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Man Fook Lo Dim Sum

  • r

Just got back from a Dim Sum outing with my family from Hong Kong Palace in Rowland Heights. It was written up in the LA Times a while back. It was average at best.

But the reason I'm posting is because No Dim Sum regardless of where we go with my In-Laws can live up to the reputation of MAN FOOK LO. (sp?) I guess it was a take out place on San Pedro Street in Downtown LA. It's been closed for a long time. It wasn't until a co-worker of mine mentioned this place with the same reverance that my in-laws did that I became I curious.

Does anyone who grew up in LA remember this place? They always talk about the Cha Shu Bao, but I guess Man Fook Lo's didn't have the traditional red pork filling but something like Shu Mai filling in a Cha Shu Bao. If you know where I can find this dish please let me know as I would love to score some points with my wife's family : )

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  1. d
    Dave Feldman

    As a child, I ate at MFL more than any other downtown Chinese, and I don't remember dim sum there. They offered very well-prepared Cantonese.

    1 Reply
    1. re: Dave Feldman

      I remember MFL offering dim sum at lunchtime. The list was short and you ordered it from the menu. It wasn't served from rolling carts.

    2. Man Fook Low was not take out. It was an eat in restaurant with old fashioned booths, similiar to the Chop Suey place on First St. that was in many movies. It was Cantonese, before we knew about any other kind of Chinese food. I still remember their great Lobster Cantonese and pork fried rice--never been able to get as good. And of course, you asked for and got your favorite waiter---ours was Paul.

      5 Replies
      1. re: brwencino

        Paul was great but Mr. Yee was the show.

        1. re: Hughlipton

          Hmmm, Yee you say? I wonder if this Mr. Yee went on to open his own place on Slauson, which exists today as Yee's Chinese. Still old school stuff. Some years ago they moved from the north side of Slauson near Overhill to a lot across the street, and their version of pressed duck didn't survive the move much to my chagrin...they were delicious, those small rectangles of squashed duck with a strong sweet and sour flavor.

          1. re: Hughlipton

            Thanks Hughlipton, I'll be sure to tell my Dad you remember him.

          2. re: brwencino

            I'm 84 years old and I still remember eating at Man Fook Low's since I was a young kid. As a married adult, my wife and I always went there when we wanted the best Chinese food ever. Yee was always our waiter, the one thing I will always remember of Yee is that he always spred a table cloth on our table. When ordering I would leave it to him to order for us and we were never sorry. We have been living in Albuquerque NM for over 40 years. Many years ago, we drove a rental car from LAX hoping to have a great Chinese dinner, but to our surprise, MFL was gone. Just the produce markets on San Pedro were there. If any one knows where we can still get food like the old days please let us know.

            1. re: brwencino

              it was also take out, i took out many times, and they had big pink boxes with white string tied around it. when you entered the room with that box, everyone knew it was man fook low, dim sum...it was the best in l.a. i had some great ones in canada ... but i miss man fook low

            2. There was a sub-thread with some Man Fook Low content within the larger thread "Eateries of Old LA" from December 18th or so. Sorry but I haven't figured out how to link threads yet, maybe soon. But you don't have to scroll down very far.

              Last night I finally got around to asking my dad if he remembered Yee from Man Fook Low, in response to a query (from Les, I think) in that thread. He didn't, but he instantly recalled that the waiter we always had was Albert.

              4 Replies
              1. re: Debbie

                When we had an office downtown more than twenty years ago we used to drift between Man Fook Low and the restaurant on 9th near Alameda which had the most divine chicken salad and Princess shrimp (I'll remember the name of restaurant soon). I have had dreams over the years of this purposefully blended salad with just the right amount of white (not too much) and dark chicken meat with a dressing you could spoon and fresh won ton crisps. The Princess shrimp were HUGE served in a delicate sweetish sauce (sorry this was a long time ago but I know it was just delicious). Restaurant now pulled down and last year we found it now at 9th and Olympic - chick salad pretty good but son of old owner said no more Princess shrimp because 'the chef who made it, died' - I said didn't he leave the receipe? Son: No he died standing up making a last order (I think he was pulling my leg he saw how desperate I was).

                1. re: Debbie

                  Funny you should mention it...

                  I used to go to MFL when I was in grad school a millenium or so ago. It was actually an old cello teacher who told me to go, and insisted that I ask for Yee.

                  The fact that I recall its excellence must be called in question,clouded as my memories are by the mists of time [someone stop him before we choke on purple prose!!!]--and also, consider how much great Chinese food we've all had since the time I hung out there (mid '70s)...

                  1. re: Debbie

                    Here is a link to the thread on old eateries in L.A.

                    By the way, Paul was always our waiter with Yee poping by often to visit!

                    Link: http://www.chowhound.com/topics/show/...

                    1. re: Debbie

                      Albert had a very pretty daughter and when I asked the owner Frank about asking her out I was told a day or too later that it would not be acceptable. Oh well, fond memories. I got engaged there. Frank had the Hong Kong Noodle Co. around the corner from the restaurant bake the ring into a fortune cookie. My girlfriend could not figure out why everybody from the restaurant was standing around our booth when she was served her fortune cookie.

                    2. The owner of Man Fook Low passed away several years ago, but one of his son's as recently as 5 years ago was still operating the Wok Inn in the mall in Santa Monica.
                      The Cha shew Bao that I believe you are thinking about was not Cha shew (pork) but was gai bow, a chicken filling. You should give the Empress Pavillion in China Town a shot. Great dim sum for center of the city.
                      I do miss the old place on 9th and San Pedro. I remember all of the waiters (and attitudes) Mr. Yee being famous for his. Other than dim sum if you are looking for a really solid restaurant in China Town with a bent towards seafood, try Hop Li.

                      1. Aw.... what great memories... made many a pilgrimage to MFL... we always ordered the BBQ even though it wasn't on the menu.

                        1. Man Fook Low's dim sum was the plain, old style stuff that we had to contend with prior to the introduction of Hong Kong style food to Los Angeles in the late 1970s. Man Fook Low made a large, steamed BBQ pork bao which featured a nearly tasteless dough with a decently flavored cha siu filling. As far as I'm concerned, it was good riddance to that style of dim sum as the Hong Kong style is much tastier and has much more variety. The only place that still might serve a similar kind of dim sum is the Hong Kong Low take out, in the alley behind the now closed Hong Kong Low restaurant in Chinatown.

                          1. The distance of years, the passage of time, the "things just aren't like they used to be" mind-set sweetens the memory of this so-so restaurant.
                            We have more and "more better" choices today.
                            Don't be Dim! Get out there and find Sum!

                            1. n
                              Nick Maiorino

                              I’m sorry for joining this thread rather late, but I just have to ask whether anybody remembers the “Mandarin Steak” entree at “Man Fook Low” in downtown L.A.? This had to be one of the most spectacular tasting beef dishes that I’ve ever experienced. I’ve been trying to find the recipe for this dish ever since, but have been unlucky so far. It consisted of specially marinated medallions of beef served over a bed of lettuce and tomatoes. Perhaps it’s not quite so unique, but I haven’t tasted anything quite like it since. I really do miss this “Old L.A.” eatery, as they really had dishes that couldn’t be found anywhere else.

                              1 Reply
                              1. re: Nick Maiorino

                                My grandfather was a waiter / cook at man fook lo...if you're willing to make the drive, the steak dish (i believe it says house special steak) you are looking for is served at Fu Wing Low in Fountain Valley...the owner's name is Kenny and he was a waiter / cook at Man Fook Lo (grandfather trained him) as well and then opened his own place

                                It serves semi americanized chinese food, but they can make authentic if u want

                              2. MFL, here's a bit of history. My Dad worked at the Los Angeles Drug Company at 7th and San Julian, around the corner from MFL, in 1935. I believe he was going there then. I recall many, many Sunday mornings going to ManFooKLo for the "A"s (shumai or 'volcanos' as my brother and called them, "B"'s (Shrimp hargow, or "bags" as we called with bamboo shoots, black mushroom and waterchestnuts) no one makes them like that anymore, and "C"'s. the BBQ Pork Bun.For dessert "E"'s the sweet rice cakes. As I attended USC in the 60's I introduced many a professor and frate brother to MFL.. Never will I forget Man Fook Lo. Glad to know it is carried on in Fountain Valley.

                                5 Replies
                                1. re: jamesroache


                                  Where in Fountain Valley? Same cooks? You know what I mean.
                                  I miss that good 'ol style of cantonese food.
                                  I remember as a kid picking up bags of shumai,chashu bows,and the shrimp hargow from the little window in that narrow hallway, at least that's what I remember.

                                  1. re: Citation

                                    I saw it on a link to CHOW this morning but I can't find it again now. I believe it was either the MFL chef's son or an owner's son, all I remember is that it is located on Brookhurst. I'll continue to search......

                                    1. re: jamesroache

                                      No current dim sum places I know of in Fountain Valley.

                                      There is Furiwa on Brookhurst in Garden Grove near the 22 fwy, but that is among the worst dim sum places in OC.

                                      Seafood World is also on Brookhurst, in Westminster. Kinda decent dim sum, but nowhere near the best.

                                      Please do let us know what you find. Consistently great dim sum is hard to get in OC.

                                      1. re: jamesroache

                                        Haven't been there personally, but supposedly it's Fu Wing Low, 16545 Brookhurst. Don't know if they have dim sum--maybe just Paul's Kitchen type of food.

                                  2. Regarding the bao with the siu mai-like filling: You can get that kind of bao at many dimsum places, the filling is chicken. I don't think that type of bao w/ that type of filling comes in pork, or if it does I just never notice since i only get the chicken one. Sorry, can't remember the Chinese name of that type of bao. Most cart-style dim sum places will have it.

                                    5 Replies
                                      1. re: slacker

                                        I think the gai bao had a gingery taste to it. Not the same as the char siu ones which had roast pork in it.

                                        1. re: Clinton

                                          Absolutely agree. Char sui bao = BBQ pork bun and gai bao = chicken bun

                                          1. re: Hughlipton

                                            Yeah, I'm not sure it's just gai bao. But that could be it, plain and simple, as I couldn't think of other bao's that are chicken.
                                            Also, usually if not always, they are the pan fried type of bao, not steamed.

                                          2. re: Clinton

                                            Right, the OP was asking about the bao's where the inside looks like siu mai filling. char siu bao's don't look anything like that.

                                        2. i have been to fu wing low. this restaurant is run by Kenny who was a waiter and a brother in law. the food is different. but he remembers a lot of people. he has a lot of old customers from the old place. I also went to man fok low on my wedding day. i was married at the court house a long timne ago.

                                          4 Replies
                                          1. re: davez

                                            Davez, do you remember anything about the food at Fu Wing Low? When you say it was different, do you recall if it was a different type of Chinese cuisine that was not Cantonese? Is there any dim sum on the menu?

                                            I'm thinking of driving by this weekend to take a look, as my parents are coming to visit for Chinese New Year in a few weeks. I'm always on the lookout for good Chinese restaurants nearby.

                                            1. re: Wonginator

                                              Prior thread on Man Fook Low describes food as being Americanized.


                                              1. re: Chandavkl

                                                Thanks for linking that. I didn't see that thread from before.

                                                Checked it out on various restaurant sites, and there seem to be many more positive reviews than negative ones.

                                                I definitely plan to check it out now when the parents visit.

                                                1. re: Wonginator

                                                  My brother and I checked out Fu Wing Low for lunch yesterday. Definitely no dim sum carts. I think they had siu mai as an appetizer, but that's about it.

                                                  Ordered our standard of chicken chow mein Hong Kong style, beef chow fun, and won ton soup.

                                                  The won ton was a bit lacking, being very small and only served 5 pieces, in comparison to our favorites at Sam Woo or SW Seafood, where we get huge shrimp-stuffed won ton, 6 to 8 of them usually.

                                                  The chicken chow mein, Hong Kong style meaning crispy noodles, was pretty good, but it was a bit different being served with the thicker bigger noddles instead of the thinner vermicelli-sized noddles, which is usually the norm. Tasted pretty good, large amounts of chicken & veggies.

                                                  The beef chow fun was also good, but it seem to lack a bit of soy sauce or something, as it was a bit drier and less oily than what we usually get. Good but not great.

                                                  Overall, I'm not sure if we'll go back for lunch, as Sam Woo and SW Seafood are better overall in food quality. We may go back to try it for dinner.

                                          2. The Cha shu bao you were looking for, with shu mai like filling, I've seen it at the take out dim sum place across Dragon Inn (?) in Chinatown. Filipino-Chinese restaurants (ex. Little Ongpin on Sunset near Normandie) also tend to have that kind filling in their siopao. I can't vouch for their tastiness though as I haven't tried them.

                                            1. My friends and I used to go to Man Fook Low for late night food when we were in college in the early 50's. It was cheap, felt dangerous being in the east of downtown area across from the old wholesale fruit and vegetable market, and looked like a dive. It did serve the old Americanized food and what's wrong with that? It was delicious and filling. My favorite was the authentic shrimp with lobster sauce made with the real Cantonese style lobster sauce with sausage and egg whites and was a dark color as opposed to the stuff now served with the white sauce, peas, and no sausage. I agree that there was a takeout window along the corridor that ran from the very small parking lot behind the restaurant. When we would go to a football game at the Coliseum we would drop by and pick up boxes of dim sum in pink bakery cartons, all for a song. The booths were thin dark wood and there was linoleum on the floor. The place closed, I think, when the new wholesale market opened and most of the business left. The closest restaurants were the New Moon (which had air conditioning!) and Paul's Kitchen which is still there. Paul's has a branch in Monterey Park on Atlantic and it serves the same food with a (very) little more atmosphere. Paul's also had a branch on Jefferson near Crenshaw which closed a long time ago.

                                              Question: Does anyone know where you can still get that old style Cantonese shrimp with Lobster Sauce besides Paul's Kitchen?

                                              7 Replies
                                              1. re: marloart

                                                I frequent a little whole in the wall in a strip mall in North Hollywood called BBQ Unlimited. They have shrimp in lobster sauce on their menu but i avoidsed ordering it until the other day. My partner, an associate and i ordered it and we were amazed how good it was. I have been back for it twice more. Their noodle dishes are very good also.

                                                1. re: Hughlipton

                                                  I love all these memories of "Man Fooey" as we used to refer to it. I don't know when my dad first started eating there but he had a factory in LA in the late 60's. When I was old enough to drive (late 70's) I was the one who trekked in from the Valley on weekends to do the dim sum pick up. I remember the little pad to check off what kind and how many and brought them home in those pink boxes. I remember having dinner there. One of my parents' favorite dishes was the shrimp with lobster sauce. For us, it was a luxury. When I saw your post Hughlipton, I called my dad and asked if he had ever been to BBQ Unlimited? He has a business not too far from there and he told me he had been in the past but the parking was a hassle. Anyway, I told him to read the thread. I got a call from him today asking me, "Guess where I picked up lunch today?" Thanks to your post, he went back and among other things got the shrimp with lobster sauce. Apparently you are right. He said it was excellent. I'm jealous!

                                                  1. re: Fru

                                                    Thank you for the acknowledgement. You need to make arrangements to meet your Dad for lunch. They also have a very limited selection of dim sum but their sui mei are very very good as are thier steamed pork buns and chicken buns. Enjoy!!

                                                    1. re: Hughlipton

                                                      Hi Hughlipton and all, The Grandson and I drove out and picked up my dad and had dinner at BBQ Unlimited tonight! My dad's name is Hugh BTW. Anyway, we had BBQ pork bao, wor wonton soup, shrimp with lobster sauce, BBQ pork fried rice, sauteed spinach and a roasted pork/duck combination platter. Had to have the sweet cream filled bao and the sticky rice cake for dessert too. I brought the left overs home for the husband who exclaimed that it is some of the best damn Chinese food he has ever had. Of all the places I have had dim sum, the fluffy and not saturated texture plus the pork filling made it one of the best I've ever had. The duck was just a little salty for me and not quite crispy enough but the boy was very happy. The wor wonton had a very flavorful broth. I was hoping for more veggies but having scallop, mussel, squid and fish in it more than made up for it. The wontons were very flaverful as well, full of garlic and ginger. I'm too tired to go on but hopefully I have conveyed how enjoyable our meal was. Like you said, it is a hole in the wall. The staff is very helpful and happy as well. I've been shopping at Bangluck Market for years and had always seen this place but never thought to stop in. Thanks for the recommend!

                                                      1. re: Fru

                                                        It is always a pleasure to find out that there are those who enjoy the recommendations we posters make. I'm so glad you enjoyed it enough to let me know. Be well and keep posting.

                                                2. re: marloart

                                                  There is a place in the Valley called BBQ unlimited which has the best tasting shrimp in lobster sauce since I had it at Man Fook Low. It's on Sherman Way just west of Coldwater. Their web address
                                                  is ://www.bbqunlimited.com/

                                                3. I grew up going to Man Fook Lo and miss it tons! I have been buying the Vons Shu Bao in the frozen section and they are a close second!

                                                  Still trying to figure out what the sticky rice desert we used to always take home after our meal is called. It was sweet white rice and kind of gel form and flat.

                                                  9 Replies
                                                    1. re: Lau

                                                      Definitely the former. Not as easy to find these days with the more modern dim sum desserts.

                                                      1. re: Chandavkl

                                                        Are there any places to find it? I've been missing it too.

                                                        1. re: eams

                                                          I believe that Won Kok in China Town has it.

                                                        2. re: Chandavkl

                                                          its called 白糖糕 / bai tang gao (mandarin) / bak tong go (cantonese). its a common but very old school cantonese bakery pastry thing.

                                                          when i was a kid it was my all time favorite along with dan ta (egg tarts). almost every weekend we would go to LA chinatown and i would get them to go and eat them at my grandparents house when i was a kid bc my dad and i really liked them

                                                          anyhow, they have become somewhat more difficult to find as i don think they are quite as popular anymore, i wouldnt try to find them at dim sum places. go to any proper cantonese bakery and you should be able to find them. however the half life on bai tang gao is pretty low, so i highly recommend going in the morning and getting them when they are freshly made as they taste much better even at the end of the day they taste worse

                                                          also, at vietnamese bakeries they have something very similar although its not quite as sour, but its extremely common...i think its called banh bo, but literally go to any vietnamese bakery and they'll have and also alot of the vietnamese bakeries are run by chinese people from vietnam and they tend to have alot of old school cantonese pastries so ive gotten them from those places as well

                                                          1. re: Lau

                                                            Not sure if you can get these in the San Gabriel Valley. Chinatown would be the place to go.

                                                            1. re: Chandavkl

                                                              there has to be some cantonese bakeries in the SGV that serve these (and maybe some viet ones?); i would be very surprised if you can't find these

                                                              1. re: Lau

                                                                Most of the SGV bakeries these days look like clones of each other,with hot dog, ham and egg, and red bean buns.

                                                    2. I am a Man Fook Lo survivor, I'm 90 years old and was going to that great restaurant with my parents so you can see I know about it. If I remember correctly it closed down in the seventies, correct me if I'm wrong. I miss all there dishes but most of all the Canton pork chow mien with real pan fried noodles. As you see by my age, I have tried many Chinese restaurants from LA, NM and now Florida, ON LUCK. Maybe I will score some day, I hope.

                                                      3 Replies
                                                      1. re: tonygallego

                                                        So you should remember Paul's Kitchen (still mentioned a lot on this board), New Moon (subject of another recent thread), Modern Cafe, Li Wah Cafe and maybe even Paul's Cafe.

                                                        1. re: tonygallego

                                                          it didnt close in the 70s, it closed in the 80s bc i was born in the early 80s and i have memories of going there since my grandfather worked there

                                                          1. re: tonygallego

                                                            Tony, good to hear from you. There's still no place like Man Fook Low nor anyone who will ever replace a Mr. Yee. Those are not memories they are a part of our lives. How about Florida? Anything worthwhile in the land of Chinese restaurants? I'll keep you posted on this end and recommend you Google a place called Hop Li in Chinatown. Take a look at their menu. Great lobster in Ginger Green onion sauce.