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Jul 2, 2008 09:20 AM

Dumpling and Taiwanese Shaved Ice Combo

I've read numerous recommendations on Chowhound for dumpling houses (or just general Chinese restaurants) in San Gabriel Valley. This includes: Luscious Dumpling, 101 Noodle Express (Loo Wei Ju), Mei Long Village, Din Tai Fung, or Northern Dumpling House.

My preference is for a Taiwanese dumpling house, followed by Taiwanese shaved ice. Can any of you wise Chowhounds recommend me a Taiwanese shaved ice place that is within walking distance (or at least a short driving distance) to any of the above places?

I've read recommendations for Shau May, Old Country Cafe (which uses an ice machine from Taiwan), or Pa Pa Walk, but am not sure how close these shaved ice places are to the above restaurants.

Your recommendations?

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  1. Shau May is on Garfield and Garvey -- just google the addresses. Northern Dumpling House is directly in front of it.

    2 Replies
      1. re: Das Ubergeek

        Don't forget that Mama's Lu Dumpling is across the street from Northern Dumpling and indeed on the same side of the street as Shau May, and that a block north on Garvey are Qingdao Bread Food (301 N. Garfield, with the wonderful fish dumplings) and Dean Sin World (306 N. Garfield, which serves XLB).

      2. What the hell is a "Taiwanese dumpling house"??

        When I hear that, visions of asking for an "Los Angeles NY-style pizza" immediately pop into my mind. EGAD.

        In any event, I would recommend you just go to Pa Pa Walk (and save yourself the "walk" of going to two different places). Best mango shaved ice in SGV, and they offer a large selection of dumplings as well (e.g. spicy, fish, pork, etc.) The dumplings won't win any awards, but are more than serviceable. The fish and cilantro dumplings are pretty tasty.

        By the way, none of the dumpling places you've listed are "Taiwanese". MLV is Shanghainese, Dumpling 101, Luscious Dumpling, and 10053 are best described as northern Chinese/Beijing style, or even Shandong. And Northern Dumpling's name sort of says it all ...

        25 Replies
        1. re: ipsedixit


          I've not been to any of the above restaurants I listed in the original post. I did, however, vaguely recall reading some posts about Taiwanese dumplings...or maybe I read about them elsewhere. Do Taiwanese dumplings not exist? Isnt the dumpling skin/texture supposed to be different from "regular Chinese dumplings"? I honest don't know. Personally, I don't care. I love all sorts of dumplings. However, I was hoping, if possible, to have a dining experience from the same region. I would, though, prefer to have authentic (or as close to authentic) Taiwanese shaved ice. Shanghai/Beijing dumplings are just fine with me.

          1. re: Pamela


            Best shaved ice in SGV is at 85 Degree Celsius Tea House. It's so cool that they call it "Snoflake"!

            As far as Taiwanese dumplings, I don't think there is technically such a thing. Really, Taiwan being what it is, really doesn't have an indigenous cuisine to speak of other than its famed street (or pub) food, e.g. oyster omeletes, pork chop rice, vermicelli noodles, etc.

            There is nothing wrong with dumplings made at a Taiwanese shop, just as there is nothing wrong with getting sushi at a Korean restaurant, but it's not something you would normally do if you wanted the true article.

            1. re: ipsedixit

              But there must be SOME regional differences between dumplings, although "Taiwanese dumplings" are obviously heavily influenced by dumplings from mainland China. Given their proximity and ethnic concordance, perhaps the difference is small. Earlier, you used the pizza metaphor. Now the gold standard for pizza is NY pizza. Well, "California pizza," I would argue, takes a different spin by adding assorted foo-foo stuff (BBQ chicken, artichokes, etc.), the crust is different, etc. This is why I'm thinking Taiwanese dumplings have a slightly different skin. I thought I read that dumplings from the Taiwanese restaurants tend to be thinner. (I personally prefer the thicker skin.)

              1. re: Pamela

                If you want thick skinned dumplings go get yourself some Mandu, or Korean dumplings.

                If what you want are dumplings with chewier skin (i.e., where the skins have that "qq" quality) then try places like 10053 or Luscious Dumplings. The skins provide that certain al dente mouthfeel, but are not raw or undercooked by any means.

                Now a good place to try for thicker skinned dumplings is Dumpling House in Rosemead -- it's a Korean Chinese shop. Very good fish dumplings, perhaps the gold standard.

                1. re: Pamela

                  I agree with ipsedixit. Taiwan does have its indigenous dishes, but most dumpling varieties found in Taiwan today have their origins from other parts of China.

                  1. re: Pamela

                    Maybe you're looking not for a Taiwanese dumpling restaurant, but a Taiwanese restaurant that also serves dumplings, like Peking Deli in Chino Hills and Walnut.

                    1. re: Chandavkl

                      Hmmm. Maybe. Can you (or anyone else) recommend me a really good place that sells authentic Taiwanese street food and that ALSO serves dumplings? My plan is to eat first, then visit some of the markets/stores, and then go get the shaved ice afterwards. (Need a break in between lunch and dessert, especially since I plan to stuff myself.)

                      P.S. Thanks, everyone, for all the tips, recommendations, and corrections!

                      1. re: Pamela

                        Just stumbled across the L.A. Times listing of Taiwanese restaurants. It's far from complete as half of the Chinese restaurants in Rowland Heights are Taiwanese. Interesting that they identify Mama's Kitchen on New Ave. (also in Las Vegas) as being Taiwanese. They make very good dumplings though they're not thought of as a dumpling restaurant per se.


                        1. re: Pamela

                          HI Pamela,

                          FYI, but ipsedixit answered your question :) -

                          Your aforementioned Pa Pa Walk is a place serving classic Taiwanese food (Pork Chop Rice, Oyster Egg Omelette, etc.), and they serve Dumplings that they make the stuffing themselves (not the skin, but the filling).

                          That's a good start to try some good Taiwanese food & some Dumplings, and as ipse said, their Shaved Ice is oishii! (^_^)

                          Their Dumplings aren't the best in the SGV, but it's decent and you can try all the items you were looking for.

                          Then, if you have room (or after some market shopping), literally a few blocks away is my favorite for dumplings: 101 Noodle Express. :)

                          1. re: Pamela

                            Well, Shau May itself is really a Taiwanese restaurant that also cooks dishes from other places. You can get things like pei gu fan (porkchop rice), but you can also get jing dong meat pie, or pan-fried dumplings (mmmmmm).

                            1. re: Das Ubergeek

                              Pamela: you can get a bag of good, frozen taiwanese dumplings from Ranch 99 and cook it at home. The so-called taiwanese dumpling houses in SGV are old and outdated. They didn't catch up with the changes and improvements in their native land, Taiwan. So I would recommend you to venture into the mainland styles.

                            2. re: Pamela

                              Pamela, I hate to tell you the truth but there's no good taiwanese street food/snacks in SGV. Not even the over hyped Uncle Chen or Ding's Garden. I mean, come on, people seriously call that authentic?

                          1. re: fdb

                            425 W. Valley in San Gabriel. Also a place called 85°C Cafe just opened in Irvine. Not sure if it's related.

                            1. re: fdb

                              The 85 Tea House on Valley has nothing to do with the popular cafe chain in Taiwan. I liked it when they first opened but the quality of service and atmosphere has gone down hill lately. It just became another typical high schooler hangout place. Half & Half Tea House is my new discovery. The quality of their drinks and shaved ice are superb though some people may think they are a bit overpriced.

                            2. re: ipsedixit

                              The Snowflake mango shave ice at 85 Degree is indeed delicious, but $6.45 (after tax) is a little steep for a shave ice.

                              1. re: fdb

                                Apparently you haven't been to Koreatown lately where a Korean shaved ice with chemically flavored syrup and fruity pebbles can cost upwards of $14

                                Mr Taster

                                1. re: Mr Taster

                                  I had the snowflake mango ice at 85 C and it was revolting. The ice was CHEWY. Like mochi. Ugh.

                                  Best Taiwanese slush is the melon shaved ice at Phoenix Food Boutique. Best slushvalue is still "Kentucky Fried" Shau May on Garfield and Garvey (with the bucket on the roof, next to ABC Café) or Kang Kang Food Court in the 0 block of E. Valley in Alhambra, which are related.

                                  1. re: Das Ubergeek

                                    Chewy ice? That's the combo of milk/cream with the snowflake ice.

                                  2. re: Mr Taster

                                    Anyone in koreatown make one with real fruit?

                                2. re: ipsedixit

                                  I like the shaved ice at Half and Half Tea House on San Gabriel and Las Tunas. They have black sugar favored ice and you can choose as many toppings as you want. Pamela: if you really want to eat good food, you shouldn't be concerned about distance. I mean, how far can a good dumpling house be from Half and Half Tea House. I would prefer to try a mainland style dumpling place though, such as J&J Restaurant on Valley. Try the one with "chi" green vegi and pork. It's fragrant and yummo.

                              2. re: ipsedixit

                                Best Mango shaved ice is clearly NOT at Pa Pa Walk, but at Old Country Buffet. bottomless shaved ice, plenty of condensed milk and house made pudding with manila mangoes that are usually more ripe, and no mango "sauce", at about 3/4 the cost of Pa Pa Walk's. The cliche "size does matter" doesn't apply.

                                per ipsedixit, none of the resto's listed are Taiwainese operated.

                                AFAIK, 4 of the only dumpling houses still owned/operated by Taiwanesers, obviously: DTF and Mandarin Noodle Deli, which, IMO, is totally subpar and over-rated, including their beef roll, the relatively new:
                                Kingburg (self proclaimed "best buns", a really excellent NRM and a funkilicious dill based boiled dumpling - available as... a COMBO. what a fantastic idea), and the oft-forgotten yet well-aged Pearl's Kitchen.

                                1. re: TonyC

                                  Hey TonyC,

                                  What did you think of Kingburg? Curious to hear your thoughts. Thanks. :)

                                  1. re: exilekiss

                                    I think Kingburg's a diamond in the rough.

                                    the pork + dill boiled dumplings are just stupendous. they brought out sesame oil when i asked and thus i was able to concoct my fave dumpling dip trifecta on the spot.

                                    they also claimed "best Taiwanese buns" (shen jian bao).. and i always thought i had the best Taiwanese buns...

                                    again, the beef noodle soup, bar-none, is the most savory (and textured) of anything I've seen in SGV... i don't think their noodles are house made, but i'm not doing much carbs nowadays so it matters not to me.

                                    they offer majority of their noodles in conjunction with a sampling of their dumplings in combinations akin to say.. Yashimas. I love that.

                              3. Din Tai Fung in Arcadia for dumplings.

                                SinBaLa in Arcadia for shaved ice.

                                SinBaLa is on Duarte, near the corner of Baldwin, while Din Tai Fung is on Baldwin near the corner of Duarte. They are on basically on the same golden corner of Baldwin and Duarte, which has the highest concentration of yummy Chinese eats per square footage. If you walk behind the Chinese bookstore in the same mini-mall complex as the first Din Tai Fung restaurant, you can walk over to Sin Ba La.

                                You can top off your excursion with grocery shopping @ Arcadia Supermarket, a well-stocked Chinese market.

                                6 Replies
                                1. re: apfb

                                  DTF doesn't really have good dumplings and why wait in those god-awful lines for dumplings ... at least if you're going to go, go for what they're known for -- the XLB.

                                  1. re: ipsedixit

                                    I agree that DTF does not have the best dumplings, especially considering the price point. However, their dumplings are just fine, very consistent quality.

                                    After the 2nd branch of DTF with the 2 stories of dining space opened up next door, there's hardly ever much of a wait...

                                    1. re: ipsedixit

                                      DTF's legendary 2 hour waits may be over. A recent visit to the newly opened dining space at noon on a Saturday resulted in a mere 10 minute wait for a party of 4.

                                      I would argue that the dumplings (fish and shrimp with pork) are excellent at DTF. The debate is usually over the XLB which becomes personal preference.

                                      1. re: ipsedixit

                                        DTF food tastes better in Taiwan. The quality here just can't match.

                                        1. re: jeebo

                                          How about in Hong Kong? Because I found DTF in Hong Kong and Arcadia to be remarkably similar, except that DTF Hong Kong was much less expensive.

                                          1. re: Das Ubergeek

                                            I don't know about DTF Hong Kong but heard complaints about DTF Shanghai and Singapore. It may be just a bunch of tiny buns but I guess it's hard to keep the quality consistent. That's why you don't see a lot of Chinese chain restaurants out there that have a scale as big as McDonald's or Darden Restaurant Group. The largest Asian chain I know is Gyukaku of Japan (800+) and Little Sheep (700+).

                                    2. If you go to Din Tai Fung, go to Sinbala for great Taiwanese shaved ice. The restaurants are in neighboring plazas in Arcadia and are definately within walking distance.

                                      7 Replies
                                      1. re: crystaw

                                        Update on Sinbala-- recently closed by the LA Health Dept for violations.

                                        1. re: apfb

                                          They've reopened- I had some of their shaved ice yesterday

                                          1. re: apfb

                                            SinBaLa just fed me (quite well, if I might add) last night! I am still in awe of their shaved ice.

                                            I am in accordance with Ipse's answers.

                                            1. re: J.L.

                                              Is it safe to venture back to SinBaLa after their health code violations?

                                              1. re: apfb

                                                Well, the general answer to your question is "yes" -- they were closed four days (thank you, and were reinspected and allowed to open, which would not have happened if they had still been dirty and infested.

                                                Whether you think they just cleaned up enough to pass and went back to their old ways is your own decision.

                                                1. re: Das Ubergeek

                                                  Let me preface this by saying that I am a BIG (no, make that HUGE) fan of Sin Ba La.

                                                  But if you have ever seen the kitchen at Sin Ba La (and I have), you'll know that they just didn't clean up enough to pass -- this would be nearly impossible; rather, they more than likely just went over to the adjacent Wells Fargo and made a withdrawal to contribute to the LA County Public Health 2008 Christmas Party fund.

                                                2. re: apfb

                                                  2 nights after my excellent meal at SinBaLa (24-48 hrs is the usual incubation period for most bacterial pathogens), I'm glad to report that I'm alive, healthy & ready for more of their yeoh fan ("oily rice") and shaved ice with flan.

                                                  Hope that answers your health code concerns.

                                                  BTW, some Houndish advice: When dining in the SGV, be prepared for the inevitable "B" or "C" establishment.... They're often some of the best!

                                          2. I ended up going to Shau May yesterday (Sunday), on some of the recommendation of some of the Chowhounds. Very interesting stuff. I ordered a whole bunch of stuff. I can't believe the amount of food you get here! What is regrettable is that it wasn't until after I ordered did I see the menus on the back wall. I was busy looking at the food on display cafeteria-style.

                                            The pork chop rice was very good, although I prefer it without the pork chops. The sauce on the pork chop is way too salty (or too much MSG) and too oystery. I really like the rice and ground pork/beef that comes with the pork chops. Can I order that separately without the pork chops? If so, what is that called?

                                            I also ordered a plate of fried dumplings. It was okay. Not the greatest. The stuffing was entirely a pork filling, with no vegetables in it whatsoever.

                                            Unfortunately, we were so stuffed that we did not get to try the shaved ice at Shau May. We went to the San Gabriel Plaza and got Taiwanese shaved ice there. I don't know what the store is called, though, since the name is written in Chinese. It looks like a little ice cream parlour from the outside (and inside), and while they serve primarily shaved ice, boba, slushes, etc., there is also a "menu" on the wall that lists assorted Taiwanese and Chinese dishes. I've heard the hot food there is good too.

                                            1 Reply
                                            1. re: Pamela

                                              I suspect you went to 108 Cafe, so named because they're located in unit #108 of San Gabriel Square. That's one of my favorite places for shaved ice so you made a good choice.