First We Feast: 10 Favorite Chinese Dumplings in Los Angeles

All photos by Clarissa Wei, unless noted otherwise 

All photos by Clarissa Wei, unless noted otherwise 

First We Feast:
From pierogis to samosas, dumplings are a universal dish, embraced by cultures around the globe. But no one values the seemingly endless variations of texture, size, and fillings quite like the Chinese.

In fact, the earliest recording of the dish can be traced back to the Eastern Han Dynasty (25 AD-220 AD) in China. The legend states that a man noticed that peoples’ ears were suffering from frost bite. He decided to make a dish in the shape of an ear to cure the cold—hence its current iteration. The first dumplings had lamb, chili, and herbs inside, and their soothing qualities quickly gained currency across the country.

Due to mass immigration waves, Los Angeles has continued to carry the torch for Chinese dumpling tradition. What sets the dumpling culture apart here is sheer variety—you can fine representatives from Shanghai, Beijing, Jiangsu, Tianjin, and beyond. There are even variations that were invented in Los Angeles, like the hui tou potsticker. If you’re going to judge the merits of Los Angeles’ Chinese cuisine, dumplings are a good place to start.

Broken down by region, here are First We Feast‘s 10 essential dumplings to understanding L.A.’s varied repertoire.

1. GIANT SOUP DUMPLING AT WANG XING JI

giantsoupdumpling Our 10 Favorite Chinese Dumplings in Los Angeles

Address and phone: 140 W Valley Blvd, San Gabriel (626-307-1188)
Website: N/A
Region: Jiangsu

Wang Xing Ji (also known as Juicy Dumplings) makes food inspired from Wuxi in the Jiangsu province. Known affectionately throughout the country as the Land of Fish and Rice, the region is know for dumplings that are sweeter and commonly stuffed with fresh, pulverized crab because an abundance of crustaceans during certain months of the year. Wang Xing Ji is a soup dumpling specialist known for its softball-sized dumplings that require a boba straw to extract the liquid.

2. BEIJING PIE AT BEIJING PIE HOUSE

meatpie Our 10 Favorite Chinese Dumplings in Los Angeles

Address and phone: 846 E Garvey Ave, Monterey Park (626-288-3818)
Website: N/A
Region: Beijing

The dumpling in question is called a xian bing—a pan-fried disc stuffed with heavily spiced pork and assorted aromatics. This is a Beijing meat pie and is arguably the most addictive stand-alone dish in greater Los Angeles area. Pies come flying out of the kitchen in plates of four. Pair the dish with their cucumber salad, and if you have a hankering for more carbs, Pie House does wonderful zhajiang noodles—cold noodles with thin cuts of cucumber and a dollop of fermented soy beans.

3. SICHUAN WONTON AT CHENGDU TASTE

wontonchili Our 10 Favorite Chinese Dumplings in Los Angeles

Address and phone: 828 W Valley Blvd, Alhambra (626-588-2284)
Website: N/A
Region: Sichuan

The Sichuan wonton is called hong you chao shou. Hong you means red chili oil, and chao shou means ”folded hands,” a reference to how the dumpling is formed, and how—during the cold months in Sichuan—folks would fold their hands across their chest for warmth. The wonton is usually served as an appetizer and the skin is delicate—bordering on translucent. Chengdu Taste, the Sichuanese king of Los Angeles, undoubtedly serves the best rendition in town. It’s stuffed with ground pork, and served over with a light chili oil infused with the potent Sichuan peppercorn—a notorious spice known for its lip-numbing after-effect.

4. SHENJIANBAO AT EMPEROR NOODLE

shenjiangbao Our 10 Favorite Chinese Dumplings in Los Angeles

Address and phone: 800 W Las Tunas Dr, San Gabriel (626-281-2777)
Website: N/A
Region: Shanghai

While Emperor Noodle is marketed as a noodle joint, their specialty is really the shenjianbao. Invented in the 1920s in Shanghai, the shenjianbao has become an iconic breakfast snack of the region, usually served outdoors on street carts. Stuffed with pork, it has a thicker skin than most dumplings. It is first steamed in a huge bamboo steamer and then pan-fried on the bottom before getting a sprinkling of sesame seeds.

5. WONTON NOODLE SOUP AT SAM WOO

wontonnoodle Our 10 Favorite Chinese Dumplings in Los Angeles

Address and phone: 937 E Las Tunas Dr, San Gabriel (626-286-3118)
Website: N/A
Region: Guangdong and Hong Kong

Fragrance is the key to a good wonton noodle soup, and the fortified broth from Sam Woo—an institution that has been open for over three decades—takes days to make. You can ask them to throw a piece of roast duck on top if you’re extra hungry, but the dish by itself is enough to satisfy. The wonton, stuffed with pork and shrimp, is served with egg noodles imported straight from Hong Kong.

6. CRYSTAL SHRIMP DUMPLING AT LUNASIA DIM SUM HOUSE

lunasia4hagow Our 10 Favorite Chinese Dumplings in Los Angeles

Address and phone: 239 E Colorado Blvd, Pasadena (626-793-8822)
Website: lunasiadimsumhouse.com
Region: Guangdong and Hong Kong

It is said that the xiajiao, or har gow (in Cantonese), makes or breaks a dim-sum chef. Traditionally, a har gow is supposed to have ten or more pleats. The wrapper is made with wheat and tapioca and worked until it becomes translucent. Lunasia’s version is epic—they manage to tuck in at least three large pieces of shrimp without breaking the chewy, delicate wrapper. We recommend dipping this in sweet soy sauce, mustard, or sambal chili.  (Photo:The Minty Musing)

7. THE RETURN DUMPLING AT HUI TOU XIANG

huitou Our 10 Favorite Chinese Dumplings in Los Angeles

Address and phone: 704 W Las Tunas Dr, San Gabriel (626-281-9888)
Website: huitouxiang.com
Region: California

Hui Tou Xiang takes the guo tie, a traditional potsticker, usually oblong in shape, and sealed both sides. They call it the hui tou—which means “to return” in Mandarin—to symbolize their desire for customers to return. The dish is pan-fried on all sides and meticulously fried to a juicy crisp. A single order will get you eight pot stickers. Be sure to pair it with chili sauce. (Photo:Hui Tou Xiang)

8. GLUTEN-FREE DUMPLINGS FROM PEKING TAVERN

glutenfreedumpling Our 10 Favorite Chinese Dumplings in Los Angeles

Address and phone: 806 S Spring St, Los Angeles (213-988-8308)
Website: tooguapo.com
Region: California

Dumplings are extremely difficult to make gluten-free, but the owners of Peking Tavern knew that if they wanted to open a dumpling house in the heart of Downtown, they needed to appeal to Angelenos’ finicky eating habits. Months of recipe testing paid off: You can barely taste the difference (though the gluten-free variations are a little bit gummier). We recommend getting them pan-fried and stuffed with beef. Pairing them with a small shot of the Chinese spirit baijiu. (Photo: Peking Tavern)

9. SWEET GLUTINOUS RICE BALLS AT EMPEROR NOODLE

tangyuan Our 10 Favorite Chinese Dumplings in Los Angeles

Address and phone: 800 W Las Tunas Dr, San Gabriel (626-281-2777)
Website: N/A
Region: All over China

These sweet rice balls (tang yuan in Southern China, yuan xiao in Northern China) are traditionally stuffed with sesame paste or ground peanuts. It’s a common dish on the 15th day of the Lunar New Year. The roundness of the rice ball is indicative of a complete circle of harmony within the family. Emperor Noodle in San Gabriel serves a beautiful version spiked with sweet rice wine and dried osmanthus flowers.

10. TIANJIN BAO AT TASTY NOODLE HOUSE

tianjinbun Our 10 Favorite Chinese Dumplings in Los Angeles

Address and phone: 827 W Las Tunas Dr, San Gabriel (626-284-8898)
Website: N/A
Region: Tianjin

Tianjin is a coastal city in northern China known for an abundance of seafood and dough. The Tianjin bao is a thick doughy bun, made with yeast so that it rises slightly. The remarkable quality about this dumpling is that it’s able to hold quite a bit of juice without turning soggy. Each bun fits perfectly in the palm of the hand. Pair it with a dash of black vinegar for an extra kick.

Study reveals Chinese speakers use more of their brain than English speakers

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Shanghaiist:

A study has found that people who speak tonal languages such as Mandarin or Cantonese use both hemispheres of their brain rather than just the left hemisphere, which researchers have long emphasized as being the primary processing center for languages.

Quartz sorts out the report, which was recently published in the in the Proceedings for the National Academy of Science:

After analyzing brain imaging data from Mandarin and English speakers listening their respective languages, researchers from Peking University and other universities found that native Mandarin speakers and native English speakers both showed evidence of activity in the brain’s left hemisphere. But Mandarin speakers also saw activation in the right hemisphere, specifically in a region important for processing music, via pitch and tone, that has long been seen as largely unrelated to language comprehension.

Since at least the 1950s, researchers in the field of neurolinguistics have been questioning how languages influence perception, and physiological behavior. This latest study supports one emerging theory, connectionism, that maintains that some languages require interactions across the entire brain. The findings are important for better protecting language-related regions during brain surgery as well as understanding the “constitution of knowledge of language, as well as how it is acquired,” according to the study.

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It can be reasonably concluded then that all native speakers of tonal languages, including Vietnamese, Cantonese and Thai, use more of their brain than non-tonal language speakers, Gang Peng, a co-author of the study, told Quartz. Bonus: these speakers are more likely to have perfect pitch.

Bollywood star Deepika Padukone speaks out on her struggle with depression 

Deepika-Padukone-1

 Audrey Magazine:

If there weren’t enough reasons to love Deepika Padukone already, her candid piece with the Hindustan Times on her struggles with depression and anxiety solidifies her status as a one of the most outspoken and bravest celebrities in Bollywood.

In the peice, Padukone details how her struggles with depression started negatively affecting her life in 2014. Despite all her perceived success in Bollywood, she admits having trouble even getting up in the morning to shoot one of her most recent films Happy New Year. It was an even bigger struggle to put on a brave front for her parents.

At the advice of an aunt, Padukone started taking medication and continued filming Happy New Year. She concludes that she hopes her example will help inspire others to reach out for help. Additionally, she and her team are working on an initiative to help address mental health issues.

deepika

Padukone’s inspiring actions come at a time when the Indian community is suffering immensely over mental health issues. While the new Indian Prime Minister Modi is attempting to pass a new bill allowing universal mental health services, India still “has the highest number of suicides in the world. According to the World Health Organization, of 804,000 suicides recorded worldwide in 2012, 258,000 were in India. Indian youths between 15 and 29 years old kill themselves at a rate of 35.5 deaths per 100,000 — the highest in the world — and suicide has surpassed maternal mortality as the leading cause of death of young Indian women.”

Since there is still such a stigma against mental health disorders and medication, we find it admirable that a public figure such as Deepika Padukone speaks out. Hopefully, this inspires more people who are struggling with these issues to get the help they need.

If you feel you are struggling with depression, anxiety, and/or other mental health issues, please check out these links here for lists of resources:

APIAHF

NAAPIMHA

NAMI

 

If you or someone you know is contemplating suicide, call:

1-800-273-8255 (TALK), 24hr National Suicide Prevention Hotline, >150 languages available

1-877-990-8585, 24hr Asian LifeNet Hotline, Cantonese, Mandarin, Japanese, Korean, Fujianese available

 

A salute to Officer Liu

New York Post:

Today New York’s Finest will join with newly widowed Pei Xia Chen to bury a gallant officer: Wenjian Liu.

It was never supposed to turn out this way.

As recently as September, Pei was a bride planning a happy future with the man she loved. Her husband had come to this country from Guangdong Province in China as a teenager; he’d learned English at Brooklyn’s Lafayette HS; and he found his own path to the American Dream — as an officer in the finest police force in our nation.

It’s a reminder that cops have names and faces and families.

Detective Rafael Ramos, who was buried last week, had a wife and two sons he loved more than life itself. He was studying to be a chaplain.

We dwell on this because too often police officers are treated as cardboard cutouts.

These are the men and women we send into dark stairwells, down dangerous streets and into situations from which everyone else is running away. Their prayer each day as they put on the blue is that they discharge their responsibilities with honor and return home safely to their spouses and children.

We are encouraged by the outpouring of public affection for these men and what they symbolize, not to mention the incredible turnout for their funerals.

Notwithstanding the ugly chants about dead cops that have attended some of the protests, the public appreciates the men and women who stand between us and harm’s way.

In the first days after her husband was shot, Pei Xia Chen appeared before the TV cameras, distraught and shaky. Her message? To express the gratitude of the entire Liu family for the sympathy and condolences they have received.

In her statement, Pei detailed her husband’s devotion to the NYPD, his pride that he was able to use his Chinese language skills to contribute to the safety of this city and the joy he took in his chosen vocation.

Another way to look at it is this: While Liu may have started out in China, by the end of his all-too-short life he was a New Yorker through and through. On this sad day, we salute this dedicated police officer and lift his family up in our prayers.

Wenjian Liu was a loyal son and husband, a proud New Yorker and our protector. May he rest in peace.

For NYPD Officer Liu’s funeral, blending police traditions with Chinese customs

Volunteers gathered donations for the family of Officer Wenjian Liu in Chinatown on Sunday. He is believed to be the first Chinese-American police officer killed in the line of duty in New York. 

New York Times:

The funeral on Sunday for Wenjian Liu, who is believed to be the first Chinese-American police officer killed in the line of duty in New York, will have all the trappings that the city’s traditions demand. Thousands of officers in pressed navy blue. A Police Department flag covering the coffin. A eulogy from the mayor.

But the ceremony will also include a tradition unfamiliar to the Police Department. While the services last weekend for Officer Rafael Ramos, who died alongside Officer Liu in an ambush in Brooklyn on Dec. 20, were held at a church, Officer Liu will be honored at a funeral home with Buddhist monks praying. Mourners will burn ceremonial paper money and objects in front of his photograph — riches, according to Chinese custom, for the afterlife.

The fact that Officer Liu’s burial will include both sets of customs is proof of how diverse the city’s police ranks have become since the not-too-distant days when uniformed funerals were reliably Roman Catholic affairs. Yet it is a sign, too, of how wide the gap still is between one of the city’s oldest institutions and one of its fastest-growing immigrant communities.

Officer Wenjian Liu

It really shows that Asians are more integrated or assimilated into the mainstream,” said Hugh Mo, a former deputy police commissioner. “One of their sons is also sacrificed, is also spilling blood.”

Officer Liu, 32, will be commemorated at Aievoli Funeral Home in Bensonhurst, Brooklyn, a former Italian stronghold that has given more and more ground in recent years to Chinese immigrants.

A police ceremony with a police chaplain and eulogies will follow a Chinese ceremony led by Buddhist monks. Afterward, a procession will carry Officer Liu to Cypress Hills Cemetery, at a site chosen with the help of a feng shui expert.

Besides Mayor Bill de Blasio and Police Commissioner William J. Bratton, an official list of who will speak at the funeral has not been announced.

The Chinese ceremony will be “very quiet and private,” said Joseph Aievoli, the funeral home’s owner, making it unlikely that officers and dignitaries will attend that service. Several family friends have said they plan to attend only the wake on Saturday, intimidated by what is sure to be a large showing by the Police Department on Sunday.

Lt. Tony Giorgio, commanding officer of the Police Department’s Ceremonial Unit, has been shepherding the police service. He said his department meets with the fallen officer’s family and asks “what do they traditionally do, and then fit our protocols and traditions around what they do.”

The blending will be complex. Some in Brooklyn’s Chinatown, which has expanded from Sunset Park to nearby Borough Park and Bensonhurst, are wary of authority figures like the police, in part because of some Chinese immigrants’ murky legal statuses.

Cultural and language barriers have bred such deep insularity that many in the Liu family’s circle seemed in recent days to be only dimly aware of the city’s policing controversy.

The family members, some of whom do not speak English, have turned to Chinese police officers who have been assigned to support them, acting as linguistic and cultural translators. A community affairs officer who speaks Cantonese and a lieutenant in the department’s employee relations section who speaks Taishanese, the family’s native dialect, have been constant presences.

They’re really private, so it’s a lot for them to take in,” said Sgt. James Ng, the president of the Asian Jade Society, an association of Asian New York police officers. “It’s literally overwhelming. It’s going to be thousands of people coming to the wake and the funeral. It’s very hard to put them through this.”

Police officers guard their home. The news media has hovered. Dignitaries including Vice President Joseph R. Biden Jr., the mayor, the police commissioner and Gov. Andrew M. Cuomo have stopped in. Friends who have spoken with the family say Officer Liu’s parents are moved, but dazed, by the attention and the high-profile visits.

The family’s only public comment came from Officer Liu’s widow, Pei Xia Chen, who married Officer Liu in September. She gave a tearful statement two days after the shooting.

One complication of the funeral planning has been picking an auspicious day under Chinese tradition. Another involves accommodating the many people who did not know Officer Liu but want to attend, prompting the Police Department to set up community viewing areas. Also, the service had to be delayed until relatives from China could obtain travel documents to the United States and fly to New York.

Little in the rituals of a police funeral will be familiar to Officer Liu’s relatives. At a traditional Chinese funeral, mourners wail and sob throughout. Some fall prostrate on the ground. Many attendees pay their respects and leave, rather than staying for the full service. Eulogies are not usually given.

The Catholic funeral is a celebration,” Mr. Mo said. “The person is going to a better place, the person is going to be seeing St. Peter. A Chinese funeral is not a celebration, it is a mourning.”

While Officer Ramos’s wife appeared “courageous and dignified in the face of such great loss,” containing her emotions during her husband’s funeral on Saturday, Mr. Mo said, “if you look at a typical Chinese funeral, that is not the way to behave. Should we bend the tradition in order to make it more palatable for Westerners? Those are all issues.”

Officer Liu was not the first Asian-American police officer to die in the line of duty; Officer Kevin Lee of the Bronx died of a heart attack while pursuing a suspect in 2006, and Detective Richard J. Guerzon, who was of Filipino descent, was shot with his partner while driving a prisoner to Rikers Island in 1989.

But Officer Liu’s is the first funeral that Lieutenant Giorgio can recall that will incorporate Chinese traditions.

We have to understand these customs and norms,” he said. “We can’t just say, ‘I’m Roman Catholic; this is the only way I know how to do this.’ ”

10 Asian soups to keep you warm over the holidays

mieayam

 Audrey Magazine:

On a blistering cold night, a steaming hot bowl of soup is the tastiest cure to the shivers and well, almost everything else right? Now that winter is full steam (sorry) ahead, here are ten different Asian soups, from the popular to the underrated, that you should try eating and possibly try making this winter!

1. Kuy Teav

Image courtesy of khatiya-komer

A Cambodian delicacy, kuy teav is a Camobidan Chinese pork noodle soup made from a clear broth and flat rice noodles. Kuy teav is usually enjoyed as a breakfast dish from street vendors, but we feel that it’s comforts will last throughout the day!

2. Soba

Image courtesy of kampai.us

Unlike the popular ramen, soba noodles are made from buckwheat flour. Soba can be a year round dish and is typically served either hot and in a soup for winter or chilled with a dipping sauce for summer. Also, soba differs from udon in that soba noodles are thin while udon noodles are genuinely thicker.

 3. Laksa

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A spicy MalayasianChinese fusion dish. There are three main types of laksa: curry laksa, asam laksa and sarawak laksa. Curry laksa has a coconut curry base, while asam laksa has a sourfish soup base, and sarawak has a sambal belacan base. No matter which type of laksa you choose, it’s sure to give you a kick!

4. Taiwanese Beef Noodle Soup

Image Courtesy of S.O.F.A.T BLOG

There are many different types of beef noodle soups out there. However, the red-braised beef noodle soup was invented by Chinese refugees in Taiwan during the Chinese Civil War. Today, Taiwan considers this red-braised beef noodle soup a national dish. With it’s tender beef and spicy broth, it is sure to be a comfort during those chilly months.

5. Tong Sui

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Tong Sui literally means “sugar water” in Cantonese and is a soup dessert that is a Cantonese delicacy.

6. Bakmi Ayam

mieayam

Bakmi ayam, or often shortened to mei ayam, is an Indonesian noodle soup that is very simple but delicious. The main ingredients are wheat noodles, chinese bok choy (cabbage), and slices of chicken and mushroom. Eaten separately or together with the broth, the soup is delicious either way!

7. Sinigang

Image courtesy of PanlasangPinoy

Sinigiang is a Filipino dish. A tamarind-based soup, Sinigiang is usually sour because of ingredients such as guava and ripe mango.

8. Soondobu Jjigae

Image courtesy of LTHforum

Soondubu jjigae is a spicy Korean tofu soup. It’s typically served in a hot stone pot with other dishes such as rice, meat, or banchan on the side.

9. Milagu Rasam

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Milagu Rasam is a pepper tamarind-based South Indian soup. Supposedly, both the black pepper and tamarind are natural heat-inducing ingredients for the body. Either way, milagu rasam is a tasty method to staying warm!

10. Bun Mang Vit

Image courtesy of PhamVo's Kitchen

Pho is probably the most famous Vietnamese soups, but Bun Mang Vit, a duck and noodle soup, is also another tasty option! The main ingredients here are duck, bamboo shoots and vermicelli noodles, but the lemongrass, ginger and chili give this soup a nice kick.

HYPEBEAST Essentials: Daniel Wu

Image of Essentials: Daniel Wu

Presenting the Essentials to one of Cantonese film industry’s most illustrious, our latest installment peeps into the travel must-haves of Daniel Wu, a Hong-Kong American actor, director, producer, and model. Trained in the martial art of wushu and a self-professed Jackie Chan fan, Wu has been featured in over 60 films since his debut in 1998, winning a slew of awards in that timespan.

Continuously traveling to and from movie production sites, award ceremonies — such as the 26th Hong Kong Film Awards in which Wu took home honors for Best New Director — or simply traveling to his other residencies in Shanghai and Beijing, Daniel Wu here highlights an assortment of accessories which captures the essential needs for on-the-go traveling.

A standard Macbook Pro, Portenzo covered iPad Mini, and Apple iPhone serve as the necessary traveling Apple trifecta, while a copy of Octane magazine helps to ease the turnover of long, dreary flights. Rounding out Wu’s bag of accessories is a Montblanc pen for quick note-taking, Nike Fuelband, and Lucas Paw Paw Ointment all fitting nicely in a Hex Sonic backpack. Stay updated with Wu via his Twitter and stay tuned for the next installment of HYPEBEAST Essentials soon.