The Unvegan

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‘Chinatown LA’

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.