LA Day 7 – Paying Respects and Chilling Out

It was a day for family-type stuff and hanging back. We got some much-needed rest in our hotel room in the evening but still had some pretty good eats.

  • Ocean Star Restaurant (Monterey Park)
  • Qingming Festival at some cemetery
  • Saigon Flavor (San Gabriel)
  • Boba Ave 8090 (San Gabriel)
  • George’s Liquor (San Gabriel)

Ocean Star Restaurant

DSCF5476

We hopped into someone’s van and ended up at Ocean Star for dim sum. We were there at 9:00am, right when they opened so for a few minutes we had the entire restaurant to ourselves. But that didn’t last long as the hungry hordes started coming in for cheap dim sum.

DSCF5481

80+ dim sum items for only $1.98 each! I was surprised at how good the food was for the price.

DSCF5478

All the classics.

DSCF5479

Some fancier dishes available too, if you don’t mind waiting until 11:00am. We were fine with just dim sum dishes.

DSCF5523

They do carts here! Man, this is a rare sight these days, especially in BC.

DSCF5490

Standard chinese mustard but they also had an actual chili sauce instead of the usual pasty red stuff.

DSCF5492

Fung Jow (Chicken Feet in Black Bean Sauce).

DSCF5495

Siu Mai (Pork Dumplings).

DSCF5498

Xiao Long Bao (aka XLB, Shanghai Soup Dumplings). I’ve never seen them cooked in little individual foil cups before. Not a great XLB but not terrible either. Appropriately seasoned meat but lacking in soup. Surely wouldn’t please the XLB fanatics.

DSCF5504

BBQ Pork Buns. Can’t resist that fluffy white bun with that sweet, meaty filling.

DSCF5509

Char Siu Chong Fun (BBQ Pork filled steamed rice noodle roll). I hardly ever order the bbq pork version of this (we usually get shrimp or beef), but it was a nice change.

DSCF5515

Some dumpling with “dog vegetable” in it. I think the English name for it is “garlic chives” 😛

DSCF5516

Pineapple Bun filled with custard. Wicca thought these were pretty good. Tasted fresh.

DSCF5520

Different type of bbq pork bun that’s baked instead of steamed, and with a different dough than the ones above. The shiny glaze on top makes it look like someone’s bald head.

Ocean Star on Urbanspoon


Qingming Festival

DSCF5647

So this was the purpose of our entire trip, to escort Wicca’s mom to LA and go to the cemetery to do the Qingming Festival rituals. This festival is also known as “sweeping the graves” or “tomb sweeping”, and it’s literally that — cleaning up the area around your ancestors gravestones and paying your respects.

DSCF5652

I’m not sure which cemetery this was, but Chinese Angelenos will know where this is.

DSCF5654

The burning of incense is a must.

DSCF5666

We brought offerings of fruit and booze. Whenever you see those tiny Chinese cups, it means booze. Any clear hard liquor will do.

DSCF5689

We also burn these fake bank notes, releasing them to hell/heaven for our ancestors to use…wherever they are.

DSCF5702

It was always a bit tricky for me to light incense. You have to let it burn with a full flame for a bit, then blow out the flame so you’re left with burning embers, which will then slowly burn all the way down the stick.

DSCF5710

The smoke from the incense created some amazing scenes.

DSCF5711

I’m not sure why offerings are usually fruit, even when doing offerings at home (most Chinese households have little altars where we will do similar, scaled-down rituals). My mom would also include offerings of poached chicken, roast pork, hard-boiled salted eggs, and a bowl of rice in addition to tea and liquor.

DSCF5715

It’s always slightly sombre whenever we do these things, but this view was amazing.

DSCF5734

Burning the paper. I saw other families burning small paper reproductions of cars, etc.

DSCF5748

Pouring the liquor in front of the furnace.

DSCF5758

This sight is so Chinese. Repurposing a coffee jar as a vase.

DSCF5759

It was interesting to take a peek at what other people brought as offerings. We’ve got sweet steamed cake (mah lai goh) and sesame balls.

DSCF5765

This was bit of a heart-wrenching scene. One of the allotments in the mausoleum contained the ashes of a 5 year old boy. The family offered his favourite foods. Above this little table was his allotment (I can’t think of any other name for it) with his picture and tons of toys hanging by strings.

I hope you liked this little peek into a part of our culture that I grew up with.


Saigon Flavor

DSCF5770

This is one of those reliable Vietnamese restaurants in San Gabriel, Saigon Flavor. We ate here a couple times in 2012 and most of the food is pretty good.

DSCF5776

That’s a lot of dong. Or maybe not. I dunno the exchange rate.

DSCF5789

Bun Bo Hue. This was someone else’s so I don’t know how it tasted, but visually it doesn’t hold a candle to Wicca’s mom’s BBH!

DSCF5806

I got my favourite Bun Rieu Oc (Shrimp Cake and Tomato Noodle Soup with Snails). I remember really liking this dish back in 2012, so I got it again. And since I had Bun Rieu at another place a few days ealier, I got to mentally compare the two.

While Quan Ngon Nha Trang’s bun rieu was rich, punchy and borderline too-much MSG, Saigon Flavor’s bun rieu was lighter yet still had good flavour and depth, without any obvious MSG flavour. It was the type of bowl you could eat and not feel weighed down or saturated by.

DSCF5840

The light crab meat mixture was heavenly. I also liked the big snails that had a nice crunch to them without being rubbery. This was a fresher, lighter bun rieu that I could eat again and again.

DSCF5810

Shrimp Paste, Grilled Pork & Spring Roll with Vermicelli. The “shrimp paste” is actually like a fish cake that uses shrimp instead of fish. They call the spring rolls “egg rolls” on the menu even though there’s absolutely no egg in it. I’ll always call them “spring rolls” 😛

DSCF5844

The shrimp cakes were too firm and dry. Flavour was ok but Wicca’s mom thought they used too much flour and not enough shrimp meat.

DSCF5847

The spring rolls were good. No complaints. A good amount of food for $9.

DSCF5830

Durian Milkshake. Plenty of durian flavour but it was too icy for Wicca.

Saigon Flavor’s great bun rieu is the reason I’d come back.

Saigon Flavor on Urbanspoon


Hotel Room Eats featuring Boba Ave 8090 & George’s Liquor

DSCF5850

This place was a few minutes walk from our hotel. So, what kind of beer can a place like this stock?

DSCF5851

Not bad! I got two bottles of Alesmith IPA and a bottle of Eagle Rock Populist IPA for less than $19! Not bad for a corner store.

DSCF5881

I bought the crab chips from an Asian supermarket called 99 Ranch. The chips are made in Japan, but the actual flavour kinda sucked. Hardly any crab flavour even though the ingredients listed crab meat near the top. Nothing beats Indonesian, Vietnamese or Thai shrimp chips. These chips got better though when eaten with the beer, if only because it was a crunchy snack to wash down with a hoppy IPA. The Populist IPA was good, and I enjoyed the light malt profile, but the hops skewed too far into bitter, piney territory for my taste. I prefer more of a fruity hop, so it’s no dig against this beer, just a matter of taste.

DSCF5897

Some bubble tea cafe-type eats. This Squid Fried Rice was from this place called (I think) Boba Ave 8090 (that’s the best I could figure out via Google). It came with a side of corn sitting in a pool of runny creamy stuff. Off-putting at first, but I cared less the more I drank.

DSCF5922

I liked the crispy edge on the sunny side-up egg.

DSCF5915

It’s not fancy but it really hit the spot! A little spicy, a little tomatoey. Nice little chunks of squid and bits of pickled vegetable.

DSCF5933

Taiwanese Meatball (Ba Wan) with bamboo inside of a tapioca flour dumpling. A little strange in appearance but pretty tasty with the different textures going on.

DSCF5942

A mini Creme Caramel that wasn’t good. It actually wasn’t from Boba Ave, but from some jerky store close to it. Wicca deeply regretted buying this. She wanted a little treat but this wasn’t worth the calories.

It was great having this little night to ourselves, just chilling out and getting some rest to prepare for the rest of our trip.


Continue with LA Trip Report Day 8 or go back to the index.

One thought on “LA Day 7 – Paying Respects and Chilling Out”

Leave a Reply