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Jul 13, 2009 09:55 AM

Mama's Lu Dumpling House with Pics

I headed back East to Monterey Park for some more dumplings. I’d heard of a place that served excellent soup dumplings. Having already gorged myself on the soup dumplings at Din Tai Fung, I wanted to see how these stack up.

The place is called Mama's Lu Dumpling House and it’s located off Garvey Ave. Garvey is the main drag of Monterey Park and it is crammed to the gills with some of the best Chinese restaurants to be found anywhere. I was quite sure where it was but found it just a short distance East of Garfield.

It’s a pretty modest when viewed from the sidewalk. And inside it wasn’t crowded when I arrived. There wasn’t anything like the crush of people at Din Tai Fung. That maybe because Mama's Lu doesn’t open their doors until 10:30AM. At that time Din Tai Fung is already in full swing.

I sat down and took a gander at the menu. First thing that caught me was the prices. 10 juicy pork dumplings for $4.99. That was about the same price as a Happy Meal. Din Tai Fung sells 20 dumplings for around $10 so it’s the same per dumpling price of 50 cents. (But don’t go in and ask for just one dumpling like Chris Rock in I’m Gonna Git You Sucka.) Still there’s something about a $5 price tag. It just makes you feel as if you’re spending less money.

My dumplings arrived after a 15 minute wait. The first thing I noticed is they were slightly bigger than the ones at Din Tai Fung, a little bit bigger than a golf ball. They also had thicker skins so they held their shape better. It still tasted like just the right amount of noodle. Inside there was more meat filling and a little less rich soup surrounding it.

The dumpling filled up the entire spoon so it was a little hard to take a bite out of it and spill the broth into the spoon. I ended up dipping the dumplings in vinegar then holding them over my spoon with chopsticks while I nibbled a hole in them for the soup to drain out.

As for taste, they were incredible. The meat filling had ginger and garlic. The broth around was seasoned. The vinegar complimented them even better than the ones at Din Tai Fung which were more delicate. These were more robust. Ten pieces was plenty for a hearty lunch.

In this economy I don’t understand why the place isn’t swamped. With their super low prices and excellent quality food, Mama's Lu should be serving a billion people as well.

Mama's Lu Dumpling House
153 E Garvey Ave
Monterey Park, CA 91755-2954
(626) 307-5700‎
Price Range: All items under $10, 10 dumplings for $4.99
My review with pics

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  1. Soup dumplings or XLB (XiaoLongBao)? They're different animals. Sounds like you actually had XLB.

    5 Replies
    1. re: J.L.

      "Soup dumpling" is one of the standard translations of XLB. I know a some people object to it, but it's long been in common use...

      1. re: Thi N.

        Translations between Chinese and English are never 100% accurate. For the sake of those who are Chinese impaired, I use "soup dumplings"

        1. re: MikeLee

          I still say call them XLB, not soup dumplings. If you call them soup dumplings, then all the people looking for XLB on their search will miss out on these reviews...

          Whatever you wanna call them , they certainly look more like baozi than dumplings (jiaozi).

          Many non-Chinese speakers have already latched on to the Chinese term XiaoLongBao (which is a 100% translation, considering that it's phonetic, and now these people know exactly what that they're getting when they say "XLB") - no need to "dumb it down" for them - dumbing down can actually cause more confusion, in my opinion.

      2. re: J.L.

        Should point out that at Mama's Lu it appears as "Juicy Pork Dumpling" and "Xia Long Bao" doesn't appear anywhere on the menu (see pics).

        1. re: MikeLee

          There's a bajillion ways in which restaurant owners translate XLB on their menus. I've seen "juicy pork dumplings", "tiny meat dumplings", "small pork bao", "steamed cage bao". The permutations of the names are virtually endless.

          The point, though, is to have uniformity of terms when it comes to the discussion of foods on our Chowboard. I believe we Chowhounds have a responsibility to introduce & educate those who may not have encountered this type of food item before. In this process, it is logical to first establish the most correct standard name of said food item, in order for further discourse to continue. Correct nomenclature provides for more cohesiveness of future discussion as well.

          Whew! That was wayyyy too much typing for a Friday morning...

      3. So, a question for all you xlb-heads out there: are there any new restaurants serving it up? We know DTF, plus Mei Long Village and J&J, and then there's this place, plus Dragon Mark (not that I'm a fan of that one). I tried to get the scoop on my blog, but that didn't work, so I'm taking my query directly to the experts :)

        10 Replies
        1. re: Papuli

          There are many many, places offering XLB these days. Even Yung Ho Tou Chiang, known for their breakfasts, is serving them up (though to be honest, it's been on their menu forever).

          Dean Sin World is the 2nd best XLB (after J&J's).

          1. re: J.L.

            Even all those Taiwanese boba place have XLB ...

            1. re: ipsedixit

              Yeah, xlb is definitely all over the place. Just wondering if any are exceptional, beyond the usual suspects.

              J.L., thanks for the Dean Sin World rec!

            2. re: J.L.

              Sadly, the last time I was in that strip mall (a few months ago) Dean Sin World appeared to have been converted into another restaurant.

              Mr Taster

              1. re: Mr Taster

                Well, actually the old "Bakery" sign was replaced with a new "Bakery" sign, but I thought it was still Dean Sin World.

                1. re: Chandavkl

                  I would have thought that the closure of Dean Sin World would have brought on much vocal lamenting from Chowhounds... this seems to contradict my observation from a few months ago since I have not read about it. Perhaps someone with recent dining experience at DSW can confirm?

                  Mr Taster

                  1. re: Mr Taster

                    I picked up a bag of frozen XLB two weeks ago.
                    I noticed the change of the sign.
                    Same old juicy XLB.

                    1. re: Mr Taster

                      Was there just last week. They're definitely open. Of course, the name isn't really Dean Sin World, it's Tastio....but I don't think they care what people call them :)

                      1. re: Papuli

                        I think Tastio is the name of the bakery that used to occupy that spot before Dean Sin World moved in. The new bakery sign is certainly a head scratcher.

                        1. re: Chandavkl

                          By the way, Dean Sin is a mangled transliteration of dim sum (since Mandarin speakers tend to pronounce it something like 'dinsin')... I can only assume that 'dim sum' is the Cantonese pronunciation.

                          So, if "Dean Sin World" thinks of themselves as a sort of modified dim sum house (which often specialize in other steamed buns... baozi and the like), it's a little less confusing (that is, If you can squeeze your western brain into a Chinese shaped thinking hole :)

                          Mr Taster

            3. Now with all of that clarificatiojn this sounds like a go to place. I will definitely give it a try be it XLB or soup dumpling.

              1. By way of background, the owners had done a booming business selling frozen dumplings out of their living room about 3 blocks away, when they decided to formalize their operations. Consequently you can't judge the success of the enterprise merely by the number of diners inside the restaurant. A lot of us like to buy the dumplings in frozen form and cook them up at home.

                4 Replies
                1. re: Chandavkl

                  More round the way info, Mama's Lu serves up the same XLB (And I'm sorry, it's clearly a "bao", just because there is a previous mistranslation doesn't mean we should perpetualize) as Tastio (Dean Sin World). It's operated by the same family - the Mama's in Mama's Lu operated Tastio.

                  Yes, there are even newer, more exotic Xiao Long Bao places than Tastio as of a month ago.

                  1. re: TonyC

                    Even with that, people will still worship myopically at the doorsteps of Din Tai Fung.

                    Chowhound? No, lemmings.

                    1. re: ipsedixit

                      Indeed. A different species altogether.

                    2. re: TonyC

                      It isn't a mistranslation, because there is not an exact 1:1 correlation between the English word "dumpling" and the Chinese word "jiaoze". The morphologies of the two words are different, and as such their ranges of definitions partially but not completely overlap (same goes for "bao"). Also, "dumpling" is an umbrella term; "jiaoze" and "xiaolongbao" are both types of Chinese dumplings.

                      I will agree that it is more precise to call XLB "bao" - obviously, as it's in the name - and standardizing on the term XLB is good for communication on Chowhound. However, that does not mean calling them "dumplings" is incorrect.

                      That said, Mama's Lu makes good XLB. The wrapper is a little thicker than I'm used to, but it's still good. I still hate their shengjianbao though.

                  2. Thanks for the tip. Went this week, it was pretty damn god without the DTF wait. The juicy pork dumplings were delish, pork and shrimp lighter and not "soup filled" but also quite tasty. For 2 people (pretty hearty eaters) that was more than enough (at about 10 bucks total, mind you.) Especially with the cucumber pickle and salted peanuts gratis to start. But we'd driven a ways so we gilded the lily with a greasy, yummy scallion pancake. Add to this "classic" American Gladiators on the Tee Vee, well now, I'd like to see you get THAT with your Happy Meal!