Food & Drink

LA's Best Dumplings (and They Aren't All Dim Sum!)

Published On 02/23/2016 Published On 02/23/2016

Los Angeles LA's San Gabriel Valley is known as a dumpling mecca, for good reason: the influx of Chinese immigrants there has ensured that the dim sum is the best you can get without, y'know, a plane ticket to China. But in addition to amazing dim sum, LA's got dumplings from all over the world, ranging from Georgian-style soup dumplings to kimchi and pork-filled Korean wonders -- and, of course, some amazing Chinese iterations. So you can navigate the bounty, these are LA's best dumplings -- not all of which'll be delivered by cart. More Stuff You Will Like

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Khinkali

Robert’s Russian (address and info)   Hollywood For over 20 years, Robert’s Russian in Hollywood has received plenty of praise for their Russian vareniki dumplings (covered in caramelized onions), and their pillowy, thin-doughed Ukrainian pelmeni dumplings. Both are incredibly good, but it’s the restaurant’s Georgian-style khinkali dumplings, dusted with black pepper, that steal the show. The piping hot delights are like Eastern European soup dumplings, but the dough takes on more than one form -- soft and noodle-like where the soup has touched, and chewy and light where it’s soup-free. Biting into one of these beef-filled parcels is like warming your soul from the inside out. Pro tip: the thick knot on top is meant to be pierced with your fork for easier slurping, not for eating.

Gyoza

Daikokuya (address and info)   Little Tokyo Though Daikokuya is known for having some of the best ramen in all of Los Angeles, the restaurant’s gyoza is also something of a masterpiece. Plump nuggets of tender pork and cabbage, seasoned with soy sauce and garlic, are nuzzled inside shiny crescents that are crisp and crunchy from being pan-fried. Keep dipping until there is nothing left. They’re that good. Continue Reading

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Steam King dumpling with pork and kimchi

Myung In Dumplings (address and info)   Koreatown Off Olympic in Los Angeles’ thriving Koreatown, Myung In Dumplings serves a variety of classic Asian dumplings. You could easily fill up on the steamed pork, shrimp, and xiao long bao-style dumplings, but the king here is the, uh, Steam King dumpling with pork and kimchi. The giant, doughy rounds (also called wang mandu) are a take on Chinese baozi, or bun. The bread-like pockets are filled with housemade kimchi and pork, which, once steamed, lend to a perfect ratio of fluffy and juicy with a hint of tang. And get multiple orders: one will not be enough.

Fried wontons

Ruen Pair (address and info)   Thai Town Ruen Pair in Hollywood’s Thai Town serves some of the most authentic Thai food outside of Asia. Sweet, spicy, crunchy, salty, and sour describe many of the dishes on Ruen Pair’s menu, including its prized wontons. The fried wontons are made with golden fried skin that’s not oily but instead crunchy and full of flavor is wrapped around marinated pork to form pudgy, chewy centers, with pointed edges, perfect for dipping. The long-standing LA favorite also serves another Thai classic, a whole shrimp wrapped in a wonton skin that is then fried -- Thailand’s crispier version of pigs in a blanket. Get an order of each to ensure you’re fully satiated.

Tar & Roses

Oxtail dumplings

Tar & Roses (address and info)   Santa Monica At Tar & Roses in Santa Monica, Chef Andrew Kirschner’s oxtail dumplings are an elevated take on the Chinese wonton. Beautiful wheat pockets filled with slightly fatty oxtail meat are infused with onions, garlic, and veal stock to form the perfect one-bite appetizer. But wait: there’s more! They’re topped with san bai su; a Japanese sauce made of Mirin, soy sauce, and rice wine vinegar, plus chili sauce and sliced green onions which creates a mouth-watering flavor that will have you hailing down your waiter for a second order (or third) before you’ve finished your first.

Shrimp wontons

Pine and Crane (address and info)   Silverlake In Taiwan, light, airy wontons are just as common as their beloved minced pork over rice. And shrimp is always a popular filling due to the country’s island locale. In Silverlake, Pine & Crane mimics the authentic taste and feel of the Taiwanese dumpling experience with their spicy shrimp wontons. Sumptuous heaps of wrinkly-skinned packets swim effortlessly in a heaping bowl of the restaurant’s house chili oil. The wontons are topped with green onions and cilantro creating a powerhouse of spicy shrimp goodness you’ll want to devour immediately.

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Xian bing

Beijing Pie House (address and info)   Monterey Park Xian bing, aka Beijing pies are like pan-fried hamburgers, minus the cheese. What makes these Sichuan treats so special is in the dough, which is similar to the mixture used for flaky scallion pancakes. To make the pies, the dough is oiled and left to rest, then filled with ground beef, lamb, or chicken and green onions and shaped, creating a massive hand-held pie that is then pan-fried to crispy perfection.  

Mulmandu

Myung Dong Kyoja (address and info)   Koreatown Situated on the corner of Wilshire and Harvard, the sparse dining room of Myung Dong Kyjoa is one of Los Angeles’ best spots for Korean home cooking and is mostly known for its boiled pork dumplings, or mulmandu, which are served in a light broth, and rounded out with glass noodles and ground chicken to form the restaurant’s take on chicken noodle soup. The beauty of these plump and sturdy dumplings is the mixture of vegetables seasoned with ginger, soy sauce, and garlic that are tucked inside a wheat wrapper bathing in a salty chicken broth. As you bite into the dumpling the juicy meat and delicate wrapper melt into the broth and perfection is created. Bless.

Din Tai Fung

Xiao long bao

Din Tai Fung (address and info)   Arcadia Xiao long bao, aka soup dumplings, are made by filling wispy dough with juicy meat and savory soup. Be sure to follow the rules of soup dumpling etiquette by biting a tiny hole in the dumpling and sucking out the soup before eating the dumpling, otherwise you risk total embarrassment and boiling broth spilling all over your table. Din Tai Fung, the Taiwanese institution famous for its xiao long bao, has three restaurants in Los Angeles, and at the Arcadia locations, the soup is thick and full of flavor, the dough is light without being sticky, and the fillings are hefty without weighing down the dough. The result is a tender bite of heaven filled with a porky-rich broth. The good news is an order comes with eight. Sharing not required.

Baklava

Birch (address and info)   Hollywood Technically not a dumpling, but still a wondrous filling-rich packet, is the Mediterranean treat, Baklava. Most commonly found in dessert form, Baklava summons the senses with sweet layers of chopped nuts and butter that ooze out when you take a bite. In the case of Birch, the restaurant takes paper-thin phyllo dough and wraps it around heaps of stewed rabbit, dates, white beans, and pistachios.

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Har gow

Dim Sum Express (address and info)   Monterey Park In Monterey Park, Dim Sum Express, a small shack on Garfield Ave, serves some of the best har gow in Los Angeles. Bursting with succulent shrimp, bits of bamboo shoots and a touch of sesame oil, these steamed, mochi-like dumplings deliver a hint of sweetness married with an oil-kissed chewiness that’s beyond words. Oh, and these har gow are not only big on flavor; their sheer size makes this bite big enough for two.  

No. 43 rice roll

Bahn Mi My-Tho (address and info)   Alhambra Alhambra’s Bahn Mi My-Tho, known for its hefty bahn mi sandwiches filled with everything from grilled pork and veggies to fried eggs and pate, also serves plenty of varieties of rice rolls -- sheets of slippery rice noodles rolled around generous helpings of shredded pork, grilled meatballs, or housemade sausage. These dumplings are great on their own, but are even better with Nước chấm -- a sweet and sour dipping sauce made with fresh lime. Be sure to order a bahn mi and the No. 43 rice roll, marinated pork with crispy skin topped with pork loaf. The contrast of the rice wrapper to savory meat, sweet garnish, and tangy sauce creates a depth of flavor that is unparalleled. Sign up here for our daily LA email and be the first to get all the food/drink/fun Los Angeles has to offer. Andriana Albert is a writer who grew up listening to hip-hop while roaming the streets of LA in search of the best local eats. She dreams of one day sharing a meal with rapper and cookbook author 2 Chainz. Follow her quest for food and music unity on twitter: @itsadredogg

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1. Robert's Russian Cuisine 1601 N LA Brea Ave, Los Angeles, CA 90028 (Hollywood)

Don't be fooled by the strip mall location. Part banquet hall, part Russian restaurant, Robert's Russian Cuisine in Hollywood is a Mom and Pop style joint specializing in classic Eastern European fare. Portions are large, service is friendly (they'll treat you like part of the family), and the flavors are bold and hearty.

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2. Daikokya 327 E 1st St, Los Angeles, CA (Downtown)

Get OG ramen straight from Japan at this pint sized shop in LA's Little Tokyo. Rice bowls and ramen are the standouts on this basic menu-- get 'em with standard with pork and beef, go try something more adventurous like rice topped with salmon eggs and shiso leaf, or a teriyaki eel bowl. Most dishes ring up at under $20, making Daikokya an ideal spot for a quick lunch or dinner.

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3. Myung In Dumplings 3109 W Olympic Blvd, Los Angeles, CA 90006 (Koreatown)

This Anthony Bourdain-approved hole-in-the-wall dumpling spot off Olympia Blvd in Koreatown might have the best mandoo in LA. The boiled and fried pork, kimchi, and red bean dumplings are great, as are the few soups on the menu. The real speciality though is Wang Mandoo, giant, hamburger-sized steamed buns filled with a mix of glass noodles, pork, and vegetables.

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4. Ruen Pair 5257 Hollywood Blvd, Los Angeles, CA 90027 (Hollywood)

This Hollywood spot does Thai how it's supposed to be done, featuring a large menu with all of your favorite dishes at affordable prices.

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5. Tar & Roses 602 Santa Monica BLvd, Santa Monica, CA 90401 (Santa Monica)

No longer just a GnR cover band fronted by the particularly charismatic skeletal remains of a wooly mammoth, Tar and Roses is now also a date-friendly bistro chock full of marble and wood, the debut effort of lauded chef Andrew Kirschner (Joe's in Venice, Table 8, Wilshire), named LA's Best New Chef by Angeleno.

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6. Pine & Crane 1521 Griffith Park Blvd, Los Angeles, CA 90026 (Silverlake)

This ultra-casual, ultra-affordable Taiwanese cafe in Silverlake is the kind of restaurant you eat at once and crave forever. A solid player in LA's fast-casual scene, P&C offers up airy wontons, beef rolls, and noodle and vegetable dishes in a homey and modern space. The counter-service restaurant also features a wide variety of teas sourced from Taiwan, and a rotating list of craft beers and wine.

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7. Beijing Pie House 846 E Garvey Ave #A, Monterey Park, CA 91755

Xian bing, or Beijing pies, can be found that the eatery known for their delicious Sichuan treats. Xian bing is, essentially, a pan-fried hamburger withouth the cheese, made with a dough similiar to that of scallion pancakes. Imagine a soup dumping in pie form, bursting with flavor.

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8. Myung Dong Kyoja 3630 Wilshire Blvd, Los Angeles, CA 90010

This Koreatown spot is known for kalgooksoo, which literally means knife-cut noodles in Korean. Made with a clam-based, chicken-based, or pretty much anything-based broth, the noodle soup is the definition of comfort food. Myung Dong Kyoja's other speciality, mulmandu, or boiled pork dumplings, come served in the light broth, along with ground meat, scallions, and a side of insanely garlicky kimchee. Plus, the restaurant has windows into the kitchen where you can see the noodles get made.

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9. Din Tai Fung 1108 S Baldwin Ave, Arcadia, CA 91007 (Arcadia)

This Asian fare leader is just one of numerous other associated restaurants around the world. Unsurprisingly, they're most well known for their extensive dumpling menu, but they serve numerous other options that are each crafted with precision and flavor in mind, at a reasonable price to boot.

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10. Birch 1634 N Cahuenga Blvd, Hollywood, CA 90028 (Hollywood)

Birch might be the most adventurous restaurant ever to hit the neighborhood, blending together influences and flavors from all over the world (think scallop sashimi and rabbit baklava). As a bonus, you'll find a collection of inspired, market-forward cocktails with ingredient combinations like black lime and white tea rum, frankincense and irish whiskey, or vodka and pinecone.

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11. Dim Sum Express 326 N Garfield Ave, Monterey Park, CA 91754

This stripped-down chinese counter restaurant serves some of the best har grow in town: bursting with succulent shrimp, bits of bamboo shoots and a touch of sesame oil, these steamed, mochi-like dumplings deliver a hint of sweetness and chewiness that’s beyond words.

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12. Banh Mi My Tho 304 W Valley Blvd, Alhambra, CA 91803

This cash-only Vietnamese sandwich shop in Alhambra serves up hefty banh mi filled with everything from grilled pork and veggies to fried eggs and pate, as well as tasty summer rolls made with vermicelli noodles and generous helpings of shredded pork. Banh Mi My-Tho is a tiny operation, and you'll likely have to eat your sandwich on a bench outside the shop, but the sub-$5 prices are too good to pass up.

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