Of the many cuisines Los Angeles is known for, East Asian specialties in the city are can't-miss culinary experiences, thanks to the large diaspora communities that continue to cook them. One of the most delicious items to order is xiao long bao, a soup dumpling. Instead of dumplings simply served in soup, xiao long bao is dumplings that contain soup inside them. From your first bite, the flavorful broth bursts into your mouth, creating a wonderful dining experience.
Though there are some variations on xiao long bao (mainland Chinese and Taiwanese), these juicy, steamed dumplings are mouthwateringly delicious no matter how they are served. Perhaps unsurprisingly, you will find some of the best soup dumpling restaurants in San Gabriel Valley, particularly in Monterey Park, which has one of the most tight-knit Chinese communities in LA.
There are a few places that are closer to the center of the city, but if you're in east LA or looking for a nice little escape to another part of town, a trip out to the valley to try some of the following heavenly soup dumplings may be a good idea. All these restaurants were selected based on a combination of personal experience and both customer and critic reviews to get to the city's top-rated establishments.
Mama Lu's Dumpling House
Up until spring of 2023, you had to drive all the way out to Monterey Park if you wanted to try one of Mama Lu's well-known soup dumplings. However, if you live in the city of LA, you're in luck, as a new Mama Lu's Dumpling House location opened up in Chinatown, with a lot of the Monterey Park classics — including the soup dumplings — as well as a few new additions. Mama Lu's tends to serve their dumplings piping hot, so make sure you wait a few minutes or eat your xiao long bao properly to avoid burning yourself.
However, if you want to go with the original Mama Lu's, known for having some of the best and most affordable dumplings in the LA area, that's also a great choice. This location has made many "best dumpling" and "best soup dumpling" lists, including on Reddit, where one commenter named it the best place in town for xiao long bao and got multiple upvotes agreeing with him. Eater LA has called Mama Lu's an "SGV dumpling powerhouse" because the dumplings served there are so good that the establishment's xiao long bao has become synonymous with the restaurant itself.
Multiple locations in LA
Ixlb DimSum Eats
This small corner shop on Sunset Boulevard is a personal favorite thanks to the sheer variety of dumplings available, as well as the bite-size xiao long bao that manages to pack absolutely delicious flavors and incredibly moist fillings in relatively small dumplings. The restaurant serves some of the best dim sum in town and perhaps the most mouthwatering soup dumplings in the area. Besides great-tasting dishes, ixlb DimSum Eats is known for friendly and fast service at relatively reasonable prices, especially compared to the expensive dining landscape of Hollywood. A review in the Daily Bruin notes that "paired with the side of soy-vinegar, the soup dumplings are a delicious one-bite gem that is a menu must."
Owned by father-daughter duo Tony Ying and Gloria Shi, ixlb DimSum Eats also opened up a second location in Westwood in 2023, making its tasty soup dumplings more accessible to Westside residents. The interior of the Hollywood location is very casual, with no tables at all, just counters running across the large windows of the establishment's walls. This makes ixlb Dim Sum Eats perfect for a quick lunch on the go or some scrumptious takeout, where you can enjoy some of the city's best soup dumplings while watching life go by on Sunset Boulevard.
5900 Sunset Blvd, Los Angeles, CA 90028
Kang Kang Food Court
When someone in a subreddit dedicated to LA food asked for the best xiao long bao in the city, the top choice was clear: Kang Kang Food Court. As the name might suggest, Kang Kang is a pretty casual establishment with a cafeteria feel. Despite the simple surroundings, it's well known throughout LA for its amazing soup dumplings.
The CrunchBros, LA-based Korean cuisine experts, gave the soup dumplings at Kang Kang Food Court a ten out of ten. With so much love from both casual diners and foodies, it's no wonder Kang Kang attracts people from all over the city to eat its tasty, broth-filled dumplings. If you're alright with venturing out to Alhambra and don't mind the mall-like appearance of this casual eatery where you have to order at the counter yourself, this spot is definitely worth the trip. The menu is also subdivided into different regional Chinese cuisines, so if you're used to Eastern Chinese specials and want to try something different, the food here will get you out of your comfort zone.
27 E Valley Blvd, Alhambra, CA 91801
Din Tai Fung
If you ask around online or in person for the best soup dumplings in Los Angeles, it won't be long before you hear Din Tai Fung pop up. Originating in Taipei, Taiwan, this chain of restaurants has now spread across Asia, Australia, and, more recently, the United States. Serious Eats called the chain's xiao long bao "must-haves," recognizing that this eatery is universally "famous for their xiao long bao."
Yang Bingyi founded Din Tai Fung to sell cooking oil; the soup dumplings were just a side hustle for additional income. However, they soon became so popular that Yang decided to make his establishment an actual restaurant and forget about the cooking oil. His original eatery in Taipei became so well-known (and respected) that in 1993, The New York Times named it one of the ten best restaurants in the world.
Din Tai Fung has several locations in the Los Angeles area. Whether you live in Arcadia, Santa Monica, or Glendale, there will be a soup dumpling eatery close to you. The one in the Century City Mall is the most centrally located and a great stop for a quick, delicious bite while shopping or running errands in the area.
Multiple locations in the U.S. (and internationally)
However famous Din Tai Fung is, there are plenty of soup dumpling enthusiasts who prefer other stores and are vocal about it online. Not to mention, Din Tai Fung has a reputation for having long lines at many of its locations, thanks to its popularity, leading many people to seek other options.
One of the places frequently cited as better than Din Tai Fung in some peoples' eyes is Northern Cafe, a Chinese restaurant serving xiao long bao to its customers. The most well-known location is probably the one in West Hollywood, though Northern Cafe also has stores in Brentwood, Westwood, and Hollywood.
A Reddit user stated, "Northern Cafe is better than DTF imo [in my opinion]. The broth and meat are far superior". If you're dropping by to order, the varieties of xiao long bao here are listed as "juicy pork dumplings." This is because the soup dumplings at Northern Cafe have both the traditional pork filling and the variation with crab meat added in for extra flavor. Both of these menu items contain peanuts, so if you're allergic, you will have to skip this particular establishment.
Multiple locations in Los Angeles
Dan Modern Chinese
A favorite spot for both dining in and take out in Los Angeles, Dan Modern Chinese serves pork xiao long bao with a very thin dumpling wrapper, so you can focus on the flavor of the broth and filling instead of having to get through a chewy, thick exterior. The dish is so good here that it's one of the most popular things on their take-out menu, second only to short rib dan mein noodles. The pork xiao long bao comes with ginger and vinegar, so you can dress it however you would like.
If you're in the mood for something other than regular pork, Dan Modern Chinese does offer several varieties of xiao long bao, including a spicy pork version and a chicken version. For diners who can handle some heat, the spicy pork is an excellent choice. Daily Breeze called it "a very comfy place in which to contemplate the joys of xiao long bao" and gave its soup dumplings a stellar review. The eatery now has seven locations throughout Los Angeles, in Manhattan Beach, Pasadena, Santa Monica, and Sawtelle, to name a few, so you can definitely find a Dan Modern Chinese eatery near your house or office.
Multiple locations in Los Angeles
Mr. Dragon Noodle House
Mr. Dragon Noodle House offers both pork xiao long bao and pork and crab xiao long bao. One food blogger at The Minty ordered the pork and crab dumplings and concluded, "I could have had this entire order just for myself," so the restaurant must be doing something right.
Located in the San Gabriel Valley, which houses a lot of the best Chinese and Taiwanese restaurants in Los Angeles and brings the flavor of Taipei to the West Coast, Mr. Dragon Noodle House serves soup dumplings the way they were meant to be served in a xiaolong, or bamboo steaming basket. One food reviewer that goes by the handle Asian Happy Hour called their dumplings "a perfect bite."
Although there are plenty of other Taiwanese specialties here to keep your taste buds' attention, including the house special beef noodle soup and Taiwanese-style braised vermicelli, the xiao long bao is one of the menu's stars, based on personal experience. We loved the incredibly juicy insides of the dumplings that have a good portion of soup in addition to the pork, and perfectly wrapped exteriors that prevent the soup from leaking and lend a nice chewy texture to the exterior, making these xiao long bao feel very authentic. Mr. Dragon Noodle House is closed on Tuesdays, so keep that in mind before driving out to Rosemead to visit.
8526 Valley Blvd #108, Rosemead, CA 91770
For those who have already ventured to Mr. Dragon Noodle House, if the soup dumplings at P. P. Pop taste at all familiar to you, it's not your imagination; this restaurant is owned by the same people. The difference is that P. P. Pop is a much more casual eatery, suitable for fast dining or a hungry group of friends who want to gorge on Taiwanese cuisine. The environment is bare bones, loud, and fun.
Kat Hong at The Infatuation gave the food here, particularly the soup dumplings, an absolutely glowing review. She also appreciated the fact that the xiao long bao here was served in a traditional bamboo steamer rather than the metal steamers a lot of other establishments opt for these days, although that might change over time. Hong adds, "The broth inside is slightly sweet and goes well with the generous side of ginger provided." At P. P. Pop, the best soup dumplings are served under the name "house special steamed pork bao"; keep that in mind to avoid confusion when ordering.
127 N Garfield Ave, Monterey Park, CA 91754
Hui Tou Xiang Noodles House
Hui Tou Xiang is known for a lot of delicious dumplings, including its spicy pork wontons and pork hui tou. However, the most popular and standout item on the menu by far in terms of taste is the pork xiao long bao dish, though it is far from the only soup dumpling meal offered at the restaurant. Kevin Eats tried the soup dumplings filled with pork and snow crab and said, "The filling was properly juicy and imbued with a pervasive ginger-y sweetness."
Head out to the San Gabriel Valley to try the xiao long bao at this modern, cool restaurant, with its cave-like ceiling, neon signs, and full bar lending a very vibrant, modern, and simultaneously no-frills ambiance to the establishment. The decor mirrors Hui Tou Xiang's approach to the food it serves, focusing on great ingredients and straightforward quality instead of adding a lot of twists, garnishes, and other unnecessary frills to a classically delicious dish. If you want to stay a little closer to central Los Angeles, you can also check out their Hollywood location right on Cahuenga.
Multiple locations in Los Angeles
Long Xing Ji
Long Xing Ji serves traditional soup dumplings, but it also has one unique dish that it's become known for, an absolutely massive pork and crab soup dumpling that you need to poke and drink with a straw. Mark Wiens, one of the most well-known foodie content creators online with over ten million subscribers, was absolutely blown away by this jiggly, juicy dumpling on his trip through the San Gabriel Valley. Those looking for a more traditional xiao long bao experience can stick to the juicy pork dumplings, which come in sweet and unsweetened versions.
Best of all, partly thanks to its location outside central Los Angeles, Long Xing Ji serves some of the most affordable buns on this entire list. The Unvegan Report states, "Long Xing Ji features by far the best bang for your buck in dumplings." Though the xiao long bao costs just under $13 an order, they come with nine different dumplings, as opposed to the five or six most places usually serve, giving you great value for your money.
140 W Valley Blvd Ste 211, San Gabriel, CA 91776
Bao Dim Sum House
On the intersection of Beverly and Sweetzer lies Bao Dim Sum House, a restaurant that advertises that all its chefs have trained in Hong Kong and are familiar with traditional xiao long bao techniques. Since it's located in West Hollywood, an area with a lot of jampacked bars and restaurants nearby, Bao Dim Sum House cultivates a fun atmosphere, with a full bar available to help keep the night going. This makes it a perfect place to visit on a date, with friends before a night out on the town, or just for a fun group dinner.
Though most of the menu gets stellar reviews, it's clear the xiao long bao here are a cut above the rest, as one reviewer said, "the soup dumplings were also to die for." Since this establishment tends to get busy, especially on weekend nights, you should make early reservations before dropping by. Bao Dim Sum House also isn't as casual as a lot of other places on this list, invoking a more vintage, classically chic atmosphere with its glossy wooden furniture and hanging lamps. This makes it a fully sit-down restaurant, as opposed to a lot of the grab-and-go style eateries featured so far.
8256 Beverly Blvd, Los Angeles, CA 90048
Mason's Dumpling Shop
Since xiao long bao is often traditionally made with pork, vegetarians and vegans may have a hard time getting their hands on a dumpling that adheres to their dietary restrictions. Not to worry, as Mason's Dumpling Shop is here to save the day. This dumpling restaurant has several locations in California and Colorado and is known for its acclaimed dumplings, particularly its xiao long bao. However, for many customers, the highlight of the menu is the steamed vegan dumpling it serves, a variation on its soup dumpling menu. Pescatarians can also try the fish and napa cabbage dumplings.
Redditors rave about the steamed soup dumplings at Mason's Highland Park location, and the establishment also gets name-checked in many "best of the neighborhood" lists online. Mason's is also one of those restaurants that get named as an alternative to Din Tai Fung when people want to get their hands on some soup dumplings but not stand in line for hours or splurge on their meal.
Multiple locations in Los Angeles
Read the original article on Tasting Table.