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Oakland Chinatown Takeout Dim Sum Roundup 2009

Thought it was time to do an updated review of takeout dim sum in Oakland Chinatown – a lot of the opinions I expressed in this thread - http://chowhound.chow.com/topics/435317 - are now outdated.

Delicious Food Company’s har gow – the wrappers have gotten soft to the point of gumminess, and the filling dominated by the flavor of bamboo shoot now.
Tao Yuen Pastry’s sticky rice wrapped in mantou dough – the last few times I’ve gotten this, the edges of the steamed bun wrapper have been hard

Sun Sing’s baked char siu bao, and the rice noodle roll stuffed with fried dough, topped with green onion (currently my favorite takeout dimsum item in Chinatown). It’s seasoned enough that you don’t need any sauce, and the dough stays surprisingly crisp, considering it's not made to order.

Other items:
Delicious Food Company:
- shark fin dumpling – the top of the dumpling was dried out, filling was too salty
- siu mai – I haven’t had one in a while, but the last time I did, the filling was very salty
- pork and vegetable buns – a bit greasy, but good
- jook – I like their jook a lot.

Shan Dong (not technically a dim sum place, but their buns warrant a mention):
- steamed pork and vegetable buns are still great – giant pillowy things stuffed with seasoned ground pork

Sun Sing:
- taro croquette – really flavorful, almost mustardy tasting filling, studded with peanuts. Would have loved to have tried this hot.

I don’t plan on re-trying Sum Yee anytime soon, but I think it’s time to make the rounds to Napolean Super Bakery and Big Dish again. Anyone else have input? With these takeout places, it always takes a ton of trial and error to figure out what they’re good at.

Tao Yuen Pastry
816 Franklin St, Oakland, CA 94607

Sun Sing Pastry Dim Sum
382 8th St, Oakland, CA 94607

Delicious Foods
734 Webster St, Oakland, CA 94607

Shan Dong Mandarin Restaurant
328 10th St, Oakland, CA 94607

Napoleon Super Bakery
810 Franklin St, Oakland, CA

Sum Yee Pastry
918 Webster St, Oakland, CA 94607

Big Dish
339 9th St, Oakland, CA

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  1. I miss the neighborhood a lot and I'm glad to know Delicious Food still makes tasty jook. I did notice the decline of their har gow though.

    Give the bo lo bao a shot at Wonder Foods bakery. I remember it being really good, especially hot out of the oven.

    1. I remember Delicious Foods jook from when I used to go there as a kid. Thanks for the reminder and the memories, I'll have to get there soon!

      1. I think the egg tarts at Ruby King deserve a mention. I like them better than the ones at Napoleon, and I believe they're cheaper too (at $0.50 a pop). Fresh out of the oven (which they often seem to be, since there's pretty high turnover), they're tough to beat.

        Admittedly, I only tried the egg tarts at Napoleon once and was unimpressed--thought the crust just wasn't as flaky--but maybe I need to give them another shot.

        Ruby King Bakery Cafe
        718 Franklin St, Oakland, CA 94607

        1. Has any takeout har gow ever been 'in'? Poor skins and fillings that fall apart are sadly the norm.

          Sun Sing's fish fin dumpling (what you call shark fin dumpling) are decent.

          Tao Yuen's baked char siu bao are large and have had more onion than others, it's all a matter of taste. It might have a bit more cost value, but I'm not sure.

          Sun Sing's wu gok, which you accurately described as a taro croquette, benefits greatly from a reheating in a frying pan. It won't do anything for the 'beehive', but a decent amount of oil will render out after browning on two sides and the filling is much better hot. It's a great excuse to continue seasoning in a cast iron pan.

          2 Replies
          1. re: PorkButt

            Delicious Food Co. actually had pretty good har gaw for a while - at least on par with a decent sit-down dim sum place's har gaw. Most of the takeout ones I've tried have thick, tough, oily skins, and I appreciated that DFC's were more delicate. They've been going downhill for about a year, I think.

            Hmm... will have to get some of those wu gok and warm them up as you recommended. These were a lot more flavorful than ones I've had in the past - I think I had a few bad experiences with bland, oily ones when I was a kid and I usually avoid them, but something about Sun Sing's was calling me.

            Adding a link for Wonder Foods for DezzerSF:

            Wonder Food Bakery
            340 9th St, Oakland, CA

            1. re: PorkButt

              I got some takeout from Tao Yuen this last Sunday and the har gow in particular made me think of how great the takeout har gow from Ranch 99 (Richmond) actually was in hindsight - sweet, plump filling & smooth, light skins. TY's filling was ok, but the skins were just thick and gummy and flabby. It actually made me a little sad because I have so many great memories from that place.

              However, I did like their baked char siu bao (as well). Distinct sweet onion and rice wine flavor.

            2. Well, not sure if I can post my two cents since oakjoan does not like the yimster lucking in the East Bay.

              But no one place has the best of everything. So you have to cherry pick.

              Best baked pork buns is Sun Sing .

              They also have a deep fried shrimp dumpling with pieces of won ton skins which I like.

              For steamed dim sum I flavor the har gow and sai mei at Napolean. Besides they have a Mango cake to die for.

              As I try more I will report back.

              I still waiting for a won ton soup report D.

              With that said I will have to plan my visit soon since it maybe safe for me to visit Oakland since I know oakjoan is not out there watching. :>)

              1. Best steamed pork buns? I have jury duty and would love to know.

                2 Replies
                1. re: Glencora

                  Finally tried the steamed char siu (roast pork) buns at Sun Sing and thought they were quite good...up to par with the baked ones that everyone likes.

                  1. re: abstractpoet

                    Thanks for the tip. I tried Delicious Food company for lunch and didn't think much of it. But I did see large live fish being delivered out of a tank on the back of a truck. That was pretty cool. Plus, I didn't get picked for jury duty.

                2. Tried the baked pork bun at Sun Sing today--very nice. Still slightly warm by the time I got home, so I didn't bother reheating. Nice texture and flavor on the meat filling. Thought the outside was a tad sticky and sweet for my taste, but that's a minor quibble. I haven't had better in Oakland...

                  Saw steamed pork buns on display here too, but didn't have enough of an appetite to sample those as well. Anyone tried these? I would imagine they're not bad if the meat filling is the same as for the baked ones...

                  1. Anybody try The Best Dim Sum on 12th St. in East Chinatown/New Chinatown or whatever they call it? I thought some of the stuff was pretty good.

                    1. I have a new favorite item at Delicious Foods - the egg puff. These are fist-sized, sugar-coated fried blobs of choux pastry. If you love the tender inside of a cream puff, as do I, these are heaven. The outside is a tiny bit greasy (although the sensation is mostly mitigated by the granulated sugar coating), but the inside is all lovely eggy pastry innards. The outside retains its crispness surprisingly well, considering that these pastries are cold and have presumably been sitting out for a few hours. I would kill for one fresh out of the fryer - I should find out when they make them.

                      17 Replies
                      1. re: daveena

                        daveena, you have a knack of giving descriptions of food items that make us want to immediately jump into our cars & drive across the Bay for. You must at least post a photo of the egg puff!

                        1. re: klyeoh

                          Will do! I finally have a phone that takes adequate pictures but keep forgetting to use it. Also, I don't seem to get very far before the egg puff magically disappears. I can probably summon a a bit of discipline for the great good, though :)

                          I've had these puffs at Koi Palace, where they had the advantage of being hot out of the fryer, but I think I prefer the actual dough at DFC. I can't put my finger on why, but I had a feeling that the batter for KP's puffs came from a mix, while the dough for DFCs is pretty much identical to the choux paste I make at home.

                            1. re: daveena

                              Looks great, but I have to see my Doctor again so that he think I am still gone good before I go back on my bad habits.

                              I have stop eating at dim sum house and my report have shown that if I eat right I look healthier. But after July I will be back. Then maybe I will walk both Chinatowns and see what's new.

                              1. re: yimster

                                There was a study by the HK govt health dept in 2005 which raised the concerns of high levels of sodium & fat in dim sum items, so we do need to moderate our intake.

                          1. re: daveena

                            daveena, your description sounds like what I've guessed was a filled malasada (Portuguese or Hawaiian relative of the beignet) or zeppole-related kind of pastry, from eating them I can't quite figure out how it started from a choux pastry, but my understanding of french style pastry is very sketchy. They're about the only reason I browse Delicious foods--their goods generally taste o.k. but seem small for the prices. Those zeppole/malasada/egg puff? things are one of the outstanding empty calorie snacks of oaktown. So a photo would resolve my doubts, thanks.

                            1. re: moto

                              Doh - I actually took pictures but forgot to download them, and now a friend has my camera... will post them once I get the camera back.

                              I was trying to figure out if they're the same thing as malasadas too, but it looks like malasadas are made from a yeasted dough. I've only had a malasada once, and I remember the crust being quite a bit chewier.

                              1. re: daveena

                                daveena, the aspect of choux that doesn't fit with what I tasted is butter--chinese pastries would use lard, but I didn't taste lard either--and the interior was fluffy, which I would expect from a leavened dough--choux is not leavened, as I understand it? The chinese use other combinations of leavenings not in euro recipes, so it wouldn't have to be yeast. There's a very simple rice pastry that has bubbles in it not from leavening but from fermentation w/o any added agents, for another example. As for the chewy exterior of the malasada(similar fritters also called filhos), there's lots of variation between versions, if the dough is barely manipulated it wouldn't get chewy. I think there's also a stronger Portuguese influence in southern chinese pastry making than French, whereas in Viet Nam of course the colonial influence is very much French.

                                1. re: moto

                                  Hey moto - choux is just butter, flour, egg, and water, but combined in a way that there's enough structure so it can puff (and maintain the puffiness) just from the evaporation of water when the paste is cooked (either baked or fried). A choux paste with a higher percentage of egg yolk will give you the fluffy, custardy inside (if you increase the egg white percentage, you get a lighter, crisper outside and less custardy inside. This is considered desirable in French pastry, I think, but I happen to like the insides, and always use a recipe with whole eggs when I make cream puffs and gougeres.) I had a roommate in med school who used to make loukamades (Greek honey fritters) from scratch - the batter was a classic choux, deep fried, and the texture and flavor were identical to that of the egg puffs.

                                  I agree that it doesn't make sense for a classic choux paste to show up in Chinese pastry - I can't name one other Chinese dessert that uses it. Also agree that there's a stronger Portugese influence in Chinese pastry than French, so I suppose it's possible that it's an extra eggy malasada batter, but these puffs have a very, very strong resemblance to the fried choux loukamades I've had before.

                                  1. re: daveena

                                    thanks, I had no idea loukamades were made with that technique, the ones I've had seemed to be based on a leavened donut-or-fry bread kind of dough. We won't know definitively unless an insider to the secrets to tong sa yuen (thanks to Ms.Wong, as those things haven't been labeled accurately in the shop, as far as I could tell) come up with the details.

                                    1. re: moto

                                      I've also had loukamades with a leavened bread base, and strongly prefer the choux-based ones.

                                    2. re: daveena

                                      I had some excellent tong sa yuen at another place last week and thought about your pate choux analogy. These were quite rich and I'm sure had extra egg yolks in them. Each of the small balls had a little blob of what seemed like rich custard in the middle. At first I thought they might be filled, but I think it was actually a bit of detached batter than didn't cook through.

                              2. re: daveena

                                When I was a kid, we called these ja daan (egg bombs). Now they're called tong sa yuen (sugar sandy balls).

                                1. re: Melanie Wong

                                  I like "egg bombs" much better than sugar sandy balls! What a great name.

                                  Yimster turned me on to a very good place to get char shiu. I had been buying it at a restaurant on the corner of 9th and Webster, but it got more and more star anise-y and I liked it less and less. Then I tried New Gold Medal and the pork was almost day-glo pink. I didn't think it was that great tasting either.

                                  This new to me place (well, new as of the end of last year) is on the west side of the big Pacific East Mall (or whatever it's called) that takes up the area of 9th to 10th and Franklin to Webster. It's on the Franklin side. Very satisfying. Sorry I don't know the name. I'm so busy trying to illegally park, rush inside, buy my char shiu, and get out before I get a ticket.

                                  1. re: oakjoan

                                    That would be the Pacific Renaissance Plaza. I think the restaurant/deli/cafe you're referring to has some association to Peony upstairs.

                                    1. re: kc72

                                      No it the one next door to Peony take out eatery. I think it is called Gum something. I fear I do not remember names either. But there BBQ is really good IMO the best in Oakland at this moment.

                              3. I like the rousong (dried pork or "pork-floss") buns at Princess Bakery. Haven't been bowled over by anything else there though...

                                Delicieuse Princesse Bakery
                                317 13th St, Oakland, CA

                                1 Reply
                                1. re: suebe

                                  I have a soft spot for their "pate chaud" - a puff pastry stuffed with sausage (sold cold, despite the name).

                                2. Those taro croquettes at Sun Sing were a good tip--I got one first thing in the morning today, so it was still warm and crisp. Very tasty filling--I like the little bits of water chestnut for added texture. Also had a rice noodle roll with dried shrimp, cilantro, and some pickled radish. Pretty good.

                                  Ordered a baked roast pork bun from Ruby King to do a taste comparison with the one from Sun Sing. The Ruby King bun wasn't bad--a little bit bigger and a good value at $0.85, but the filling was a bit more goopy and oniony (less meaty) and the dough more generic. Sun Sing definitely wins.

                                  But the egg tarts at Ruby King are still my favorites.

                                  1. I was in Oakland meeting a old friend for lunch and stopped at Napolean for some take home dim sum and was disappointed that they had only Har Gow and Sai Mei available. I hope that this not signs of less items for them. Price has gone up and size has gone down. May have to visit new places in Oaktown when I am around. That is if Oakjoan is not out there tracking me.

                                    2 Replies
                                      1. re: oakjoan

                                        So is it safe for me to walk Oakland? I have to be careful since you force me into cooking retirement.

                                    1. Tried Sun Sing's rice noodle roll stuffed with fried dough recently, and I agree that it's very, very good (especially when I was lucky enough to try it when it was piping hot). I think it was $3.50 for an order, but it's a lot of food and sticks to the ribs pretty well.

                                      Sun Sing's bacon wrapped shrimp loaf rolls are also particularly good when they're freshly made and the bacon is still crisp. I always avoid their har gow, though. Wrappers are too thick, and too much non-shrimp stuff in their filler.

                                      1. My favorite: Sun Sing's chive dumplings (gow choy gok). They are always tasty, but this past Sunday when I stopped by to pick some up, they were even bigger and plumper than usual. Also if you're in the mood for something sweet, their fried glutinous rice balls with sweet red bean (jeen dui) are usually good, esp if they are fresh out of the fryer.

                                        1 Reply
                                        1. re: mchan

                                          With the exception of their standard dumplings (har gaw, shiu mai), I think Sun Sing may be the best place in Oakland Chinatown now. Last year, when I was testing out places, I only tried the har gaw and shiu mai and wrote them off, but it looks like they do a lot of other things well.

                                        2. Are there any takeout places that sell steamed sesame mochi? I tried them at HK East Ocean in Emeryville for the first time last weekend and totally fell in love.

                                          2 Replies
                                          1. re: adrienne156

                                            Are these the same thing as the little cornstarch covered soft mochi filled with sesame paste? I've seen them sold, usually four to a package, at several of the Vietnamese deli's - BC Deli, definitely has them, and I think Ba Le and Cam Huong do too.

                                            1. re: daveena

                                              Maybe. They weren't quite like the Japanese versions you usually find with adzuki beans. These ones were slightly larger than a quarter, gloriously soft and borderline molten in the middle (maybe sesame paste, but there really wasn't any difference in texture from the outside to the inside, only heat), and covered in some kind of sweetened, ground sesame powder.