Then I saw a picture of this soup on 50 Meals by KevCheng. Along with a photo of xiao long bao (Shanghai soup dumplings). My tastebuds started salivating. I was so there! But more on this soup and XLB in a little bit.
Pa Pa Walk is located in the same strip mall as the San Gabriel Hilton. It's behind the giant staircase in the center so you won't necessarily see it right away.
They must be trying to complement the outside of the yellow strip mall with all this yellow on the inside. See that pole in the center, behind the guy who's giving me dirty looks for snapping a photo? See the giant mango shaved ice on that poster? I didn't order one but I saw someone else's and it was mounded about a foot high, topped with mangoes, and condensed milk. I did go back another time and ordered the giant mango shaved ice. It was almost big enough for me to hide behind.
And more feet. Are these feet autographed?
And giant fuzzy feet! Geez, what's up with all the feet? Well, KevCheng says that pa pa (slang for all over) means to get out around town. Ah, Taiwanese snack food! The name makes sense now!
If not for KevCheng's picture, I would have glossed over the simply named cream soup in fried toast for $5. If you love San Francisco's clam chowder in a bread bowl, this is soooo much better. The SF version, I never liked the bread all that much. It was more about the presentation, ya know? But here, the toast was fried crispy, then hollowed out so the bread was super-thin. It was filled with a vegetable cream soup with chunks of chicken, ham, and whole shrimp.
The picture doesn't show you how very large this toast bowl actually is. This fed three of us. And afterward, I cut up the edges and bottom and we munched on the soup-soaked toast. And it was still crispy! Even after I was sidetracked by some dumplings and crispy chicken. So curious about this dish, I did a little Googling and found out that "coffin bread" hails from Tainan, the oldest city in Taiwan and the capital from 1663 to 1885. It was so named because of its coffin-like appearance. Ewww. It didn't look like a coffin to me. More like a fried breadbox of yum! Hehe. :)
You can also get lots of the drinks that you'll find at most boba cafes. Like this red bean milk slush for $2.75.
We ordered popcorn chicken for $3.50. Crispy, lightly spiced, fried basil, larger than the portions given at boba cafes. What's there not to love?
On another occasion, I ordered the deep-fried oysters for $4.95. I thought the coating worked much better on the chicken. The thick batter and spices overwhelmed the oysters so the subtle flavor didn't come through.
And since I was indulging in Taiwanese street food, I had to try the $4.25 stinky tofu just to see what everyone was holding their noses about. My verdict? Smelled slightly of bleu cheese but wasn't as bad as I'd heard. Although, my cousin said he could smell it from across the table when my brother bit into a piece.
OK, now we're getting to the good stuff - the dumplings! An order of 10 pork and napa cabbage dumplings is $4.50. A dollar cheaper than all the other dumpling houses I've been visiting. So how did it taste?
Very juicy. The wrappers were fresh. Such a bargain!
Another visit, I tried pork and leek dumplings. An order of 10 is again $4.50.
These were good, but the leeks were really strong. I preferred the delicate flavor of the pork and napa cabbage dumplings.
An order of 8 potstickers is $4.95. They don't look too golden in the photo, but there was a nice crunchy, chewy edge to the potstickers.
And of course, the XLB, served with a side dish of ginger. An order of 10 is $5.25, a half order is $2.95. But who am I kidding? Full order right?
You can see the soup pooling at the bottom of each dumpling. The skins weren't as thin as the ones at Mei Long Village.
And there was a spoonful of soup.
So although these aren't the best XLB ever, there are so many other goodies at Pa Pa Walk such as the "coffin bread" and popcorn chicken, that makes this a great option when I'm craving dumplings. I still haven't tried their sole fish and cilantro dumplings. There's also lamb and leek and beef and celery but I don't know how I feel about lamb in a dumpling. There's tons of entrees, fried rice, more snacks, soups, fruit drinks, milk teas, to keep you occupied.
And in that roundabout way of food cravings, after I posted pictures of the "coffin bread," Henry says he has to go back and try that next time. Which just goes to show that three different food bloggers can eat at the same restaurant and still find something new to try. But then again, the menu does have 172 items...
I did return and ordered the mango shaved ice. Also, some menu items have gone up about 50 cents or so in price since this post was written.
Did you miss any of the other posts in my dumpling series?
Who else ate at Pa Pa Walk? KevCheng of 50 Meals introduced me to the "coffin bread."
Henry Chan of Henry Chan's Food Videos filmed his lunch.
UnHipLA has been trying to recapture her initial smoked duck experience.
For comparison, Dylan of Eat, Drink, & Be Merry ate real street food in Taiwan.
July 8, 2015 Update: Pa Pa Walk is now closed. :(
Pa Pa Walk
227 W. Valley Blvd., Ste. 148-B
San Gabriel, CA 91776
11 a.m. to 10 p.m.