Anyone who lives in LA knows that Chinatown isn’t really Chinatown. Sure, there are many Chinese people to be found there, but the most authentic Chinese experience is further east in the San Gabriel Valley. Yet, the Torrance and Gardena area is often overlooked when it comes to Asian food, despite the fact that it sports the Toyota and Honda headquarters. And I don’t just mean Japanese food, it also has its fair share of Chinese. One of these is Sea Empress (you must check out their amazing website from 1966), which is all about dim sum.
Sea Empress’s “B” rating may scare some people off, but those people probably forget that “B” stands for “Better Chinese food” (“A” is “American Chinese” and “C” is “Chinese Chinese”). Like other LA dim sum, upon being seated we were immediately bombarded by women asking us if we wanted their food. We took on their classics like Potstickers, Siu Mai, Egg Tarts and Ha Gau and all of these were as good as I would expect, without standing out especially.
But Sea Empress is a tricky mistress and had a couple of tricks up her sleeve. I wouldn’t call myself anything close to an expert on dim sum, but Sea Empress busted out a couple things I had never seen before. The first of which was Taro Dumplings. I have a pretty soft spot for taro, and this time it was presented in a way I had never seen before. The taro had been mashed up and made up the outside of the dumpling, which was filled with pork. It made for a pretty interesting flavor
The other surprise was Sugar Cane Shrimp (at least that’s what I’m calling it). Looking like some sort of faux drumstick, Sugar Cane Shrimp is essentially a shrimp ball skewered with sugar cane. After the skewering, it seems to be fried, which puts some of the sugar into the ball and some of the shrimp flavor into the sugar cane. I have to say I was a big fan of this and will look out for it in my future dim sum adventures.
I was definitely happy with my experience at Sea Empress. They had all the old favorites as well as a couple new ones (at least for me) to keep me on my toes. And, to make things even more interesting, they had freakish crabs in tanks at the entrance. Could you really ask for anything more than that from a dim sum restaurant?