15 Essential Dumplings You Must Try in the San Gabriel Valley
Happy Lunar New Year!
Although every culture has its own take on the beloved dumpling (hello, gyoza, pierogi, mandu, ravioli, and empanadas!), they’ve always been a distinctive hallmark of Chinese fare. Eaten year round and on most special occasions, dumplings take on even more significance for Lunar New Year. Their shape, which resembles an ancient form of money, is a symbol of wealth and prosperity in China. The Chinese word for dumplings, jiaozi, even sounds similar to a phrase that means you’re bidding farewell to the old and welcoming the new. So eating these delicious savory pockets is far more than just a feast for your stomach—it’s symbolic of a fresh start and good fortune in the year to come.
While jiaozi covers a broad range of dumplings in the Chinese repertoire, within that category lies a dizzying array of doughy delicacies: classic Cantonese hargow, fluffy shengjianbao hailing from Shanghai, slippery Sichuan chaoshou. They’re steamed, boiled, fried, or occasionally a combination of the above. Sometimes they’re referred to by a name in Mandarin, Cantonese, or another dialect, or identified by romanized spelling that can vary depending on who you ask! But no matter how they’re served (or spelled), these delectable meat- and veggie-filled pockets have delighted us for thousands of years—and will continue to do so.
To help you navigate the universe of dumplings just in time for Lunar New Year, we’re taking you on a guided tour through the San Gabriel Valley—a mecca for Chinese cuisine thanks to a significant (and steadily growing) Asian and Asian-American population. Read on for 15 must-try renditions:
Guotie at Mama Lu’s Dumpling House
Ask any SGV native for a stellar dumpling spot and Mama Lu’s inevitably pops up on their list. This acclaimed restaurant specializes in Chinese comfort food—so naturally, dumplings have a starring role on the menu. While the soup-filled XLB are popular, we also love the simplicity of the guotie, basically dumplings with pan-fried bottoms that add crunchy texture to the otherwise soft, steamed dough. To get your Mama Lu’s fix without driving to the SGV, you can order from Cali Dumpling Delivery—which sells dumplings made in partnership with the restaurant using the same recipe. Launched at the start of COVID-19, the service now delivers 10,000 flash-frozen dumplings a day throughout California—and whether you boil, steam, or pan-fry ‘em, they taste just as good at home as they do at Mama Lu’s.
How to order: Call 626-307-5700 for takeout or pickup via their website; pickup or delivery via Postmates, DoorDash, and Grubhub.
Xiao Long Bao at Din Tai Fung
If you haven’t heard of Din Tai Fung by now, you’re either living under a rock, or you just really don’t like dumplings. Either way, it’s not too late to get acquainted with this revered soup dumpling empire, which has roots in Taiwan and makes broth-filled bao known the world over. Even if you’re a dumpling snob, it’s hard not to appreciate the DTF kitchen’s consistency and near-surgical precision. Every angle of their exquisite XLB has been examined, analyzed, and refined to give you the ideal bite; each parcel is weighed at 21 grams with a golden ratio of five grams of pork to 16 grams of dough, before it’s beautifully folded 18 times.
How to order: Call 626-446-8588 for takeout or pickup via their website; pickup or delivery via Postmates, UberEats, DoorDash, and Grubhub.
Chili Oil Chaoshou at MIAN
The brainchild of Chef Tony Xu, owner of the wildly popular Chengdu Taste chain, MIAN is no stranger to accolades. In 2019, it earned a well-deserved spot on the list of Michelin Bib Gourmand restaurants in Los Angeles for slinging some of the city’s most superlative noodles—which is what MIAN means in Chinese. But here’s a not-so-secret secret: MIAN also makes some of SGV’s juiciest chaoshou (iconic Sichuan dumplings made with square skins and folded into two points). These pork-bloated parcels arrive bathed in a generous pool of slightly sweet Sichuan chili sauce, customized to your desired spice level and designed to titillate your taste buds.
How to order: Walk-ins welcome; pickup or delivery via their website, DoorDash, Grubhub, and UberEats,
Xiaolongbao at Dan Modern Chinese
Dan Modern has a well-curated menu of Chinese classics made, well, with modern sensibilities. But xiao long bao is their signature dish that’s said to rival Din Tai Fung’s. Crafted using a high-quality dough, these mouthwatering marvels come in all sorts of tasty combos (pork and dungeness crab, chicken and shrimp, and coming soon, miso pork). Each element hits all the right notes—from a savory, soul-warming broth that’s a revelation on its own to a perfect proportion of some palate-pleasing protein. After the holiday from February 16-18, customers who buy any dumpling or noodle dish, will get two dishes for free at any location (they’re also in Santa Monica, Playa Vista, and Sawtelle) when you mention Thrillist and show that you’re following @danmodernchinese on Instagram!
How to order: Walk-ins welcome; pickup or delivery via ChowNow, Postmates, UberEats, DoorDash, and Grubhub.
Shuijiao at One One Dumplings
This dumpling house is sometimes referred to by its previous moniker, Luscious Dumplings, which was a neighborhood favorite. But when one of the restaurant’s partners expanded to a location in Monrovia and changed a few things, the original owners broke off to start anew. With that came a new name—but the dumplings remain luscious indeed. These freshly made, savory wonders are delectable boiled or fried, although we recommend the former, called shuijiao (which translates literally to “water dumpling” in Mandarin). While boiled potstickers may not have the pizzazz of their fried counterparts, One One’s are wonderfully tender and never under or overdone. Pro-tip: The earlier in the day you order, the better, as they often run out!
How to order: Call 626-282-8695 for takeout.
Huitou at Hui Tou Xiang
This unassuming strip mall restaurant specializes in a variety of delicious dumplings and noodles, but it’s most renowned for its signature dish and namesake: huitou, which look nothing like your run-of-the-mill, half-moon-styled potstickers. And that’s precisely what makes these pillow-shaped bites, filled with either pork or beef, so heavenly. Thanks to a flat, rectangular silhouette (and the fact that both sides are pan-fried), these potstickers offer up more fried surface area than the average dumpling—resulting in a crisp shell that’s the perfect foil to its unbelievably juicy interior.
How to order: Call 626-281-9888 for takeout; pickup via their website.
Jiaozi at Beijing Pie House
At Beijing Pie House, you can order jiaozi boiled or fried, but you’ll want the latter. The fried version includes a crisp “skirt” that forms at the bottom of the pan, which connects all the dumplings and adds a delightful crunch. While you can order any of the usual suspects (pork, cabbage, and the like), we’d be remiss not to encourage the more unexpected, intriguing renditions—from pumpkin and pork to lamb and squash. Of course, this restaurant’s also known for its Beijing-style savory pies called xianbing—which are sort of like dumplings on steroids. A Northern Chinese specialty, these hearty, hand-sized pockets are stuffed with the same meat and veggies that go into the dumplings, then lightly pan-fried to golden-brown perfection.
How to order: Call 626-288-3818 for takeout; pickup or delivery via Grubhub and DoorDash.
Shuijiao at Apt. Li-Xiang
It’s hard to order the wrong dumpling at Apt. Li-Xiang—they’ve got everything from pork with chili peppers (or corn cheese!) to black pepper beef and prawn and leek. Their potstickers may look simple and straightforward, but a closer look reveals more: they’re made with paper-thin skins that, when boiled, turn translucent enough to see the filling underneath. It’s a sign of a great dumpling (because the last thing you want is a thick-skinned potsticker that tastes like a ball of dough)—in addition to a moist, flavor-packed mixture of shrimp and veggies.
How to order: Call 626-348-8335 or pickup via their website.
Shengjianbao at Kang Kang Food Court
Alhambra & Temple City
Shengjianbao are the more substantial carb-loaded cousin to delicate xiao long bao. Where XLB are enveloped in thin-skinned wrappers and steamed, these are pan-fried with crisp bottoms and thicker exteriors—which are great at containing a gelatinous paste that turns to liquid as it cooks. Kang Kang Food Court is known for its splendid take on these Shanghainese buns, studded with black sesame seeds and exploding with scalding-hot soup (you’ve been warned!). The filling is rich and flavorful, so it helps to dip the bao in the proffered vinegar sauce; its acid tang cuts through the oozing pork fat and lends an extra dimension of flavor.
How to order: Walk-ins welcome; call 626-308-3898 for takeout or order via their website.
Baozi at Tasty Noodle House
Baozi are traditionally fluffy wheat buns filled with meat and veggies—and Tasty Noodle House’s take is legendary. Made with a thicker dough similar to shengjianbao (a variation of baozi), these round buns are soft and puffy on top, and lightly pan-fried so that their golden-brown bottoms are crunchy. The mix of contrasting textures—as well as the flavor of the seasoned pork within—is a game-changer. And despite the fact that the meat’s practically oozing with aromatic juices inside, the bao never gets soggy, even if you eat it the next day.
How to order: Call 626-284-8898 for takeout; pickup via their website.
Hargow at Lunasia Chinese Cuisine
Alhambra & Pasadena
The steamed, crescent-shaped dumplings known in Cantonese as hargow—a classic dim sum dish—are wrapped in translucent skins that are stretchy, largely thanks to tapioca starch, and stuffed with shrimp. The shrimp, which should be firm, plump, and still crisp, is often folded inside with some kind of pork fat to keep this nugget juicy. Lunasia hits on all of the above and more: each one made with one whole jumbo shrimp, their hargow is supersized compared to the ones served at other restaurants.
How to order: Pickup via their website or app.
Guotie at JTYH Restaurant
JTYH is so deft at executing one thing well (knife-cut noodles from Shanxi province) that you forget they’re also skilled at other dishes (dumplings). But of course, it all makes sense: if you’re good at working the dough for hand-shaven, slippery noods, you’re probably good at turning out plump, porky parcels too. While we’ve sung the praises of thin-skinned wrappers, JTYH is actually known for its thicker, chewier exterior—which no one seems to mind because they manage to remain springy and elastic. Paired with beautifully seared bottoms, these hearty dumplings are filling—so come hungry!
How to order: Call 626-442-8999 for takeout; pickup or delivery via DoorDash.
Wonton at Sam Woo Barbeque
There’s much debate about who serves the best hargow or makes the juiciest potstickers, but nearly everyone agrees that Sam Woo’s wonton soup is a rite of passage. The hallmark of wontons is their yellow, egg-based dough. Rolled out to a fragile thinness, the wrappers are what make wontons perfect for boiling in broth (instead of subjecting them to aggressive pan-frying). Sam Woo sticks to tradition here, tossing their pork- and shrimp-loaded dumplings into a broth with a clump of al dente egg noodles and scallions. Another rite of passage? Adding a few droplets of Chinese red vinegar for a touch of bright acidity.
How to order: Call 626-281-0038 for takeout; pickup or delivery via Postmates, DoorDash, and Grubhub.
Shumai at NBC Seafood Restaurant
Although there are dozens of variations on shumai, the one that’s most recognized stateside is the Cantonese staple served at dim sum restaurants. This steamed, open-faced snack (unlike other dumplings, their yellow, egg-based wrappers aren’t sealed) is usually gorged with a base of ground pork and shrimp and enhanced with any number of additional ingredients and aromatics: mushrooms, scallions, ginger, water chestnuts, bamboo shoots. The top is typically garnished with crab roe or diced carrot, but at NBC—a long-established dim sum mainstay that was perpetually busy on pre-pandemic weekends—they use a goji berry.
How to order: Pickup or delivery via UberEats.
Tangbao at Long Xing Ji
Think of tangbao as the XL-sized rendition of xiao long bao. A giant dumpling bursting with soup, it’s served with a straw (the better to slurp up that delicious broth before digging into the rest) in an individual bamboo steamer. In recent years, this supersized bao has enjoyed a lot of attention thanks to its Instagram-worthy appearance, but Long Xi Ji’s has substance instead of just being a social media draw. Chock-full of freshly ground pork and crab, it’s the perfect precursor to the rest of your meal at this spot specializing in cuisine from China’s Jiangsu province. Plus, it’s proof that bigger can be better!
How to order: Pickup via their website; pickup or delivery via Postmates, UberEats, DoorDash, Grubhub,
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