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Thursday, November 04, 2010

Dean Sin World - Monterey Park

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For more than a year now, I've been getting my potsticker and soup dumpling fix at Dean Sin World in Monterey Park. The dumplings are good and cheap, and mama Lu is way nice and almost always gives me freebies. So I tip very generously. And she gives me more freebies to make up for it. So I tip very generously again. And well, you see where this is going? I've also dragged various friends, cousins, aunts, uncles, cousin's cousin, cousin's uncle, nephew, nephew's friend, dad's friend's daughter... I guess I should finally blog about Dean Sin World then huh?

As with many places that have gained popularity among food bloggers, many times the person who discovered the restaurant doesn't get proper credit. You know how I feel about attribution. So it's not just because he's my friend, but because all Dean Sin World hype should be properly credited to Tony of SinoSoul, who discovered it back in 2008.

I first read about Dean Sin World on Pepsi Monster of Right Way to Eat, who said that mama Lu supplies many of the restaurants in the San Gabriel Valley. Not the dumpling houses, but the restaurants who offer dumplings in addition to their menu. But I didn't visit Dean Sin World until last August when Danny of Kung Food Panda took me here since they don't speak English.

We were brought complimentary peanuts with a light sprinkling of salt and sugar and dried seaweed.

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And a red bean pastry.

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I saw mama Lu folding tray after tray of dumplings and asked Danny to ask her if I could take pictures.

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Don't they look like little Mandarin hats?

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They're for wonton soup.

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Here's mama Lu holding up her creations. She had to go freshen her make-up before she would let me take a photo. :P

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And because it helped to have a Mandarin speaker, Danny asked her if I could film her making the dumplings. Here she is rapidly folding xiao long bao (Shanghai soup dumplings). If you can't see it below, just click directly on the YouTube video.

Which then will be steamed and come out like this. They're listed as steamed pork buns, $4.85 on the menu. Since they don't speak English, pronounce xiao long bao as "shao long bow" and you'll get your point across.

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Can you believe she makes those beautiful folds in just seconds?

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Nicely full of soupy goodness.

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A few days later, I was back again with my brother and his wife. Sister-in-law then told me that dean sin is the Mandarin pronunciation of dim sum. Aahhh. It all makes sense now. Mama Lu remembered me from before and let me take more pictures of her and the other lady who makes dumplings. These are frozen in trays before they get bagged and sold to restaurants or for customers to buy in bulk.

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She's holding up shen jian bao (Shanghai pan-fried buns), $4.80, listed as fried buns on the menu. Say "shen jen bow" if you want to order these. The dough is soft and pillowy, not quite as crispy or juicy as Kang Kang Food Court - Alhambra's version, but good all the same.

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Danny and I also ordered the niu rou mian (Chinese beef stew noodles). Mama Lu has a sweet tooth, a trait that Danny says a lot of Shanghainese have, so these noodles were a tad on the sweet side. The soup also lacked spice and flavor, tasting more like sweet soy sauce broth than anything else. I'd recommend sticking to her dumplings, although she is still experimenting with many of her dishes.

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We finished off with egg wine blew rice ball, $2.99. Hey, I'm just listing what it says on the menu. I think she meant to say wine bRew. :) This is a slightly fermented rice wine dessert soup.

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With very soft mochi balls.

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A few days after the visit with my brother and his wife, I was back again with the middle '87, back when she was admonishing me for not blogging and I offered to take her here so she'd be mentioned when I blogged it. :P

We ordered jiao zie (Chinese steamed dumplings), $4.25, listed as vegetable pork dumpling. Just say "jao zee" if you want these.

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But I much prefer them pan-fried as potstickers. So say "gu-o tee-a" if you want these.

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They're incredibly juicy so watch out because they'll squirt!

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When I was here with my brother and his wife, we got a Chinese leek pastry along with the red bean pastry. These are $1 each, but she often gives them to me for free.

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The ge-chai wonton, $4.25, on the menu comes as a soup. This is the tray of wontons I photographed early on. Filled with pork and vegetables, it's a nice light starter.

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I don't know the word for the egg rolls, but she brought this out too. Filled with a little bit of pork and Chinese white chives. They're a wetter filling than what I'm used to, but very good if you're in the mood for something fried and crispy.

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She gave me some baby bamboo in special sauce, $2.99, as a gift.

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So all that food above was three visits in one week last August, if you weren't paying attention.

A week after that, Danny organized a blogger dinner with about a dozen of us. I forgot to mention that Dean Sin World is tiiiiny. There's two 4-person tables, and two 2-person tables. They've moved the dumpling folding table into the kitchen so there's room for one more now, but last year, we basically took up the whole restaurant. There was one other couple dining there and then us. So when an older Chinese woman came in, they had to set up a makeshift table for her outside. And the whole time, we felt her glaring at us. Especially when we got a plate of egg rolls, and she came in to tell us that she ordered egg rolls and was told they were out. Oops. Sorry!

Mama Lu was putting the finishing touches on her shrimp platter for us when we came in. This isn't on the menu, just a thank you she put out for us since Danny was bringing in so many people.

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We got this as the complimentary cold appetizer instead of the peanuts.

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Along with the usual assortment of dumplings, Danny also ordered the lion's head meatball soup. The meatballs are easily the size of a small soup ladle. Again, mama Lu has a sweet tooth and the broth is a bit too sweet for a savory soup for me.

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I don't remember who I was with this time, probably with lil' sis because she bought a bag of frozen dumplings later and mama Lu remembered her when she came in. She often changes up the complimentary cold appetizer. I like the tofu skin and mustard, although the wheat gluten and bamboo shoots aren't bad either.

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After dinner with Danny again, this time with WeezerMonkey, she gave us all stuff to take home. She gave me a bunch of cold meats like this smoked fish, which is technically deep-fried, $4.99. Sweet, soy-saucey fried fish.

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The bamboo and wheat gluten appetizer.

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And eggs with brown sauce, $2.80.

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After my cousin Phong's fashion week show, my oldest uncle and his wife asked me to take them somewhere to eat. Since my aunt caters, I figured Vietnamese restaurants were nothing special, so I took them here. The funny thing is my uncle speaks Mandarin since he learned it in Vietnam, but he doesn't know the dishes. So he read the Chinese on the menu, and I told him what the dumpling was based on how it's pronounced. Along with the usual potstickers and soup dumplings, she also gave us these Shanghai sticky rice siu mai dumplings. I've only seen her bring these out that one time, so I guess she's either still experimenting or they didn't make it onto her regular menu. My aunt and uncle bought a bag of 50 frozen dumplings for $11, and mama Lu gifted me with another bag too.

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Last December, Gourmet Pigs said she wanted to try Dean Sin World after hearing so much hype. The restaurant was packed (which doesn't take much), and I thought I lost my touch. No freebies, so I guess I don't have to overtip to make up for it. Just as we got into the car, the other lady came running out with a package for me. Then mama Lu came out with another package. From what Gourmet Pigs could make out, she admonished me for leaving so early because she didn't get a chance to give me some food. She said she had to sneak out my freebies since the restaurant was packed and she didn't want the other customers to see. :P

When I got home, we opened the boxes to see the ear wax cakes that Tony had raved about. These are like fried mochi, sticky and gooey, with red bean filling.

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And Chinese beef rolls. So yummy! Filled with sliced beef shank, cilantro, and green onions with hoisin sauce.

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So when my dad's friend's daughter was visiting in February, I had to ask Tony what the beef rolls were called in Chinese, niu rou juan bing, he texted back. Say "new roo ju-wan bing" if you want this since it's not on the menu.

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A white lady at the table next to us saw and asked me to order that for her. I asked her how she found the place and she said she read a Chowhound post.

How did you find out about it, she asked?

Umm, my friend wrote the Chowhound post, I replied.

Oh, then I must know a lot of good places to eat and she asked for recommendations.

Sure, what type of food do you like?

Somewhere tasty!

Umm, yeah, you'd have to get specific if you want me to recommend somewhere...

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The funny thing is when she walked in, she was so dismayed that the photos of the food weren't on the glass wall. She had no idea what to order until she discovered the photos were moved to the back wall. I guess all those photos I took came in handy. I had an online coupon for free pictures so I got a bunch of them developed for mama Lu. She said the pictures have been really handy for her customers. So yes, you have me to thank for easing your ordering. :P

But since some of her dishes aren't on the menu, nor have I photographed anything recently, just do what I do and stick to what she does best.

xiao long bao (Shanghai soup dumplings) = shao long bow
guo-tie (Chinese potstickers) = gu-o tee-a
niu rou juan bing (Chinese beef roll) = new roo ju-wan bing
shen jian bao (Shanghai pan-fried buns) = shen jen bow
ge-chai wonton = just say wontons :)

Now if you're not fortunate enough to dine with me, or with any of her regulars, how do you get in good with mama Lu? She's a nice lady and she remembers her regulars. So go often and tip well, I'm talking 30%+, which isn't hard to do when almost everything is only about $4. If you treat dining here as a you would any other restaurant, pay your bill and your 15% to 20% tip, then don't bemoan if she doesn't give you anything special. But almost every dining experience I've had here, she's been extra nice and even remembers lil' sis or my other dining companions. And if you do speak Mandarin, tell her the girl with the camera sent you. :)

Tony once told her I make Pho Bo (Vietnamese Beef Noodle Soup) and roll a mean Goi Cuon (Vietnamese Salad Rolls). She told him to tell me she'd trade me food. :P

Who else ate at Dean Sin World?
Tony of SinoSoul discovered Dean Sin World and posted about it on Yelp and Chowhound, before finally writing about it on his blog.
Pepsi Monster of Right Way to Eat mentioned how mama Lu sells to various restaurants.
Last fall, WeezerMonkey dined here with me and Kung Food Panda (who still hasn't blogged it yet).
Kirk of Mmm-yoso found out her son sells her frozen dumplings to his classmates at his college in San Diego.

Other dumpling restaurants:
Bamboodles Restaurant - San Gabriel
Dumpling 10053 - El Monte
J & J (Jin Jian) Restaurant - San Gabriel
Luscious Dumplings Inc. - San Gabriel
Mei Long Village - San Gabriel
Pa Pa Walk - San Gabriel

Dean Sin World
306 N. Garfield Ave., #2
Monterey Park, CA 91754
10 a.m. to 8 p.m.
Cash only.
The restaurant is a little hard to find. Look for the #306 that's on a flag on the grass on Garfield Avenue in front of the strip mall. Dean Sin World to your left as you enter, and is located directly across the street from QingDao Bread Food.

1 year ago today, Vietnamese jerky and dried fruits at Kum Lee (Kho Bo Mut) - Westminster (Little Saigon).
2 years ago today, memories of my paternal grandmother and her signature dish -- banh nam (Vietnamese steamed flat rice dumplings with shrimp and pork).
3 years ago today, muop (Vietnamese loofah).
4 years ago today, Goi Ga (Vietnamese Chicken Salad).


  1. OK WC, since I can't ask you to stop writing such engaging pieces and posting such drool-worthy pics (my favorite is def the second lady with her tipped hat and sweet, open face--and how do the dumplings not tumble at that angle??), it's clear I need to show a little more self-control before I drop in on your blog. As in, first asking myself some of the following questions: have I eaten enough before risking lots of views of really good food? Is it going to make me feel bad that I have absolutely no way of getting to the real McCoy?

    Because this time, my stomach's a-growling, and I'm dreaming of a restaurant in SoCal...

  2. Oh wow. Reading and seeing the pictures is making me drool.

  3. Putting this restaurant on my to go list. It looks awesome! Thank you for the pictures! :D

  4. Oh my gosh - what a treasure this place looks like!

    Okay, since I am a small ex-midwesterner, I will have to rely on your pronunciations for food. But it looks like it is worth it and that I will be grateful, as usual, for your help!

  5. hey nice post (: this place has to be on my queue! and fantastic pics, i wonder what camera you use? black friday is around the corner, maybe i could get something similar or the same brand.

  6. Oh, I remember you telling us about this place!

  7. Haha, I went after all this blogger buzz and now I just buy frozen stuff every few weeks. The chive pies (jiu cai he zi...approximate pinyin) are great frozen and only just 1.50! I like the XLB and dumplings like you do, they are great at home. Now when I eat XLB in most restaurants I feel that they are either very similar or the same as Dean Sin World!

  8. I keep coming back to this post cause these are things my mom makes. Since I'm away from home now, I can only get them at restaurants and such and most aren't even close to my mom's. These ones looks promising.

  9. We took a road to LA and dropped by this place based on your post. I was very excited to try them. It was yummy good! We had XLB, beef roll, and beef noodle. We then went to Din Tai Fung and the XLB from Dean Sin can go toe to toe with Din Tai Fung (at about half the price) :)

  10. Tammy,
    Those dumplings were all frozen. They do a good business with frozen dumplings for take home. Next time you come back to the States, you can go!


    I think there's just something so comforting about dumplings. Love them.

    You'll have to visit someday!

    I hope my writing of the pronunciations approximates it. But they have pictures so you can just point. :)

    I bought a used XTi a while back, but it works well for me.

    Next time you're in town, I'll take you here.

    I feel the same way and often think they're all from here. :)

    So glad you liked it. I would've hated for you to do a road trip and be unhappy. DTF is good, but I can get twice as many here.


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