The Best Dumplings in the San Gabriel Valley

OK, so I know that if enough people paid attention to this blog, that title would cause quite the uproar. It’s true – I have not tried every dumpling in the San Gabriel Valley. Not even close. In fact, for the purposes of this (delightful) taste test, we simply did a portion of Lucky Peach’s A Dumpling Crawl of LA’s San Gabriel Valley. So yes, there likely are better and brighter dumplings out there. But here are those we tried, ranked and rated for your dining knowledge.

Xiao Long Bao

If you’re curious about the ratings scale, check out my last “Best Of” post – full explanation there. And now, on to dumplings!

Crystal Shrimp Har Gow

#7 Elite Restaurant, Crystal Shrimp Har Gow [62/150] $4.98 (4 pieces)
Recommended by Lucky Peach
Taste 15/50 | Value 21/30 | Texture 6/20 Creativity 2/20 | Presentation 10/20Convenience 8/10
Elite Restaurant was the first place we visited – a traditional dim-sum-type restaurant – and per Lucky Peach’s recommendation we actually ordered two types of dumplings there. These were simple shrimp-filling–in-wrappers, and were pretty much as expected – very shrimpy, a bit of an odd texture (plus it was hard to keep the wrapping on), and overall a fine introductory dumpling, but nothing special.

Pork Shu Mai

#6 Elite Restaurant, Pork Shui-Mai [71/150] $4.98 (4 pieces)
Recommended by Lucky Peach
Taste 20/50 | Value 21/30 | Texture 8/20 Creativity 4/20 | Presentation 10/20Convenience 8/10
Sadly for Elite, the other dumplings we had there also brought up the rear – these pork dumplings had a nice savory bite and a better texture (though still not the greatest), but just weren’t that special. I know that Elite probably has much more interesting/better menu items, but while we weren’t mad about having to eat these they just didn’t measure up to some of our other explorations.

Pan Fried Pork Dumplings with Leeks & Shrimp

#5 Qing Dao Bread Food, Pan Fried Pork Dumplings with Leeks & Shrimp [100/150]
$6.95 (8 pieces)
Recommended by Lucky Peach
Taste 20/50 | Value 24/30 | Texture 20/20 Creativity 16/20 | Present. 12/20Convenience 8/10
The dumplings got interesting at Qing Dao Bread Food, where the pork dumplings were in a thick, doughy wrapping with a pretty awesome crispy bottom. We loved the outsides, but the insides were overly leek-heavy, losing out on the delights of pork and shrimp. However, I will say this is an impressive amount of food for $6.95 (we took some home to save room for future eating).

Chinese Leek “Pancake”

#4 Flavor Garden, Chinese Leek Pancake [101/150] $7.50 (8 pieces)
Recommended by Lucky Peach
Taste 30/50 | Value 24/30 | Texture 18/20 Creativity 12/20 | Present. 10/20Convenience 7/10
These dumplings were in no way a pancake, though they did get a delightfully crispy pancake-like effect on their bottoms due to excess crispy wrapper – very tasty. The filling was pretty much only seasoned leeks, which was a bit much, but actually had a better (less bitter) flavor than the overly-leeky pork dumplings (#5).

Pork Hui Tou

#3 Hui Tou Xiang, Pork Hui Tou [103/150] $7.50 (8 pieces)
Recommended by Lucky Peach
Taste 35/50 | Value 24/30 | Texture 16/20 Creativity 10/20 | Present. 10/20Convenience 8/10
These long, roll-shaped dumplings were pretty much everything dumpling should be – good wrapper density and bite, a nice crispy outside, and a savory and tasty filling. We went with pork, but they also make a beef version – and even if you’re only getting one order, you get their house kimchi (really good!) as a free bonus.

Xiao Long Bao

#2 Din Tai Fung, Pork Xiao Long Bao [107/150] $10 (10 pieces)
Recommended by Lucky Peach
Taste 50/50 | Value 18/30 | Texture 18/20 Creativity 6/20 | Present. 12/20Convenience 3/10
Don’t worry – we didn’t miss the SGV’s signature dumpling, Xiao Long Bao (also known as soup dumplings) at the much-lauded and always-crowded Din Tai Fung. And honestly, they were really, really good. Tender and hot and juicy, perfect paired with a sliver of ginger and a splash of black vinegar. Were I not on a dumpling crawl, I could have eaten a disturbing number of these. (We did miss one other soup dumpling purveyor on Lucky Peach’s guide due to time and stomach capacity…now I’m curious how the two would have compared!).
 Pan Fried Pork Bun (Sheng Jian Bao)

#1 Emperor Noodle, Pan Fried Pork Bun [117/150] $5.99 (4 pieces)
Recommended by Lucky Peach
Taste 45/50 | Value 18/30 | Texture 16/20 Creativity 14/20 | Present. 16/20Convenience 8/10
And what wound up number one? These unusual dumplings from emperor noodle, bun-like in wrapper and beautifully crisped (and dipped in sesame) on the bottom, filled with deliciously seasoned pork filling. I mean…downright gorgeous, am I right?

So, there you have it – our ranking of at least a sampling of the dumplings available in the San Gabriel Valley! Feel free to leave recommendations for round two…oh, and enjoy this parting shot of a panna cotta drink we purchased on the journey, which is exactly as weird and yet also as yummy as it sounds.

Panna Cotta Drink


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