Dim Sum Truck

Introducing...Dim Sum Truck!

One of Alex's helpers

Sunday, the Husband and I were invited to attend a sneak peek of Los Angeles’s newest food truck, Dim Sum Truck!  I had tried a couple of their items at the Food Fest and liked them, so I was looking forward to tasting more of their menu.

Founded by Alex Chu, a young entrepreneur and graduate of USC, the Dim Sum Truck seeks to bring this classic Chinese cuisine to the streets of Los Angeles.  Those familiar with the food scene in this city know in order to get the “good stuff” when it comes to dim sum, one has to trek all the way to the San Gabriel Valley.  Not an easy thing for those who live on the west side, like me.

When we got to the truck, there was already a small crowd.  Not a problem as Alex and his crew already had food ready to go.

Har gow, shu mai, shrimp n' chive dumpling

First up were dumplings – har gow, shu mai and shrimp n’ chive.  Right off the bat, I noticed that these pieces were a little bigger than what I was used to getting at the restaurants.  The taste of each was on par with what you get at the restaurants, too, though.  Not a surprise given that Mr. Chu started his food career at a dim sum restaurant….

Baked BBQ pork bun

Chicken and ginger steamed bun

The sauce served with the trio of dumplings was salty and garlicky but lacking in the heat for me.  I didn’t mind because it complimented the flavors very well.

Next up was a duo of buns – a steamed bao filled with ginger and chicken and a baked bbq pork bun.  I tried the bbq pork first.  Stuffed with familiar sweet porkiness, this bun was quite good, though personally, I prefer the steamed version better because I like the texture and flavor of the steamed bread more.  I thought the bao was going to also be filled with bbq pork since char siu bao is a classic dim sum dish, so I was surprised when I tasted chicken and ginger.  The flavors were really good; I loved the ginger. But it was a little skinny in terms of the filling as you can see.

Zongzi - sticky rice with pork, sausage and mushroom

Dim Sum Truck was also serving up zongzi, a dish consisting of sticky rice with various fillings steamed in lotus leaves.  This version had pork, chinese sausage and mushrooms.  There was a nice earthy flavor infused into each bite from the leaves.  The pork was a little dry, though.  I did love the one piece of chinese sausage, juicy and intense.

Egg custard tart

Sesame ball

For dessert, there were egg custard tarts and lotus paste-filled sesame balls.  To caramelize the top of the tart, Alex broke out the kitchen torch.  The filling was smooth and perfect but the crust was not as flaky as I would like; it was a little soggy.

I’m used to the sesame balls being filled with a red bean paste.  The lotus version was a little less sweet but it was still good.  The shell was not oil-saturated and had just the right amount of chew to it.

Based on their website, Dim Sum Truck will also be offering up dim sum-Mexican fusion dishes like a roast duck taco,  which I tried at the Food Fest (yum yum yum), and a spicy tofu mulita.

Dim Sum Truck info

All in all, this was some good eats and I give them 4 NOMs!

Congratulations to Alex Chu for starting up a great truck!  I’m looking forward to encountering Dim Sum Truck often on the streets…

Dim Sum Truck on Urbanspoon

Banh Mi & Che Cali Bakery

It’s been a while since I’ve eaten Banh Mi…literally years.  Banh Mi is a Vietnamese sandwich comprising of a french baguette, meat, pickled carrots and daikon, cucumber, cilantro, jalapeño, mayo and sometimes, pate.  Mmm-yoso had several posts on this Vietnamese sandwich which started a craving.  Then I spotted someone at work chowing down on one a few weeks ago.  After reading Gastronomy’s post about Banh Mi in St. Louis, my craving got pushed into “must have one NOW” territory.  A quick Google and Yelp search revealed several places near my work.  Banh Mi & Che Cali Bakery (also referred to as “Banh Mi Che Cali”l) seemed to be a popular spot so I decided to go there on my lunch break today.

Located on Brookhurst and McFadden in Westminster, this little shop looks like an old Taco Bell that got taken over.  Inside are numerous Vietnamese ladies making sandwiches, taking orders and spooning various porridges into to-go containers.  The counter is overflowing with all sorts of things – leaf wrapped mystery items, rice with chicken, spring rolls, noodles, bread-y things….  It’s a very small space so most people take their order to go but there are several tables with chairs inside and outside in case you do want to dine in.  Also, they bake their own bread and sell long baguettes for $1/piece.

The first thing I noticed was the lack of order to ordering.  Basically, you just charge up to the front, kicking all concept of a line to the curb.  Little old ladies will cut in front of you without even giving you a glance.  The lady at the register quickly writes down your order, takes your money and moves on to the next person.  They don’t ask for your name or anything.  Somehow, they just know what order goes to which customer.  I wonder how many orders they’ve messed up.  In the time I was there, I never saw anyone come back in complaining of receiving the wrong items…

The next thing I noticed was the banh mi menu prices.  The sandwiches only cost $2.50 and they advertised a “buy two, get one free” deal.  Wow…that’s some cheap eats.   I decided to go with the 3 for 2 deal.  I knew I wouldn’t be able to eat all 3 sandwiches despite the fact that I was starving (no breakfast, bad me) but it was too good a deal to pass up.  I could always save the other sandwiches for later…  I ordered the BBQ pork (Thit Nuong), BBQ beef, and ham and meatloaf (Dac Biet Thit Cha).  $5 even at the register because they don’t charge tax for the sandwiches, apparently.

BBQ Pork Banh Mi

Inside the BBQ Pork Banh Mi

Back at work, I opened the first sandwich.  Nothing was marked so I had no clue which one I had picked.  It turned out to be the BBQ pork.  I chowed down.  The bread was soft on the inside and had a ok crust on the outside, though I wish it had a little bit more crustiness to it.  The bbq pork was good.  It wasn’t dry but some pieces didn’t tear easily.  The pickled vegetables added a delicious sour note but I noticed they don’t use cucumbers like other Banh Mi places I’ve been to.  There was just the right of amount of cilantro in each bite.  However, there was only one long slice of jalapeño which was disappointing.  Overall, this was a decent banh mi as far as I could tell and it satisfied my hunger.

Inside the ham & meatloaf Banh Mi

Ham and meatloaf Banh Mi

A couple of hours later, I was starting to get hungry again so I went for another sandwich.  I pulled out the ham and meatloaf.  Now, the meatloaf isn’t really “meatloaf” but more like a steamed pork patty.  This sandwich had pâté on it as well.  It was a little more sloppily put together as the pâté wasn’t evenly spread on the bread and oozed out of the side sometimes.  And they really skimped on the jalapeno…one lonely little slice.  The bread was even less “crusty” than the previous sandwich.  But the ham was nice and salty and overall, this was a good sandwich.  I don’t think it’s as good as the ones I remember getting from the little place in San Diego’s Ranch 99 but for $2.50, it was great.

I haven’t gone for the BBQ Beef yet as I’m still full so that may have to be saved for another time.  Hopefully, it keeps well…

Overall, these were decent Banh Mi and you can’t beat the price.  It did satisfy my craving but I was hoping for something more mouth-watering in flavor.

On a side note, driving from work to this place nearly cost me my life.  There was a section on Bolsa around Magnolia that was INSANE with the stereotypical Asian driver.  It looked like a lot of people were out gathering supplies for the Lunar New Year.  Either way, craziness…  I felt like I was on the road with clones of my mom and dad behind the wheel of the other cars.

Banh Mi & Che Cali Bakery gets 3 NOMs from the Catty Critic.

Bahn Mi & Che Cali Bakery
15551 Brookhurst St
Westminster, CA 92683
(714) 839-8185
Banh Mi & Che Cali Bakery on Urbanspoon

China Max

A couple of coworkers and I went out to China Max for lunch yesterday. I had been to this place a few years back for dinner but never got around to returning, even though it was a great Hong Kong-style Chinese restaurant.

I had read from Mmm-yoso’s review that dim sum was available and that’s what I and one coworker ended up getting and sharing, along with an order of their Beef Chow Fun.  The other coworker ordered a spicy chicken off their “Recession” menu ($9 for the entrée plus rice and egg drop soup).  While that may sound a little steep for a “Recession” menu, this was not a skimpy sized lunch special.  A large plate with the chicken over crispy noodles appeared and you could see the pepper seeds in the sauce denoting that this was not spicy on an American scale.  I tried a piece and yup, it had a kick to it.  Also, the chicken was nice and moist.  I don’t know if it was worth the $9 but it sure beat Panda Express.

China Max does dim sum a little differently.  Instead of ordering off carts that pass your table, you have a picture menu (handy for people not familiar with dim sum or know what they like but don’t know the name of it) and a sheet where you check off what you want.  The waiter collects the sheet and then a few minutes later, dim sum starts appearing on your table.  A lot easier and simpler than the cart places, in my opinion.  The selection of dim sum at China Max is decent and a lot of the classics like shrimp har gow (shrimp dumpling) and char siu bao (steamed bbq pork bun) are on the menu.  The cost is based on the items which are marked Small, Medium, Large and Kitchen.  Small dishes were priced at $3.75, Medium at $4.something, Large at around $5.75 and Kitchen varied from $8-11, if memory serves me correctly.

We ordered:
– shrimp har gow
– char siu bao
– pork and shrimp shumai
– fried potstickers
– bbq pork cheung fun (bbq pork wrapped in a rice noodle topped with a sweetened soy sauce)
– pork spare ribs
– turnip cake
– egg custard tarts

This coupled with an order of beef chow fun ended up being quite a large order for 2 people and we ended up with leftovers.

Some of the dishes like the pork spare ribs were a little milder in flavor compared to the other dim sum restaurants I’d been too.  Most of the dishes were steamed so they were not heavy or oily.  The fried potstickers were quite light and had a good crispy skin and moist filling.  The pieces seemed to be a little bigger than what you get at Emerald or Jasmine.  I really enjoyed the bbq pork cheung fun; I think that was my favorite. The beef chow fun was also quite good.  Altogether, the meal ended up a little less than $40, not counting the spicy chicken dish.

The only downside is the service.  I guess it’s not really that different from other Chinese places I’ve been to but they aren’t attentive and it’s really hard to flag people down to get something as simple as a water or tea refill.

Overall, I was quite pleased with the food experience and would come back for the dim sum.  It was a lot quicker coming here for a workday lunch than it was going to a cart place.

I give China Max 3 NOMs.

China Max
4698 Convoy Street #C101
San Diego, CA 92111
(858)-650-3333

http://www.chinamaxsandiego.com/
China Max Seafood on Urbanspoon