Friday, January 13, 2006

Journey To See My Master: Dumpling Master, Monterey Park

"Revenge is a dish best served cold."

Or hot out of a take out container at your desk with scents of garlic and oil and stir fried pork and steamed rice wafting through the cubicle rat maze. Yes, while the rest of my cubicle farm was chowing on questionable office cafeteria food or microwavable astronaut food, I sat humbly at my desk, not a peep about the prize I'd just picked up on my lunchtime journey out to Monterey Park see my master. Dumpling Master, that is.

Like all kung fu movies where the apprentice goes out in search of his or her master, the master is never located in the most visible of locations. In some cases, you'd have to journey up a mountain to a remote mountain hideaway. In my case, my master would be found tucked away in a minimall that's overshadowed by Shun Fat supermarket.

Dumpling master does serve up revenge in the form of cold dishes, as seen by the small saran- wrapped plates of cold dishes in the refrigerated case. You can get revenge in the form of thinly sliced pig ears, spicy cucumber or pickled cabbage. I chose to seek revenge the hot route...I had my eye on several things--xiao long bao and a variety of other steamed and fried dumplings, niu rou mien (beef noodle soup), stir fried rice cake, scallion pancakes--and had to decide quickly; I told the master what I had come in search of and of course she delivered. But not without a challenge, of course.

She spoke only Mandarin and limited English. I speak English and Cantonese. I wanted this dish that my mom had ordered here before that was basically a fried pork chop with pickled potherb over rice. I could not find the exact dish on the menu. I asked. She pointed to a rice dish of pork chop with gravy over rice. I asked if the included potherb. She then pointed to the pork and potherb fried rice and said we can do that but with rice and gravy. But I wanted the pork chop and I didn't remember it having gravy. She stared at me. I stared back.

After a few short minutes of waiting, the Master returned with my reward: a plastic bag carrying pork and potherb with gravy over rice (yes, I gave in), pork and napa cabbage stir fried rice cake, and an order of scallion pancake. Food which would provide strength and sustenance at both lunch and dinner. (You didn't think I was going to eat this all by myself at lunch did you?)

"Do you have any soy sauce and vinegar I can take to go?" I asked the master. Yeah, yeah, so I like to dab my scallion pancakes in a teeny bit of soy-sauce & vinegar mixture, so what?

"Soy sauce here," she replied abruptly as she handed me two soy sauce packets and a small plastic cup and lid, "you want vinegar, you make yourself." She pointed to the vinegar cruet on an empty table, and then almost magically, disappeared into thin air. The Master works in mysterious ways.

A good apprentice always make sure she keeps the to-go containers of any fried or crispy stuff open on the way to her destination so as to avoid any sogginess from steam droplets that collect inside. I drove back to work with my purse, a box of pork/potherb rice and stir fried rice cakes tied up in a plastic bag, and an open Chinese takeout box of scallion pancake all in my passenger seat.

Back at work, I tore into the scallion pancakes first, which had held up quite well during their 15 minute car ride. They were crispy on the outside and chewy on the inside without being too doughy. I mixed the a little soy sauce into the tiny cup of vinegar the Master had made me prepare myself and dabbed the pancake into it; the taste of scallion-tinged hot oil made a teeny bit tart by my soy sauce/vinegar mixture was delicious. This is why I stay true to the master.

Yes, Scallion Pancake Master

Though I went in search of enlightenment through fried porkchop with potherb, I was glad I took the Master's advice on the pork and potherb with gravy over rice. I was afraid that with the gravy it would have been too saucy, but to my surprise, it wasn't. A mixture of stir fried pork strips with pickled potherb mustard greens lay on top of a bed of hot steamy white rice, the tang and slight crunch of the potherb were the yin to the yang of the mild but soothing pork and white rice.

Yes, Pork And Potherb With Gravy Over Rice Master

The Master isn't necessarily masterful at everything, however. I thought the stir fried rice cakes with pork and napa cabbage were a bit bland and could have used a bit more flavor. Texturally, however, this dish was a winner--its oval rice cakes were cooked to the perfect chewiness and offset the napa cabbage's crispness nicely.

Uh Maybe, Pork And Napa Cabbage Stir Fried Rice Cake Master

As all master-apprentice visits should be, I felt stronger, wiser, and enlightened after this trip, ready to take on anything or anyone that got in my way.

Dumpling Master
423 N. Atlantic Blvd. #106
Monterey Park, CA 91754
(626) 458-8689


Professor Salt said...

Pam, I'm glad that your lunch hours have improved from this.

I'm looking forward to more of your writeups of the SGV. I feel overwhelmed every time I go without a specific eating destination. In that part of the world, there's so many good Chinese joints that I could blindfold myself, drive around the block three times, and the first storefront I drive through will probably be a good pick.

LACheesemonger said...

mbWell Pam, as you know, I hate misinformation like the plague (and I'm very, very old-style traditional in my Cantonese, not HK style, favorites of dim sum/yum cha items); but I have to go OT for a second. (other than to say Professor Salt could use a good book on the making of Dim Sum, so he know's that the translucent wrapper of Har Gow or Har Gaw, however you spell it in English; is made from wheat and tapioca flour, NOT rice flour) Between Christmas and New Years (well at least I haven't had any DL/Sarah episodes, lol) I had a dream that caused me to wake up in the middle of the night to pee (yeah, I know, that's TMI stuff) where I was at a table with a group of people and Pam was there speaking to the waiter/waitress in Cantonese. All very vague/blurred, and I remember very little of this dream (probably a result of reading your Empress Pavilion post, and I don't even like EP that much); but this dream sequence stuff, as a result of reading blogs is starting to freak me out (Okay, I guess I'm not well ;) ). Only few night ago I was going to sleep while watching PBS and Charlie Rose around 11:30PM and you know how PBS has been doing shit loads of 'commercial' TV spots over the most recent years, and I saw AGAIN!!!! for fox ache that friggin Carl's Jr ad where the guy is fondling/molesting that damned cow! So damned perverse/indecent; I mean it's at the level of child molesters.

Anyway, I'm wondering if Pam is tired of dim sum service? Empress Harbor Seafood at Atlantic&Garvey (yeah, you know how it is, I always talk to the managers, including the General manager when I show up... being the chatty person I am :) , and wanting to always get the best/premium service), along with New Concept 1/2 mi. to the south) are my favorites in that section (although, being ultra finicky dim sum whore that I am, I only order a scant 1/2 dozen of so items that I like best). I have picts, and recommendations, and how to get these at there best; if you're interested... New Years coming up Jan. 29th.

A bit farther way, have you tried the Triumphant Place (Cantonese, redefined that Irene S. Virbila of the LATimes ranted about recently?

Really, although we had a silly (IMHO) Dine & Dish on Asian persuasion just recently; the best Dine & Dish would have coincided with Chinese New Years, IMHO. So being that we screwed up on that; what say you DG & DL do you're own mini-reviews this upcoming NY's??? Forget the sushi for the next month or two, and go whole hog on an expensive, and more importantly, fresh&tasty Chinese New Years dinner or lunch (PM me at the previous if you want recommendations). Hehe, I finally figured it out that I had typed in the incorrect 'watchword' for my spamgourmet acct, as 'dialygluttony' instead of 'dailygluttony'... I'm such a butthead, lol.

I don't know, for some reason I'm getting really psyched about this Year of the Dog; I think at least I'll be going whole hog this year, wine, food, and friends.

Passionate Eater said...

Great theme for the post Pam! Have you ever tried the dumplings at Dumpling Master? I usually gauge the quality of a restaurant by its title dish.

You had to drive with open boxes of Chinese food in the passenger seat?!? Sounds like the "master" sent you on a mission that tested your driving dexterity and your ability to abstain from indulgence (of wolfing down those crispy scallion cakes)! Given your success, I'm sure that the "master" will soon be promoting his "apprentice" to a higher level.

Kirk said...

Hey Pam - Sounds like you'r enjoying explring the SGV.

elmomonster said... that's LUNCH! I've yet to try Dumpling Master...but I know exactly where it is...and I never realized the Dumpling Master is a she! How presumptuous am I to have assumed it was a man!

Daily Gluttony said...

Prof Salt,

Yes, this is alot more interesting than a sammich!


Actually, I could never tire out fr. dim sum, but that's something I'd rather eat w/ others, not alone!


Thanks! Actually, I have had their dumplings before...and they're good! I like their fried ones a little better than the steamed, but they're both good!


Yes, I'm trying!


At least the "Master" helping me was a she. There could have been a he in the back whipping up all the food, but I wouldn't know. Maybe they're "co-Masters" LOL!