When you have a hobby like mine that tends to take up a lot of time, sometimes you notice parts of it seep into life. For me, reading is a love and I read so much that I tend to get parts of my reading life into my regular life and vice versa.
Xiao Long Bao, also known as soup dumplings, have been mentioned in two books I have read recently (Fresh off the Boat and China Rich Girlfriend). The idea seemed intriguing—a yummy dumpling filled with meat AND soup? Count me in. I am a habitual chicken noodle soup eater, based on the idea that it has the power to heal almost anything that may ail you (or get rid of ailments before you get them).
While the idea of getting on the metro or driving an hour inland was intriguing, it was a necessity that it be somewhere close—mostly because I wanted to fit a quick trip to XLB yumminess and still be able to hit home and get a few projects out of the way (which I did!). I, of course, turned to Google.
We found a place in nearby Artesia that featured good comments about their soup dumplings and included chicken! This is a treat, because in everything I had read, I had heard that the dumplings were usually a pork or seafood. I am not always in the mood for pork. We found the restaurant pretty easy, despite Google’s weird instructions about making a U-turn on a street that did not appear to be marked. Welcome to Omar’s Halal restaurant. It features Xiao Long Bao RIGHT on the signage outside, which made me even more excited.
We saw the ‘A’ grade on the front window, which meant that we were definitely okay to eat there. While we may have taken a chance on a C-grade restaurant, we didn’t need to at all! The place was incredibly clean, and featured an article from the Times (Los Angeles) about its food, and a tv tuned to what looked like a K-pop cooking competition, which then turned into a soap opera at the beginning of the hour. It was odd television for sure. The prices were really great, so we ended up getting (to hit the $10 minimum for credit/debit purchases), an order of dumplings, green onion pancakes, a soda for my husband (with free ice) and a drink for me—and ended up at $13.00. The waiter did not have any iced tea (and was confused by my request for bottled water as well), so I settled for green tea. As you can see, the drink came in a large glass with no ice. I was perplexed—do they not use teacups? As a result, the glass was a bit warmer than I had expected. Eventually it cooled down and I got to drink tea.
It wasn’t bad, though. The green onion pancakes came out first, and they were something new to the both of us. They were a little greasy, but reminded me of a quesadilla made of phyllo dough and green onions instead of cheese. They were layered very thinly, but the pancakes were really nice. I would order these again. There were just a LOT of them. The dumplings came out and my heart nearly came out of my chest—they looked like the items I had seen online! The steam was coming off of them, so we waited a minute or two in order to let them cool.
Now, the trick was to scoop it into a spoon without breaking the dumpling. Then, we left it on the spoon for a moment or two. From there, I found it easier to take a small bite out of the side and suck out the broth. A lot of broth probably cooked out during the process, but it was flavorful and tasted good. The meat in the middle of the dumpling did not look overtly processed and also tasted like chicken and some mixed vegetables. The dumpling ‘skin’ was a little thicker than explained, and there was a little less broth than explained in the books, but still a great first experience—we will DEFINITELY be exploring XLB (and most likely back at the same place).
And to think, without books, I might never have known…
As a book ever influenced you to be foodventurous? Share in the comments below.