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By Steven Li on 2005-10-16

October 15, 2005

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My aunt and uncle came down from San Francisco for the weekend and took me out to one of their favorite dim sum spots in LA. We usually stay in Aracdia or Alhambra for dim sum but decided to drive all the way to downtown for a special dish: the gum sah bao. I did a post a while back on this wonderous steamed preserved salted egg yolk bun when we had it at another restaurant in Rosemead, but my aunt said she liked the gum sah baos here better. And here they are! It’s really crazy how much I love these baos. We ended up ordering 4 orders of the gum sah baos – that’s 16 between the 3 of us! I was responsible for eating 10 of them (gah, I’m such a glutton) but when food tastes this good I have no idea how to control myself, it is rather sad. Does anyone else suffer from a similar lack of control? Crap these things are delicious. I think I could eat 10 more. The best is when they’re fresh out of the steamer, the buns soft and a bit chewy, the yolk almost blisteringly hot, part of it soaked into the bun but enough is left in the middle so that its possible to tip the bun into your mouth, letting some of the salty rich yolk drip onto your tongue. I burn my tongue everytime I eat this, but it’s simply no good once it has become lukewarm. I suppose this sounds really gross to people who don’t like egg yolks but it’s sososo good, it’s hard to explain how amazing it tastes without sounding like an idiot.

The steamed sticky rice was a bit over cooked, turning the rice into a mushy mass. Nonetheless, any form of rice satisfies my stomach in a way no other form of starch can.There was plenty of filling inside including pork and lup cheong as well as cashews. The ones I get in Hawaii usually have a piece of salted egg yolk inside (salted egg yolks make me so happy!), which was my main complaint about this dish.
We also had har gao and another type of dumpling which I do not know what it is called in english (but hopefully the picture below will be helpful:) ). The shrimp inside the har gao was mixed with a bit of chopped nuts – something which I have encountered a lot of in LA but not elsewhere. The skin was on the thick side, but that could have been attributed to the massive quantity of filling they had inside. It was also flavorful enough that I did not bother with the hot sauce like I usually do.

The inside of this dumpling was filled with chopped water chestnuts, various vegetables and minced pork. Again, the skin was really thick but the filling was substantial and flavorful. I love the way water chestnuts add that additional dimension of flavor and texture with it’s signature crunch! When we arrived at Empress Pavillion around 10 am there was no wait and the place was half empty, leading me to question how good thier gum sah bao would be. But no worries! The restaurant was packed by noon with tons of people waiting outside. In fact, this restaurant is so popular that they opened an “Empress Pavillion Take Out” right next door!

At the express location you can get most of the dim sum items, like the baked baos and pastries. But if you want to good stuff (aka, gum sah baos) you’ll have to dine in the restaurant!

It was just at crowded here as it was in the actual restaurant with people pushing and shoving, waving pieces of papers with their numbers and shouting out the the items they wanted. It was almost like dim sum standing up. The organization of their takeout business was very…not organized. But there were definitely plenty of people willing to wait (I took the picture of the entrance early in the morning when no one was there yet).

Overall it was a decent dim sum outing, made a million times better by the fact that I got to be with my aunt and uncle! Foodwise, the highlight were the gum sah baos. I wouldn’t say that they were better than the ones we had in Rosemead, but they were certainly no worse. I’ve yet to find a place in NYC or Honolulu that serves these baos, is LA the only place in the US that does it?! I will continue to search! But for now I am very full (VERY FULL) and content. Man, the power of salted egg yolks.



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