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The Best Dumplings In Los Angeles
Sometimes the simplest things are the easiest to goof up. A perfect example is the dumpling. These bite sized morsels made of unleavened dough stuffed with savory fillings can be delicate and delicious, or a sticky, gummy mess. We've scoured the streets to find the best, most of which are from the dumpling capital of the world—China.
Here are our favorites, plus a few non-Chinese options for good measure.
Qing Dao Stuffed Dumplings with Garlic Vinegar Sauce (Photo by Kristie Hang/LAist)
Qing Dao Bread Food
Qing Dao Bread Food is a small, cash-only restaurant in Monterey Park that specializes in made-to-order Qingdao-style Chinese food. Qing Dao is a coastal city located in China's Shandong Province known for their brewed vinegars and dumplings, so it's no surprise that this restaurant makes their garlic vinegar dipping sauce in-house. The specialty at Qing Dao Bread is their "stuffed fried dumplings." The bite-sized morsels come with a thick skin that makes for an almost bun-like texture. They are filled with a choice of leeks, pork, shrimp, or lamb, and then fried, rendering a thin, crispy crust that adds a slight crunch with every bite. But chew with caution, because those juicy insides can get messy, especially on the first bite. Qing Dao's boiled dumplings—which come with vegetarian-friendly customizable fillings—are wonderful too, with just the right amount of chew. You can also pick up pre-made frozen dumplings to take home.
Qing Dao Bread Food is located at 301 North Garfield Avenue in Monterey Park, (626) 312-6978
Hui Tou Xiang's pork hui tou dumpling (Photo by Kristie Hang/LAist)
Most people line up outside this Japanese ramen house for the noodles, but the Daikokuya's pork gyoza are not to be missed. It shouldn't come as a surprise that the fried dumplings are so flavorful; the pork here in all its forms, whether it be in ramen or rice bowls or fried potstickers, is darn near perfection. The best part is that there are four locations of this busy L.A. staple for you to get your fix. They're always busy, but the wait will help you work up an appetite. —Krista Simmons
Daikokuya has locations on Sawtelle, Little Tokyo, Arcadia, and Monterey Park. Check their site for more details.
Hui Tou Xiang Noodles House
The signature dish at Hui Tou Xiang (also cash-only) is their pork hui tou, which is the restaurant’s unique take on potstickers or gyoza. The hui tou dumpling is fried, flattened on both sides, and shaped into a rectangular Chinese-like burrito. Hui tou's dumpling skin is thicker than your average potsticker, but the skin is seared to a crispy brown while keeping a slightly chewy texture. The meat—a choice of either pork or beef—is extremely juicy and marinated with onions. Brace yourself though, because the scorching soup inside the dumplings will gush into your mouth with each bite. The dumplings are best eaten dipped with a vinegar and chili combo that can be made with the condiments on the table. Be sure to ask for one of Hui Tou Xiang's nifty stamp cards. If you buy 5 dishes, you get one free.
Hui Tou Xiang Noodles House is located at 704 West Las Tunas Drive in San Gabriel, (626) 281-9888.
Wang Xi Ji's Gigantic Soup Dumpling (Photo by Kristie Hang/LAist)
Wang Xing Ji
Looking for an Instagram-worthy dumpling experience? Feast your eyes on Wang Xing Ji's gigantic tang bao. The name, which literally translates to soup dumpling, is like a Chinese xiao long bao (or XLB) on steroids. These guys are so large that they fill an entire steamer, and the molten center needs to be slurped with a straw. Unlike the mini xiao long bao soup dumplings that you typically see at places like Din Tai Fung, Wang Xing Ji’s massive soup dumpling is made using a traditional Wuxi method resulting in a sweeter pork and dungeness crab filling spiked with brown sugar. They also offer good XLB that can be made sweet or not sweet depending on your liking.
Wang Xing Ji is located at 140 West Valley Boulevard in San Gabriel, (626) 307-1188
Tibet Nepal House
People can get funny about unconventional proteins, but if you dig beef, then the yak at Pasadena’s Tibet Nepal House will be right in your wheelhouse. The restaurant has been serving Himalayan cuisine for over a decade and truly does it justice. The star-shaped yak dumplings are stuffed with ground meat and served with a zippy house made garlic and ginger dipping sauce. They're affordable too at $9.99 for eight, especially considering the sourcing that must go into such a unique item. —Krista Simmons
Tibet Nepal House is located at 36 E Holly St, Pasadena, (626) 585-0955
Shanghai Dumpling House (Photo by Jason Wong)
Shanghai Dumpling House
If you want a xiao long bao soup dumpling loaded with so much broth that it droops to the brink of explosion, then Shanghai Dumpling House may be your best bet. This unassuming spot has extremely juicy xiao long bao at about half the cost of those of Din Tai Fung’s with almost zero wait. Made on the spot, the dumplings come in the usual favorite flavors like pork, shrimp, spicy pork, crab roe and veggie wrapped in a nearly-transparent paper-thin skin. If that isn't your speed, Shanghai Dumpling House also carries more unique, harder to find menu items such as salty egg yolk pork dumplings and spicy xiao long bao.
Shanghai Dumpling House is located at 227 West Valley Boulevard in San Gabriel, (626) 282-1348
The Church Key
It's no easy task to find pierogies in L.A., so when we saw these on the menu at the Church Key we were admittedly giddy. The Polish dumpling is stuffed with aged gouda, creme fraiche, caviar, and chives and then pan fried. It's served with sweetly tart apple butter, a wonderful accompaniment for the salty bar snack to complement the boozy otter pops that come off their dim sum carts. —Krista Simmons
The Church Key is located at 8730 Sunset Blvd, West Hollywood, (424) 249-3700
Chive Pocket Dumplings from Flavor Garden (Photo by Kristie Hang/LAist)
Snuggled inside a strip mall, Flavor Garden is easy to miss with its tiny unassuming décor and signage. Your patience may be tested here, as the dumplings here are made from scratch on the spot. The star dish is the jiu cai he zi, which is a pan-fried dumpling pocket stuffed with chive, egg, and glass noodles. Whereas the typical chive pocket is in the shape of a half circle, theirs is like an individual, flat dumpling. Another unique dumpling available at Flavor Garden is the boiled shrimp, pork and sea cucumber dumpling. The skin is a thicker consistency and gives a chewy taste with each bite. The restaurant is cash only, and also sells frozen dumplings for take-away.
Flavor Garden is located at 1269 East Valley Boelvard in Alhambra, (626) 284-3549
Myung Dong Kyoja
Sometimes it's those last night adventures in K-Town (like a night full of bar hopping and karaoke) that lead you to Myung Dong Kyoja. This joint is open until 2 a.m. every night of the week, so you can get your Korean dumplings fix into the wee hours of the morning. You can get your juicy pork-and-veggies or pork-and-shrimp dumplings served to you in a variety of ways: pan-fried, steamed, and even in soups (we suggest the chicken noodle one). And make sure to try their famed kimchi that's so garlicky that you can ward off some vampires. —Jean Trinh
Myung Dong Kyoja is located at 3630 Wilshire Blvd. in Koreatown, (213) 385-7789
Din Tai Fung
The obvious mention: Din Tai Fung is a global dumpling powerhouse with two restaurants located right next to each other just in the San Gabriel Valley alone. Unlike many of the authentic dumpling houses in the area, they not only make great dumplings with a thin skin and a juicy flavor-packed filling, but they also understand how to craft a dining experience. They have English-speaking staff, take their orders via iPad, and also notify you via text when you finally make it through the long wait. There are a large variety of dumplings and they even have sweet dessert dumplings. There's also a see-through glass window so you can watch as the soup dumplings being made. Din Tai Fung's prices are higher compared to the mom-and-pop places, but you get a complete experience friendly and easy for non-Chinese patrons and they take credit card, a sight rarely seen at the mom and pop places. Although there are polarizing views about Din Tai Fung, you have to give credit where credit is due.
The older Din Tai Fung is located at 1108 South Baldwin Avenue in Arcadia, (626) 574-7068 and the newer shop is located right next door along the back at 1088 South Baldwin Avenue in Arcadia, (626) 446-8588. The newest location is located at 171 Caruso Ave, Glendale.
If you're hungry for more and want to see dumpling making in action in the heart of Beijing, check out the video below.