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Doing Dim Sum at the Empress Pavillion

The shrimp potstickers are a must.
The shrimp potstickers are a must.

In the old Chinatown of downtown LA, there is a massive restaurant called the Empress Pavillion. The restaurant consists of a giant ballroom filled with chairs and tables.

In the mornings, the room becomes packed with hundreds of Chinese and westerners alike, all clamoring for a taste of the dim sum. Chinese women (whose command of the English language varies from non-existent to mediocre) push carts of plates around with varying dishes. If something on the cart looks good, you stop the lady, point to the food and she sets it on your table. Afterward, she takes out a stamp and presses it somewhere on the card on your table. You look to see where she stamped, but can’t really tell what anything means because it is all written in Chinese. Luckily, I can read some Chinese, and

Sticky Rice in Lotus Leaf
Sticky Rice in Lotus Leaf

determined that the stamps go in different sections, meaning small, medium and large. There are more complex symbols, but at least those make some sense to me. Through this mysterious stamping system, they are able to determine how much you owe.

unvegan empress pavillion 2
Rice Noodles

It’s important to get a big variety of foods, so as soon as we sat down and had our tea poured for us, we started pointing at carts that didn’t have vegetables, of which there were a decent amount. One of the dishes looked like a combination between octopus and a breakfast pastry. It turned out to be some sort of rice noodles covered in soy

Pork Shui Mai
Pork Shui Mai

sauce and was a pretty good way to start out. Along the way we also acquired some bubble tea (boba tea), which is a sweetened black tea with cream and tapioca balls. It’s a great companion to any dim sum meal.

Beef Meatballs...with Green...
Beef Meatballs…with Green…

Next came a plethora of small dishes. Shrimp pot stickers, pork shui mai, sticky rice in a lotus leaf (don’t worry, I didn’t eat the leaf), beef meatballs, and some sort of roll-like thing filled with and indistiguishable meat. All of

The Strange Meat Roll
The Strange Meat Roll

these were pretty good, but the pot stickers were my favorite of the bunch. The most disappointing were the meatballs, which had been stuffed with some sort of green vegetable. Obviously, due to all the food being pushed around on carts, it was impossible to get an special orders.

Yummy Sesame Balls
Yummy Sesame Balls

To finish the meal off, we got the best of all dim sum desserts, sesame balls. These are fried little dumplings with sesame seeds on the outside and a sweet center. The beauty of them is that as good as they are, your body can really only handle eating one. It is the perfect way to finish off a morning of dim sum.