Saturday, August 23, 2014

Mama Lu's Dumpling House - Monterey Park

The big news right now is that Din Tai Fung has finally opened at South Coast Plaza--the first time the Taiwanese-based chain has stepped foot in OC. But most of the chatter isn't about Din Tai Fung's food, it's about the familiar and inevitable Din Tai Fung wait, which is predictably long--upwards to 2 to 3 hours according to some first-hand accounts I heard.

I'm going to go anyway because, well, because it's goddamn Din Tai Fung and I'm of the belief that there is no better juicy pork dumpling (a.k.a. xiao long bao) out there than the one they make.

This, however, isn't to say that I don't appreciate other dumpling houses, especially Mama Lu's Dumpling House in Monterey Park which I tried recently on the recommendation of a friend who goes out for dumplings more than I do.

Yes, they make xiao long baos, too--pretty darned good ones that have the proper number of pleats and burst scalding hot soup if you eat them too soon. And though Mama Lu's dumpling skin isn't as thin or delicate as DTF's, the xiao long bao's here are just as consistently well-made, and fresh. Also, there's this: a meal here costs about half what you would pay at Din Tai Fung.

The other reason you should come is everything else. The onion pancakes might be the lightest, bubbliest, and greaseless I've ever had. They use these same pancakes for wrapping rolls slathered in hoisin and stuffed with tender tendon-jeweled slices of beef. There's also non-juicy pork buns, where meat-stuffed fluffy steamed bread with sesame-crusted bottoms are pan-fried to crispness. Their boiled chive, shrimp, and pork dumplings are exquisite in their simplicity. There are deep-fried breads you're supposed to dip into saucers of sweetened condensed milk. And vermicelli noodles with salted fish and chicken. And sautéed green beans in family-sized quantities freckled with garlic, dried shrimp and pickled vegetables.

Another thing about this place: the food comes out hot and fast, mere minutes from when you ordered, which will be mere minutes from when you were waiting to be seated.

Yes, I said minutes. Not hours. And when you sit, there's free peanuts and pickled cucumbers to munch on. Mama Lu's may not be as famous, glitzy, or as fashionable as Din Tai Fung, but when did dumplings and this kind of food need to be?

Mama Lu's Dumpling House
153 E Garvey Ave.
Monterey Park, CA 91755
(626) 307-5700

Vegan Cuisine - Fountain Valley


At 2:10 PM, Anonymous Dee said...

Hmmm...will try Mama Lu next time I'm up in the valley.

I went to DTF last Sunday (got there 11;30, seated at 2;27pm). At 1 pm, the wait is 6.5 hrs...crazy right? But their xlb is to die for and the green beans are really good. You think the wait will ever be cut? At least with SCP there's plenty to do while waiting. Good for all businesses around =P

At 8:50 AM, Blogger elmomonster said...

And I thought the 3.5 hours I waited last Friday and Saturday was bad!

You're right: it's good for all the business around, which all might benefit from a Din Tai Fung bump in revenue.

By the way, my review of Din Tai Fung should come out this week!

And here's my review of JINBEI!

At 6:55 PM, Blogger dumplings said...


I was just here this past Saturday! This is one of our regular places to visit whenever we eat out in the SGV area. If you're a fan of xiao long bao, you should check out Jin Jian on 301 W Valley. This place has been there for more than 30 years.

6.5 hour wait...or even 3.5 hour wait for Din Tai Fung?! It feels almost as if they're selling the brand and not the food. I have always appreciated watching families and food stands perfect the art of wrapping and stuffing meat with flour while growing up in Asia. It sucks to to see how commercialized it has become.

At 8:39 AM, Blogger elmomonster said...


Yes, DTF SCP is not worth the wait at this point. Not when DTF Arcadia and others are around.

Here's my review of DTF SCP!

At 9:02 AM, Anonymous Anonymous said...

Isn't Ding Tai Fung LA branch quite fast if you visit near the opening time? That was my experience anyway. They were quite efficient at dealing with a short line quickly.

Also, Wang Xing Ji in S Gabriel's XLB is pretty good too. I'm not sure how WXJ compares to Mama Lu's, however.


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