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15 July 2015

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Los Angelenos Crazy about Chinese Dumplings

2018-06-12 Download Print Comment
LOS ANGELES, June 11 (Xinhua) -- Sean Bulanda, a physical therapist from Cleveland, Ohio, expertly uses chopsticks to delicately pick up a light green, tea-flavored dumpling at Tea Station in Alhambra, a city 10 kilometers east of Los Angeles.
Well practiced, Sean can easily pick up the dumpling without piercing the outside wrapping, and still carry on a conversation about how his wife taught him to make Chinese dumplings.
"She showed me how to roll out the dough - she did most of the work," Sean explained to Xinhua with a laugh.
"But, she showed me how to appropriately fold the wrap, the 'pi', and how to pinch the dumpling closed. The way to know if you had done a good job of making your dumpling was to put it on its side, and if it stands up then its good, but if it falls over, then you didn't do a very good job."
Dumplings are a staple of Chinese cuisine that are popular around the world. Legend says that Chinese dumplings were first created in the Han Dynasty by a famous doctor named Zhang Zhongjing.
During a particularly cold winter that many fellow villagers were suffering from frostbite, especially around their ears, Zhang prepared chili, herbs, and mutton, wrapping it in scraps of dough. He folded the dumpling to look like ears, cooked them, and gave them to the frostbitten villagers to cure them.
Sean and his wife, Fang Liu Bulanda from China's Henan province, met in Irvine of California. Before meeting his wife, Sean, like most Americans, was used to Americanized Chinese food such as General Tso's Chicken, chop suey, and fortune cookies, foods that would be hard to find in China.
"My background is western european, so if someone said dumplings to me, I would have thought of a doughy dumpling that doesn't have any filling in it. My mom would make her dumplings which involved creating a noodle kind of consistency of dough, then dropping spoonfuls into boiling water and cooking it. That's what a dumpling was to me." he said.
Having been exposed to authentic Chinese food through his wife and her family, Sean now enjoys more traditional Chinese dishes, including Chinese dumplings.
The first Chinese restaurant in the United States, called Canton Restaurant, was opened in San Francisco during the gold rush in 1849. According to Chinese Restaurant News magazine, today there are over 43,000 Chinese restaurants in the United States - more than McDonalds (14,000+), Burger King (7,000), and Wendy's (5,500+) combined.
In the greater Los Angeles area, since the Panda Express perception of Chinese cuisine is changing for many Americans, Yelp shows results for almost 4,000 Chinese dumpling restaurants.
"It's definitely become more fashionable to go to a dumpling restaurant. I think there's been more awareness of chinese culture and chinese tradition in the last couple of years," Sean said, picking up another tea flavored dumpling, "It's really good, but to be honest, I don't taste the tea flavor."
Amy G., from Downey of California had her first experience with Chinese dumplings at Mama Lu's Dumpling House, a popular dumpling restaurant in Monterey Park, a neighbour city of Alhambra.
"It was an international student at USC (University of Southern California) that took me to Mama Lu's. They ordered a bunch of stuff, and I had no idea what it was, but I ate it all, and it was delicious. My friend says it's the only place outside her mom's kitchen she can find dumplings like that."
Amy Chu Hines from Taipei moved to North Dakota in 1986 where she said there was no Chinese food.
"Only what my mom made, it's one of the reasons we moved to LA." Hines described some of her favorite dumpling restaurants in Los Angeles including Luscious Dumplings in city of San Gabriel, which locates in eastern outskirts of the Los Angeles Metropolis like Alhambra and Monterey Park.
"The really famous one is Din Tai Fung. It's world famous. It's definitely higher class than other dumpling restaurants," Hines said enthusiastically describing the experience of the restaurant.
Diners often wait in line at Din Tai Fung for up to two hours to enjoy the restaurants speciality: Xiao Long Bao or "soup dumpling" .
The thin dough of the dumplings are folded by hand and filled with meat and gelatinous stock. As the dumplings are steamed, the stock liquifies, creating a juicy burst of flavor with every bite.
"People are becoming more conscious and accepting of new flavors. People are becoming more interested in authentic cuisine," chef Nery Godoy explained to Xinhua Sunday.
Godoy is a chef at one of many recently opened Chinese dumpling restaurants in the Los Angeles area. The Freshwater Dumpling and Noodle House is set in the Huntington Library's scenic Chinese Garden. On any given weekend, customers will find a line of expectant foodies waiting to order one of the delicious, Asian inspired dishes.
Godoy explained that being from Los Angeles, he draws inspiration from his surroundings.
"I'm latino, and I grew up in Korea town. It was so lovely for me to be introduced to Asian foods by walking the streets of Korea town going to school smelling different smells I'm not familiar with. I think that keeps expanding people's minds to wanting more. So they keep making more."
The dumplings served at the Freshwater Dumpling and Noodle house are seasonal, but right now guests can enjoy a Sichuan inspired dumpling filled with meat and served with spicy sauce over the top.
"Dumplings are definitely one of my top favorite foods," Godoy tells Xinhua. "It's quite amazing to me actually. Each region is different. You can differentiate the dumplings from their folds, their fillings, and what they are served in. It is so personal, the person making the dumplings tells a story. I really like that personal touch."
Source: Xinhua