Clarification & pontification:

circa June, ’08, grand opening phase

So far we all know this much: Dean Sin World has Xiao Long Bao. Xiao Long Bao’s SO 2004. We know Dean Sin World’s “staff” family has been churning out dumplings for the Arcadia/San Gabriel area for the last 4 years. We know some folks vehemently stick to what they know @ Din Tai Fung.

Let me proclaim this: Dean Sin World’s real name is Tastio, but not. Don’t ask. You know Dean Sin World because Yelp’s First to Reviewer (and restaurant adder) declared this joint as “Dean Sin World” from reading the first draft of the take-out menu back in June of ’06. Now, check the biz cards, the biz license and the stickers used to adorn their “famous” crab pastry boxes. Still says “Tastio”. For nearly a year, people have been getting lost on the way to Tastio. This summer, after much belated blogger activity, they finally hung up a large yellow vinyl banner proclaiming their alter-ego of a name.

Yes, we all know DSW supplies Sinbala, Giang Nan, Wok and Noodle, etc. with xiao long bao but… do you know Mama’s Lu on Garvey was named after Mrs. Lu, the elder sister currently operating DSW? No? Maybe? How about Mama’s Lu is operated by Mrs. Lu’s daughter? Do you know if you go to DSW and say you know “帥哥” (that’s Handsome Brother to non-Chinese readers), you’ll automatically get hooked up? And probably hugged? Not that Mrs. Lu likes to hug but… just saying.

DSW doesn’t use MSG, they just use Knorr. The ladies say this with a straight face. Can I get an LOL up in here? What separates DSW from the rest of the XLB joints is the use of chicken aspic. Mrs. Lu like to keep things “healthy”, so she uses no lard in her “famous” yellow crabshell pastries. DSW can churn out 4000 xiao long bao a day. No man, NOT in the tiny kitchen in the back. There’s a whole staff of siblings and relatives hand wrapping these babies in various “branches” of DSW all through out the western (626). Respect.

The tour de force of this place, for me, remains the wine brew (see above). Giang Nan has wine brew, Mei Long Village has wine brew, hell even the new Liang’s has wine brew. But none as pungent as Mrs. Lu’s. It’s brewed in a vat weekly, and they run out often. Served table side, it’s only 1/3 the cost of what Liang’s offer. It’s is pure Taiwanese goodness, with remnants of childhood Sundays in every fermented rice grain. Best part, it’s available to go in concentrated form. This is why living in San Gabriel Valley kicks arse. This is why Gourmet Magazine will NEVER be as updated as me, Wandering Chopsticks, or Chandavkl.

Mrs. Lu started running DSW because she was bored with playing the tables. Ask her about her son studying for his “Double E” degree and you’ll instantly find a sardonic, yet proud, parent. The chef-owner is actually married to a Taiwanese gent; tho she is Shanghainese, she now considers herself a non-“mainlander”. She took over, then expanded the hours because the other sister didn’t like the store front ops and she wanted the shop to save her from ennui.

But really. Is this info at all necessary? Yes is it. Because once again, just like Bludso’s, DSW is becoming abused by the masses. It’s getting hard to find tables during lunch; Christian of “Stuff white people like” actually Yelped this place. The forever dining partner “still heart dsw” but as of May ’09, I’m “taking a break”.

Godspeed Dean Sin World.. err.. Tastio, the chow marches on. (April 28th, 2009)


Addendum, September 27th, 2009:
Herewith, Tastio would like to introduce a much loved Tianjin snack: Pan fried “Ear” flat rice cake. (天津 耳朵 炸餅 per DSW staff, official Wiki name: 耳朵眼炸糕). After googling various combinations to death, I finally found a Chinese wiki of said snack. Pan fried “Ear” flat cake was invented by Tianjin’s Mr. 刘万春 (Liu Wan Chun) in 1892, when he dished out about 30 lbs of these glutinous rice cakes on a daily basis. As business grew and his sons joined the store, they sold upwards of 200 lbs of fried rice cakes a day and quadrupled during holidays. The shop abutted an extremely narrow (1 meter wide) alley, colloquially known as an “alley the width of earwax”, hence the cake became well known as “earwax fried cake”.

“Ear” panfried rice cake picture courtesy of @Waffleslove

In the US, for the sake of not grossing out the readers and eaters, Tastio will serve up the chewy golden goodness as long as you point to your ear, and not pick your earwax.

“Ear” flat cake is now known as part of the 3 specialty snacks of Tiajin, and was voted by the Chinese government as a National Treasure Snack in 1997. These cakes are known for 4 qualities: yellowness, softness, stretchiness, pungency. Yellowness translated to the outer crisp, which is not quite crunchy, softness equates to not over pan frying the glutinous rice, stretchiness is another obvious feature of all things glutinous, and pungency is the aroma released from frying carbohydrates. Each “ear” flat cake weighs on the average 60-80grams (2-3 ounces) and may contain various stuffings: chocolate, Osmanthus flower, jujube, and the more traditional red bean paste.

The Original Liu's Earwax fried rice cake shop.

At Tastio, the “ear” flat cakes were inspired by Mrs. He, a Tianjin native, who works along Mrs. Lu. They’re flat yet plump, with a thin layer of red bean paste. Koreans will say this resembles “ho dduk”, but the texture and shape is much more uniform, and fried with very little oil, at a lower temperature. Overall, it’s a more delicate product sporting less sweetness.

Dean Sin World
306 N Garfield Ave
Monterey Park, CA 91754
Phone: (626) 571-0636
Dean Sin World in Los Angeles



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