By Evelyn Barge
Maybe it’s the dreary weather. Maybe it’s the even-drearier economy.
Whatever the reason, I can’t stop these comfort-food cravings for dumplings. Thus, I decided to extend my search for the perfect Chinese dumpling in the San Gabriel Valley.
The quest brought me to 1+1 Dumpling House, one of the many Asian restaurants packed into Hong Kong Plaza. The plaza – and its endless supply of options – comes about as close to my idea of supreme cuisine heaven as it gets.
I’d heard rumors that 1+1 was a less-expensive, nearly-as-good alternative to Arcadia’s beloved Din Tai Fung. And as I sat down to dine at the West Covina dumpling house on a recent weekday, I hoped I would find evidence to substantiate the claims.
Right off the bat, I noticed the reasonable prices that set 1+1 apart. The menu is much more wallet-friendly than Din Tai Fung, where I can easily blow $30-plus, even dining solo.
I ordered the juicy pork steam dumplings (eight pieces, $5.95) and the juicy pork and crab steam dumplings (eight pieces, $6.95).
Curious to get a broader sampling, I quickly tacked on an order for a green onion pancake ($2.95). To my delight, the server said the restaurant is currently offering a special: Get a free green onion pancake with any order over $10. And orders over $20 receive a free order of juicy pork dumplings.
Now, that’s my kind of recession special.
My visit fell during a very quiet, post-lunch hour lull, so it wasn’t long before the food arrived at my table, still steaming and – literally – too hot to handle.
I got a bit of a confidence boost when the server didn’t automatically assume I would want to eat with a fork. (Although my chopsticks skills are pitiful, I prefer to get the full experience when eating cultural cuisine.)
First, I dug into the green onion pancake, which was warm and doughy. It had a mild flavor, lighter on the sodium than I’ve come to expect from this kind of dish. (For this, my heart gave thanks.) The serving was quite large, so I stopped halfway through the pie-sized slices to save room for the main event: dumplings!
My first bite of juicy pork dumpling was so hot, I almost burned my tongue and could barely taste the flavors. You might say I get a bit over-zealous when it comes to dumplings.
Tapping into my scarce reserves of patience, I nibbled a tiny hole in the skin of the next dumpling and watched the steam rush out, before I popped the rest straight into my mouth.
The flavor was delightfully tangy, a humbling mix of meat, spices and soupy goodness. And while I still prefer a bit more of the liquid in my dumplings (a la the Gold Standard of Din Tai Fung), I liked the simplicity of the 1+1 approach.
I couldn’t taste any tremendous difference between the pork-only and the pork-and-crab dumplings, which made me wonder why I’d paid an extra buck for the latter. But both rounds of dumplings were delicious and hearty.
1+1 Dumpling House is located at 1017 S. Glendora Ave., West Covina, (626) 338-6868.