweet soy sauce. This is one of our all-time favorite dishes, reminiscent of Vietnamese bánh cuốn. Prepared properly, the noodles will have a chewy, not mushy, and the shrimp will be just cooked and tender.

Turnip Cake

Turnip Cake

6) Luo buo gao: blocks of doughy rice flour containing bits of turnip and occasionally other add-ins like taro or Chinese sausage, sliced and pan fried to order. These are a bit greasy (they’re oiled to keep the blocks of dough from sticking to each other, and then oiled again to keep the slices from sticking to the griddle) but oh so delicious. Even on days when I’m trying to be “good” and healthy, I can’t resist the roasty-toasty aroma wafting from the cart.

Turnip Cake Cart

Turnip Cake Cart

Yes, friends, I risked ending up on Asians Taking Pictures of Food in order to capture this moment for all of you. I hope you enjoy it.

Bor Lor Bao

Bor Lor Bao

7) Bor lor bao: literally translated as “pineapple buns,” these sweet treats do not necessarily contain pineapple at all! They are named for the crust, which cracks and crumbles like the scales of a pineapple. The top is crispy and flaky, the bottom is soft and fluffy, and the filling is usually a sweet eggy custard. So good!

Mango Pudding

Mango Pudding

8) Mango pudding: Martin’s favorite dim sum dessert, this mango pudding is often prepared using the boxed mix, but sometimes we luck out and find a place that prepares theirs with fresh mango puree. Don’t forget to have it drizzled with milk!

Sweet Tofu

Sweet Tofu

9) Doufu Hua: freshly made silken tofu served with a ginger-infused simple syrup, this sweet warm dessert is the perfect way to end a dim sum meal.

Dahn Tat (Egg Tarts)

Dahn Tat (Egg Tarts)

10) Dahn tat: Flaky layers of dough make up the tart base, each tart is filled with creamy egg custard. These are an iconic dim sum dessert, but watch how many you eat — the custard has plenty of egg yolk and you know what makes the tarts so flaky? Lard. Still, life’s too short not to enjoy one or two every once in a while.

These are just a few highlights of our favorite dim sum dishes. Not pictured but noteworthy is the ever-popular char siu bao, a.k.a. barbecue pork buns a.k.a. manapua (for all you Hawaiians out there!). Warm, fluffy steamed buns filled with a sweet and salty pork filling, these are the perfect “starter” item for first-time dim sum goers.

One of the biggest appeals of 888 is that they still serve dim sum the fun way – with carts pushed through the aisles, navigating the maze of tables in the dining room. You can peruse the offerings in their cart and point to what you want or ask for it by name (see a few of our pointers above!). They then stamp your order sheet according to the price range of each dish, and when you’re stuffed to the brim with dumplings and (if you specified) chrysanthemum tea, a guy in a suit will come over and tally your bill with mind-bogglingly quick mental math. Definitely a unique experience!

———————

Check out 888 Restaurant:

8450 E Valley Blvd, Ste 121
Rosemead, CA 91770

See their Yelp reviews here!

PS: If you’re craving some soy sauce chicken, check out the small barbecue shop located just behind the restaurant (it’s an extension of 888) that has ducks and sides of pork hanging in the window. If you come in the afternoons on the weekends, sometimes they’ll have dim sum leftovers for sale (I’ve been known to snag some last minute bor lor bao this way).

Advertisements

Day Nine: San Francisco – Dim Sum Tour

Food Adventures, San Francisco

On our last day of our One Week, Three Cities trip and for our first meal(s) of 2012, we decided to spend the afternoon in Chinatown and have ourselves a dim sum tour. What we hadn’t anticipated was the lack of seating. While there are plenty restaurants that serve the sit-down dim sum brunch we’re used to, a lot of the more popular dim sum places are a grab-and-go sort of joint. Lines out the door and into the sidewalk, steamer baskets stacked high with different types of dumplings and goodies on each level, yelling across the counter in a mix of Mandarin and broken English. It’s definitely an experience!

As our bus approached Chinatown, the signs became increasingly flecked with Chinese characters and the sights and smells became increasingly more reminiscent of home. Conducting your own dim sum tour is simple — just follow your nose and eyes… and bring cash.

Look at all those dumplings and buns! I want all of them!

We had jotted down a few key places to visit and hit Good Mong Kok first. Known for their dim sum staples, we decided to pick up a selection of our go-to dim sum items: har gow (steamed shrimp dumplings with a clear, sticky wrapper), sticky rice steamed in banana leaves, and cha siu pao (barbecue pork filled buns). Unsure of how to proceed, we stood right out on the sidewalk and started munching on the har gow. Yummy morsels with a juicy filling and soft, translucent wrapper, these really hit the spot.

A whole tray of har gow!

We took a gamble and decided to continue on our search for more dim sum (and hopefully a place to sit and dig in!), so off we went toward Wing Sing Dim Sum. Here we found more of the same basics, including dumplings in many varieties, but what caught our eyes were the xia chang fun (steamed rice noodles with shrimp and sweet soy sauce) and dahn tat (egg custard tarts). And just as noteworthy, here we found a place to sit! Wing Sing has some tables available in the back for self-seating; on the way we also spotted ads for some killer lunch specials ($5 for a plate of rice or noodles and sides? Awesome!). The verdict? The sticky rice had a good texture (not mushy nor undercooked) but it was a bit bland. The cha siu pao, which many people seemed to recommend, are good but the filling was a bit too sweet for my liking. The xia chang fun, our favorite dim sum dish, from Wing Sing looked good in its clear clam-shell packaging with the sweet soy sauce in a little container on the side. It would have tasted even better if it were warm. I guess bringing it home to a microwave would have been one advantage of doing take-out dim sum as the locals do. The dahn tat custard middle was delicious but the crust was dense, more like a pie crust rather than the flakier phyllo crusts we prefer. All in all though, our brunch only cost us about $7 total, so we can’t complain!

Dim Sum Staple: Xia Chang Fun (Steamed Rice Noodle Sheets with Shrimp and Sweet Soy Sauce)

A dim sum brunch would not be complete for us without some delicious boba, so we stopped by Ten Ren TeaStation. Note: the term “boba” for those little tapioca balls varies by region. I tried a few Yelp App queries for “bubble tea” and “pearl tea” after “boba” generated few results. Ten Ren is a popular brand of loose leaf and bagged teas, sold in grocery stores and in many retail locations, so I love stopping by TeaStation when I can. I had their sweetened iced black tea with grass jelly and Martin had their iced black milk tea with boba. The grass jelly was a great texture and reminded me of the cans of suong xao that I used to buy at the Vietnamese markets back home.

The rest of our day was spent walking off our dumpling-filled morning, window-shopping for Hello Kitty hats, and making our way toward Haight-Ashbury. By the time we hopped on the BART to catch our flight out of SFO, we were glad to be heading home. Our One Week, Three Cities adventure was full of fun and delicious noms. We hope our blog series will help some of you plan a future trip to Seattle, Portland, and/or San Francisco, or at least give you a chance to live vicariously through our photos and food adventures. Stay tuned as we return to posting recipes and local hotspots!

————————-

Check out Good Mong Kok:

1039 Stockton St
(between Washington St & Jackson St)
San Francisco, CA 94108

See their Yelp reviews here.

————————-

Check out Wing Sing Dim Sum:

1125 Stockton St
(between Jackson St & Pacific Ave)
San Francisco, CA 94133

See their Yelp reviews here.

————————-

Check out Ten Ren TeaStation:

949 Grant Ave
San Francisco, CA 94108

See their Yelp reviews here.