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Vegetarian Dim Sum in Los Angeles?

artfxca Dec 13, 2006 04:30 PM

We're visiting LA for the holidays and my husband is a vegetarian who loves dim sum............has anyone come across any veggie dim sum places? There was one in Santa Monica some years ago and I don't think it's still there, but unsure.
Thanks, all!

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  1. liu Dec 13, 2006 04:42 PM

    Hello, artfxca! I think you can find many vegetarian items at any of our large dim sum restaurants. Surely one of my favorites is Capital Seafood at Atlantic and Garvey in Monterey Park. It is in a back corner of an outdoor mall with 99 Ranch Market.

    If you select carefully, I know you can enjoy an entire vegetarian meal; they have many tofu and vegetable items.

    5 Replies
    1. re: liu
      Das Ubergeek Dec 13, 2006 04:51 PM

      Do be careful, though, because pork and seafood, or chicken stock, do manage to work their way into many, many otherwise vegetarian dumplings.

      1. re: Das Ubergeek
        igj Dec 13, 2006 05:52 PM

        Unless you have the language skills --and even then lots of patience and persistence -- it might just be safer to assume that there is some chicken stock or pork in most dim sum.

        My FIL speaks Mandarin and when we go with him to dim sum, he always tries to get the cart ladies to tell us which things have meat in them and which are just seafood or just veggie - and inevitably we get at least one or two things that have small pieces of meat or a distinctive chicken-y broth flavor. If the vegetarian is stickler for things being veggie, dim sum seems iffy.

        BTW - we have the worst communication at Ocean Star and Empress Harbor and medium success at Mission 261.

        1. re: Das Ubergeek
          Jwsel Dec 13, 2006 06:05 PM

          Not only do you have to assume there is chicken stock or pork in the fillings, but a lot of the dumpling skins use lard or meat-based shortening.

          1. re: Jwsel
            ipsedixit Dec 13, 2006 06:09 PM

            "but a lot of the dumpling skins use lard or meat-based shortening"


            That's clearly not true.

            Dumpling skins are water and flour. That's it.

            1. re: Jwsel
              raytamsgv Dec 13, 2006 06:29 PM

              Sometimes, they may use beaten eggs to seal the dumpling skins. But I would guess they would probably use water instead--cheaper and easier to clean up.

        2. e
          Ernie Dec 13, 2006 05:54 PM

          Not dim sum per se, but they have many great vegetarian dishes at Happy Family in Monterey Park. Good faux meats and vegetable dishes

          1 Reply
          1. re: Ernie
            wilafur Dec 13, 2006 05:55 PM

            ah yes. happy family is a delicious vegetarian restaurant!

          2. ipsedixit Dec 13, 2006 05:55 PM

            Lots of vegetarian type dishes at dim sum places, but no vegetarian dim sum restaurants per se.

            1. c
              chowmominLA Dec 13, 2006 06:19 PM

              I've gone to Empress Pavillion (in the Bamboo Plaza between Broadway and Hill, and Bernard, in Chinatown) for dim sum with vegetarians, and either they really liked it or were just being polite. I also have a "fair weathered" vegatarian friend (not very strict about it), and Empress for dim sum is one of her very favorite restaurants.

              With the same caveat that these may have been prepared with chicken stock, lard, etc., here are a few vegetarian things off the top of my head that you can get there:

              -Gai lon (chinese broccoli), a very safe bet
              -Fried Egg rolls (I think they just have cabbage but I'm not sure)
              -Sesame red bean balls (the size of golf balls, on the "fried stuff" cart with the eggrolls)
              -Jellyfish (same cart as the roast duck and chicken)

              Lots of things with shrimp:
              -Har gow
              -Shrimp with chive
              -Shrimp rice noodle

              I know there are many other dishes but those come to mind. You can also order anything off the menu.

              1 Reply
              1. re: chowmominLA
                Das Ubergeek Dec 13, 2006 09:37 PM

                Gai lan is a good bet, but the sauce served with it contains oysters. Fried egg rolls almost always have pork in them. Most of the desserts are safe bets, but jellyfish isn't vegetarian, it's seafood!

              2. l
                ladelfa Dec 13, 2006 10:42 PM

                I believe that ipsedixit is correct in saying that there aren't any true vegetarian dimsum style restaurants in L.A. There used to be one in San Francisco Chinatown ("Kowloon"?), but that won't be of much use to you here.

                You didn't say what part of town you'll be in, but if Santa Monica is convenient for you, then you'll probably want to disregard this recommendation, which is Bean Sprouts Vegetarian Restaurant at 103 E. Huntington Drive all the way out in Arcadia (Arcadia is east of Pasadena along the 210 freeway). We found the food attractive and flavorful and the service excellent, and their dumplings in spicy sauce were as good as any we've had around the San Gabriel Valley. You won't need to speak Chinese to manage there and you will be totally assured that there isn't any chicken stock in the soup or pork in the spring rolls.

                See also this post: http://www.chowhound.com/topics/show/...

                1. w
                  writergirl Dec 13, 2006 10:59 PM

                  A friend of mine is vegetarian and did extensive research on veggie websites for a vegetarian dim sum restaurant here in L.A. and came up empty (we had been to one in SF that was great!) So we went to a regular dim sim restaurant figuring she could just order veggie stuff. Well, her boyfriend is Chinese, and was able to ask exactly what was in all the "veggie" things. Yeah, not so veggie. So while we chowed down, she waited, and waited and waited. She even ordered a plate of greens off the menu, which came with little bits of pork chopped up on top! So while it's probably possible to eat veggie at a dim sum place, it may take more effort than you want to expend, and if you're a hard-core veggie it may not be worth the "risk."

                  1. s
                    sidwich Dec 14, 2006 12:05 AM

                    I often do dim sum with groups of friends and I can tell you, vegetarian dim sum is really hard. The vegetarians usually end up having to wait until table service starts, and order off the menu.

                    1. c
                      chowmominLA Dec 14, 2006 01:01 AM

                      I guess it comes down to how strict a vegetarian the original poster's husband is. Yes dim sum in general is tough to impossible for a strict vegetarian, but some vegetarians are not as strict and, for instance, eat seafood, or vegetables cooked with chicken broth. As the original poster's husband "loves dim sum", perhaps he is somewhat forgiving in the preparation.

                      Good point about the oyster sauce with the gai lon, though it can be put in a dish on the side.

                      1. w
                        will47 Dec 14, 2006 09:22 PM

                        I'm vegan, and have gone to Dim Sum once or twice with my gf (who is Chinese, and speaks the language, which helps). Last time, I had some sort of green (either gai lan or the Chinese spinach), which supposedly was vegetarian. The place we went actually cooks them in a cart right in front of you, so you can see what's going into it. I think there were one or two items there that were vegetarian but not vegan also. But all of this is going to be hard to negotiate reliably in English.

                        I've found one or two things that are usually Ok ("su" - vegetarian, "tren su" (my best transliteration of the word) - 100% vegetarian w/o milk or egg - more or less vegan, though a lot of restaurants serve stuff that contains whey / casein / etc. and still consider it 100% vegetarian). Keep in mind that "su" also implies no food with hot chi - so you'll usually get food that's not spicy, and without onion, green onion, etc.

                        Not Dim Sum per se, but a few other suggestions:

                        Din Tai Fung - The vegetarian and red bean dumplings are vegan, as far as I've been able to tell. They're not as amazing as the pork ones supposedly are, though.

                        Dumpling 10053 - I haven't tried it because they use egg to seal the dumplings, but IIRC, they have a bigger selection of vegetarian dumplings.

                        Yi-Mei - Not a great atmosphere (kind of hole in the wall), and may be hard to negotiate in English, but they have a good Northern Chinese style breakfast, and lots of vegetarian stuff. They have this great dish (a Taiwanese rice roll or something like that) that's one of the oil sticks (sort of like a long doughnut) with preserved cabbage and peanut around it, and then a layer of rice around the whole thing. Just make sure you don't order the one that has pork floss inside. :P The soy milk and the soft bean curd are worth trying too. They also have vegetarian buns, and various types of pastries.

                        See this thread for more info:

                        Happy Family and other veg restaurants in the area (there are at least 5-6 that I know of).

                        New York City has the only entirely vegetarian dim sum place I know of in the US - Vegetarian Dim Sum house. It's only Ok, but is worth checking out because it's unique.

                        You could also check out:


                        5 Replies
                        1. re: will47
                          westsidegal Dec 21, 2006 01:38 AM

                          please tell me the names of the other 5-6 vegetarian restaurants that you know of other than happy family.
                          dying to know. . .

                          1. re: westsidegal
                            will47 Dec 21, 2006 03:24 AM

                            Well there are two vegetarian Happy Families (separate ownership, though I think they're related) in the SGV, also one in Rowland Heights (with one floor vegetarian, one not). There's also a non-veg Happy Family in the Del Mar / Valley plaza, or at least their used to be. My two favorites in that area (Ten-In and Vegetarian Delight) both closed a few years back.

                            For a second, I was worried that I had exaggerated the numbers, but here you are:

                            1) Happy Family (Atlantic) *
                            2) Happy Family (8632 E. Valley in Rosemead)
                            3) Vege House (1400 E. Valley in Alhambra)
                            4) Vegetarian Wok (529 E. Valley in San Gabriel) *
                            5) Fine Garden (841 W. Las Tunas, San Gabriel) *

                            Also nearby:
                            * Bean Sprouts (Taiwanese place in Arcadia) *
                            * Tea Shaker (not as good as they used to be - in El Monte)
                            * Veggie Life (Vietnamese place in South El Monte) (I think I went here a long time ago and the service was pretty bad, even for a hole in the wall Asian restaurant).
                            * Vegi Wokery (Cerritos)
                            * Happy Family (Rowland Heights)
                            * Veggie & Tea House (San Dimas)
                            * Veggie Bistro (Whittier)
                            * Hsi Lai Temple (Hacienda Heights) - not a restaurant per se, but they have a buffet there most days, and it's a great place to visit (I believe it's the biggest Buddhist temple in the Western hemisphere, and is very beautiful and peaceful, despite the Democratic fundraising scandals that went down there).

                            I've starred the ones that I think are pretty good.

                            If you're feeling adventurous, try the little breakfast place I mentioned earlier in this thread.

                            Vegetarians in Paradise has a good list (I got a lot of the addresses above there) and some reviews, as does happycow.net. I think there are a few sites (mostly in Chinese) with a pretty complete list.

                            See also this thread:

                            And these lists:
                            (great list, though beware they may be a bit out of date


                            If you're down in the OC, I recommend checking out the Vietnamese and Chinese veg places down there, especially Au Lac.

                            1. re: will47
                              ladelfa Dec 21, 2006 11:34 AM

                              There's one other one in Rowland Heights, inside the shopping mall with 99 Ranch Market. I've been there once and was thoroughly underwhelmed. I'm mentioning it here just for completeness' sake.

                              1. re: will47
                                westsidegal Feb 4, 2007 11:22 AM

                                i can't thank you enough for pulling this information together.
                                thankyou thankyou thankyou thankyou thank you. . . . . . .

                                1. re: will47
                                  arifa Feb 4, 2007 10:13 PM

                                  if you're going to vegi wokery in cerritos, i recommend the crispy chicken (it's deep fried and comes with jalapenos and lettuce and some kind of liquidy ketchup-like sauce). yum! i also like the fish steak, but it's not a very big portion if you're sharing. the chicken casserole is good, too. the best thing is the marinated brocolli stem appetizer they set out in front of you for free! i always wish i could jsut get a big bowl of that!

                            2. w
                              WHills Dec 15, 2006 08:06 PM

                              You might want to try New Capital Seafood off of Garvey and Del Mar Avenue. The wait is crazy, usually an hour if you don't go near the opening, but they have a lot of vegatarian dishes. I went with a friend who is vegetarian. Below is some of the things we ordered for her:

                              Turnip cake or taro cake off of the frying cart
                              Stir-fry on-choy
                              Bean curd wrapped roll in steamer
                              Veggie egg rolls (no pork)
                              Fried tofu
                              Steamed/stuff tofu

                              3 Replies
                              1. re: WHills
                                Das Ubergeek Dec 15, 2006 09:20 PM

                                Just so you know, turnip cake off the frying cart almost always has pork in it... and what was the tofu stuffed with?

                                1. re: Das Ubergeek
                                  WHills Dec 15, 2006 11:27 PM

                                  In that case, you might as well just have the gailan with no sauce, or scrap dim sum altogether.

                                  1. re: WHills
                                    ladelfa Dec 20, 2006 09:16 PM

                                    There's hardly any point in going to NCS then, since all of the dishes you listed are readily available at any of the half-dozen completely vegetarian Chinese restaurants in the area. When people say 'dim sum' I think of shu mai and char siu bao, not stir fried gai lan. I've seen vegetarian versions of those things, but I can't think of any restaurants in LA that have them on the menu.

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