June 16, 2021

rubbedindetroit

Qualified food specialists

Have dim sum, will travel: a look at offerings in Orange County

6 min read

If you are new to dim sum, here’s a primer: It is a feast of dumplings and bite-sized snacks designed to be eaten with hot tea. There are two options to have it: You can go to a traditional dim sum restaurant for the whole experience, or you can get it as takeout, which is cheaper and more accessible.

The focus of this article is takeout dim sum, but this isn’t another pandemic food story. Takeout dim sum existed well before COVID-19 and will continue to exist well after.

During the lockdown last year, I enjoyed lots of takeout dim sum, but I would have even if there was no pandemic. It has always been the shortest path to dim sum gratification. There’s no need to endure the hourlong restaurant waits, the tipping and the splitting up of the bill at the end.

I would go as far as to argue that among the food experiences we were deprived of because of COVID-19, dim sum should not have been one of them. Korean BBQ may be inextricably linked to the brick-and-mortars in which it’s served but not dim sum. Even Sam Woo and Seafood Cove, which are known for their traditional dim sum services, have always offered the option of ordering to go.

But then there are the dim sum shops that are exclusively for takeout. Their existence is proof of dim sum’s eminent portability. Despite dim sum’s Cantonese origin, Little Saigon has the highest concentration of these shops in Orange County.

What follows is an analysis of three old-school spots where you can pick up dim sum, go home, brew a pot of tea and finish your meal in the amount of time it takes to wait for a seat at a traditional dim sum restaurant.

Tasty BBQ & Dim Sum is located inside Sieu Thi Thuan Phat Supermarket.

Tasty BBQ & Dim Sum is located inside Sieu Thi Thuan Phat Supermarket.

(Edwin Goei)

TASTY BBQ & DIM SUM
13861 Brookhurst St., Garden Grove
(714) 539-3222

Located inside Sieu Thi Thuan Phat Supermarket, Tasty BBQ & Dim Sum is one of the few dim sum to-go purveyors that’s open past 5 p.m. In fact, if there’s still stock available, you can conceivably walk up to their U-shaped stall after sunset and get dim sum before the 8 p.m. closing time.

Though dim sum for dinner might be a tempting prospect, resist the urge — what you pick might have sat out all afternoon.

Arrive in the morning when the metal baskets are stacked as tall as your head and still billowing steam. You certainly want to eat the delicate rice noodle sheets called cheong fan as soon as they’re made. Wait too long and they turn into glue sticks.

Also order the siu mai, open-faced pork dumplings, before lunchtime to taste them at their most optimal. Tasty BBQ sells the smooth and mousse-like variety — the kind without any errant pieces of chewy pork or shrimp in the mixture.

Dim sum offerings at Tasty BBQ & Dim Sum in Garden Grove.

Dim sum offerings at Tasty BBQ & Dim Sum in Garden Grove.

(Edwin Goei)

Skip the steamed BBQ pork buns, however — they aren’t as satisfying as those sold by Little Saigon’s banh bao specialists Yummy Banh Bao and TP Banh Bao 2.

But say you did want to come and try your luck at a dim sum dinner. The fried glutinous rice footballs called ham sui gok are excellent any time of day. Out of the three dim sum spots featured in this article, Tasty BBQ’s specimens are the best of the lot, with a crunchy outer shell that cracks open like a geode. Inside the cavernous interior, discover a spoonful of loose seasoned ground pork.

Compared to their competitors, Tasty BBQ’s braised spare ribs are the most silky and unctuous, even if you have to reheat them a little in the microwave.

For sweeter items, Tasty BBQ bakes the flakiest daan taat, the classic egg custard tarts that are required to complete any dim sum meal, but it also offers an egg custard bun covered in a cracked sugary dome reminiscent of Mexican concha.

An assortment of dim sum at Giai Phat Food Co. in Westminster.

An assortment of dim sum at Giai Phat Food Co. in Westminster.

(Edwin Goei)

GIAI PHAT FOOD CO.
9550 Bolsa Ave. Ste 123, Westminster
(714) 775-7437

Giai Phat Food Co. occupies its own storefront — it’s the only shop on this list that’s not inside a supermarket. But the point here is the same: to get your dim sum quickly and go home.

But Giai Phat is unique in that it offers the option of getting some items by the piece. For instance, four baked BBQ pork buns come to an order (one more than its competitors); but the char siu filling inside is so dry, it’s best to only commit to one.

Giai Phat Food Co. occupies its own storefront in Westminster.

Giai Phat Food Co. occupies its own storefront in Westminster. It serves a variety of dim sum that can be ordered by the piece.

(Edwin Goei)

The daan taat also comes four to a box, and you want every one since they’re small enough here to be consumed in a single bite. And though the ham sui gok is nearly as big as a fist, you’ll regret not doing a full order. They’re almost as crunchy as Tasty BBQ’s but contain more filling.

Skip the purple-striped taro pastry, which is packed with a near flavorless hunk of mashed taro that hardly qualifies as dessert.

Also, if you opt for the steamed beef tripe, be aware that it’s in dire need of more of its gingery gravy to offset its rubbery chew. But if you’re an aficionado of coarsely chopped filling in your siu mai, you’re in luck: Giai Phat stuffs its siu mai with whole shrimp and big chunks of pork.

But what ultimately distinguishes Giai Phat from the other vendors mentioned here is the house-made sate sauce. The eatery gives you thimbles of it in lieu of chili oil, and it elevates anything it touches. Even if you don’t intend to take home any dim sum, it’s worth visiting the shop to buy a full jar of this ambrosial chili paste to slather on everything you eat — be it dumplings or McNuggets.

Dim Sum Co.'s signature poke bun with salted duck egg custard on the inside and cartoon googly eyes on the outside.

Dim Sum Co.’s signature poke bun, a canary-hued steamed bun that has salted duck egg custard on the inside and cartoon googly eyes on the outside.

(Edwin Goei)

THE DIM SUM CO.
8900 Westminster Blvd., Westminster
(714) 895-8455
thedimsumco.com

The Dim Sum Co. is the most technologically savvy purveyor on this list. It has an enviable social media presence that the other two shops don’t have. It offers online ordering and even a QR code to download the menu while you’re standing in line.

And there’s always a line, which forms as soon as the shop opens despite its slightly higher prices.

Key to its popularity is the signature poke bun, a canary-hued steamed bun that has salted duck egg custard on the inside and cartoon googly eyes on the outside. It’s a delicacy specifically designed for viral marketing.

The Dim Sum Co. offers takeout dim sum with online ordering.

The Dim Sum Co. offers takeout dim sum with online ordering and a QR code to download their menu while you’re standing in line.

(Edwin Goei)

These days, in response to COVID-19, the Dim Sum Co. repositioned the order counter so that you pick up and pay without coming inside the store, but the service is as efficient as it has always been.

The fried taro balls are greaseless and crisp, shedding their shredded-wheat-like fur in crumbles — perhaps the shop’s best item aside from the poke buns. And though you only get three egg custard tarts per order here, they’re bigger than Giai Phat’s and possess a sturdier crust more resistant to sogginess.

Like Giai Phat’s, the Dim Sum Co.’s siu mai are of the chunky variety, but they’re softer in texture and therefore slightly better.

Skip the ham sui gok. Even fresh, they’re deflated, flaccid and greasy. And the spare ribs are leaner and therefore less decadent than Tasty BBQ’s version. And when it comes to dim sum, why bother with anything that is less than decadent?

Food writer Edwin Goei is a contributor to TimesOC.

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