What's your reward for finding a taekwondo studio, hardware store, and Bangladeshi biriyani spot? On the corner & 3rd & Vermont, the answer is Dumpling House. That kind of strip mall logic is unique to scattershot Los Angeles developers, and has given this city gems like this standout Korean restaurant run by a couple who possess serious skills with folding, steaming, and frying mounds of dough.
The dining room provides a peek into an open kitchen. Inside, the hard-working couple rolls dumpling skins on a central table. A mountain of minced vegetables fills a stainless steel bowl, awaiting their turns in said skins. Burners host worn woks of varying sizes. One particularly oversized wok holds a massive metal steamer that's partially submerged in a shallow lake of steaming water.
Despite a seemingly large 54-item menu, Dumpling House (which goes by Chun Ha Mandoo in Korean) is a glass-fronted study in simplicity. Fluorescent lights shine on nine mismatched tables, chairs with plastic-wrapped red cushions, and a fridge for Gatorade, soda, and juice. A printed menu hangs from the wall, which might seem imposing given all the choices, but really involves variations on select Korean themes. And the best news — most items cost under $10.
A glass-fronted study in simplicity
Dumplings are available big, boiled, fried, pan fried and steamed. Steamed shrimp dumplings are a particular strength, with thin skins cradling sweet chopped shrimp, minced cabbage, and garlic chives. Dip them in savory sauce floating with soy sauce, sesame seeds, sesame oil, red chile sauce, and scallions. Refresh your palate with vivid yellow half moons of mildly tart pickled daikon.
Dumpling soup might be your best bet, with either beef or chicken dumplings bobbing in cloudy beef bone broth with nori, scallions, shredded beef, and glass noodles. Chewy rice cakes hide out at the bottom of the bowl, though you can also boost the broth with handmade noodles. The only possible embellishment is kimchi, which is pungent and funky in all the right ways.
The only possible embellishment is kimchi
Big dumplings (six "king size" pieces for $7.99) either rally around meat or vegetables. These steamed behemoths are medium thick, each substantial enough to support a hefty mound of mince. Round meat dumplings combine ground beef and pork with cabbage, chives, and glass noodles. Meanwhile, ridge-backed vegetable dumplings pack a peppery blend of garlic chives and wood ear mushrooms.
Pan-fried dumplings (8 pieces, $6.99) work well with juicy pork and garlic chives, though a shrimp variety is also a popular order. Either way, bite into thin, chewy seared skins and be rewarded with juicy, umami-rich flavor. Fried meat flour pancakes ($9.99) don't qualify as dumplings, but the seared flour hockey pucks are still compelling, with each quintet containing either pork, beef, or chicken folded with garlic chives.
Be rewarded with juicy, umami-rich flavor
Dumpling House is ambitious for a kitchen that often maxes out at two people. During my first visit, owner Joung Yi was taking orders, cooking, and bussing tables, all in an effort to fill coffers and help grow her family's business.
Yi hails from Paju in Gyeonggi Province. Her husband "John" Wan Suk Jung is also from South Korea, and has extensive experience cooking Korean and Japanese food. They met in L.A., and opened their dumpling house in Little Bangladesh in early 2015. The couple also runs Bebinca shaved snow shop in Koreatown and a restaurant called Boong Uh Town in the Little Tokyo Market Place food court. To call their existence a juggling act is an understatement.
Dumpling House's menu casts a net wide enough to include ramyun, fried rice, tempura, katsu, and savory Korean-style pancakes. A poster taped to the window also announced the recent arrival of poke, a dish that's become about as ubiquitous in the past year as pigeons. Stray if you like, but be sure to start with dumplings.
3525 W. 3rd St, Los Angeles, CA