Dumplings are possibly one of the cutest bite-sized foods out there. They're squishy, first of all, and even if their concept is simple (small pieces of dough wrapped around a filling) they're still versatile (fry 'em! Bake 'em! Steam the living hell out of 'em!) With their portability and lightness, they also make a great food to eat in the summertime. The heat here is piercing our poor sensitive bodies after all... makes waiting a couple hours in South Coast Plaza for that one dumpling place not such a bad undertaking if you ask me...
1. Peking Restaurant (Westminster)
Peking Restaurant has everything you'd expect from a traditional Chinese and Taiwanese restaurant, especially steamed dumplings bathed in chili sauce and pan fried dumplings. The dumplings here are open at the ends rather than sealed, so expect your mouth to be doing slightly more work biting through their crunchier parts. While you're there, order a succulent beef roll, too--it's folded in ways that give new meaning to crispiness.
8566 Westminster Blvd, Westminster, (714) 893-3020; facebook.com/pages/Peking-restaurant/506187602726715?rf=170745749636955
2. A & J Restaurant (Irvine)
Part of a chain that originated in Taipei, Taiwan, A & J restaurant is a haven for hot, delicious northern Chinese food. In short, this is where you go for your regular wheat noodles, one of the best pancake genres around (that is, Chinese--they've got thousand layer pancakes and green onion pancakes), and finally, dumplings: XLB, steamed dumplings, spicy wontons, and pan-fried dumplings that both crispy and chewy.
14805 Jeffrey Rd, Ste D, Irvine, (949) 786-3585; facebook.com/ajrestaurant
3. Myung In Dumplings (Garden Grove)
Myung In is located inside of H-Mart in Garden Grove, but don't let its humble location fool you: we named them best Steamed Buns in Orange County in 2011, and we stand by our praise. Here's what Edwin had to say about their dumplings:
A few will remind you of gyoza or pot stickers because that's what they are. An order gives you 10 bite-sized morsels, each with crispy, golden-brown bottoms facing up and ready for dipping in a chili-amped soy sauce. Another option has them plainly boiled so the sheer noodle skins cling to the minced-meat filling like lumpy sacks. And yet another variation has them steamed, with wonton wrappers shrunk around stogies of shrimp and pork.
Myung In, inside the H-Mart grocery store, 8911 Magnolia Blvd. #3, Garden Grove; (714) 638-4099; no website
4. Man Doo Rang Dumpling House (Buena Park)
It's all in the name: mandoo, if you're unfamiliar, is a Korean dumpling. Even if it's listed as an appetizer here, their dumplings are the true star of their hefty main menu. Meaty and airy, their fried and steamed dumplings are solid contenders for late night munchies along with their fried chicken wings and jjigae. On that note, if you're a regular victim of post-dinner cravings, bookmark Man Doo Rang for future incidents because they're open 'til 1:00 a.m.
5458 Beach Blvd, Buena Park, (714) 670-8989; no website
5. Myung Dong (Anaheim)
Off Euclid in Anaheim is a paradise for Kalguksu, a Korean noodle dish made with knife-cut wheat flour noodles, thick broth, and sometimes has dumplings in it. At Myung Dong, their Kalguksu has chicken dumplings and is served with minced pork and vegetables. They have regular pork and shrimp dumplings too, which is most fun when eaten with their other offerings like kalbi.
1000 N Euclid St, Anaheim, (714) 533-7789; facebook.com/pages/Kyoja-Dong-Myung/111680028869820
6. Nomad Asian Bistro (Long Beach)
Owned by Linda Campillo--daughter of Jamilla Ma of Mas' Islamic Restaurant--Nomad Asian Bistro serves the same delicious sesame flatbread and green onion pancakes as Mas' and, as expected, remains halal (no pork or alcohol). Their Mediterranean-Chinese cuisine comes from the family's Hui ethnic roots, which hail back to Persian and Middle Eastern travelers who lived along the historic Silk Road. One of Nomad Asian Bistro's most notable varieties? That'd be their pan-fried chicken potstickers. They're newly made every single day and served with house-made soy-vinegar sauce.
6563 Pacific Coast Hwy, Long Beach, (562) 430-6888; facebook.com/nomadasianbistro
7. Beijing Wok & Grill (Fountain Valley)
Because Beijing Wok and Grill is a Chinese and Korean restaurant, you can order almost anything here--or at least it feels like it. Besides the crab wontons and ja jiang (black bean) noodles that are always worth mentioning, they're especially known for their house-made dumplings and noodles. Their steamed dumplings are a pork, shrimp, and chives variation that's so good you'll forget you're eating in a strip mall.
17431 Brookhurst St, Ste J, Fountain Valley, (714) 968-5888; facebook.com/beijing.wok.grill.fountain.valley
8. Tasty Noodle House (Irvine)
Lovers of XLB, meet shen jian bao if you haven't already, a soup dumpling that's fried on the bottom for a crunchy base and leaves the top softer. Shen Jian bao is an eruption of flavor much more dramatic than XLB: it's crunchy, yes, but it's even more savory. That being said, you have to eat it slowly: take your chopsticks, dip them into Chinkiang vinegar, and before you get into the juice, take some time to appreciate the subtle munchy sound of the sesame seeds and green onions. Then, take refuge in the satisfying fact that you probably have a couple more dumplings to get through.
15333 Culver Dr, Ste 320, Irvine, (949) 654-3770; facebook.com/pages/Tasty-Noodle-House-品味/333445126769666
9. Chili Chutney (Lake Forest)
There are moments in life when gets hard, particularly when we need to fit potato samosas, Afghan flatbread, Chicken koobideh, AND endless meat-filled mantus into that limited body of ours. But if you need to compromise a food to prevent vomiting, make sure it's not the mantus, which are the stars at Chili Chutney. Served with yogurt and spices, this is the kind of dumpling that is a marvelous combination of chewy, creamy, and poignant flavors.
24301 Muirlands Blvd, Lake Forest, (949) 859-1778; facebook.com/ChiliChutneyOC
10. Din Tai Fung (Costa Mesa)
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These days, lines at Din Tai Fung in South Coast Plaza can be nonexistent if you know when to come. Weekends are a different story, but dinnertime during the weekdays? You might just be able to walk in, take a seat, and watch those steamy xiaolongbao (soup dumplings--a.k.a. super popular stuff right now) being brought to your table. But don't forget to order the spicy wontons, which as juicy as the XLB not because they have broth in them but because they've been soaking in red chili sauce that you might as well pour on everything else too (don't ask--just try it!)
South Coast Plaza, 3333 Bristol St, Costa Mesa, (714) 549-3388; facebook.com/dintaifungsouthcoast