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
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.
80+ dim sum items for only $1.98 each! I was surprised at how good the food was for the price.
All the classics.
Some fancier dishes available too, if you don’t mind waiting until 11:00am. We were fine with just dim sum dishes.
They do carts here! Man, this is a rare sight these days, especially in BC.
Standard chinese mustard but they also had an actual chili sauce instead of the usual pasty red stuff.
Fung Jow (Chicken Feet in Black Bean Sauce).
Siu Mai (Pork Dumplings).
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.
BBQ Pork Buns. Can’t resist that fluffy white bun with that sweet, meaty filling.
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.
Some dumpling with “dog vegetable” in it. I think the English name for it is “garlic chives” 😛
Pineapple Bun filled with custard. Wicca thought these were pretty good. Tasted fresh.
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.
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.
I’m not sure which cemetery this was, but Chinese Angelenos will know where this is.
The burning of incense is a must.
We brought offerings of fruit and booze. Whenever you see those tiny Chinese cups, it means booze. Any clear hard liquor will do.
We also burn these fake bank notes, releasing them to hell/heaven for our ancestors to use…wherever they are.
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.
The smoke from the incense created some amazing scenes.
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.
It’s always slightly sombre whenever we do these things, but this view was amazing.
Burning the paper. I saw other families burning small paper reproductions of cars, etc.
Pouring the liquor in front of the furnace.
This sight is so Chinese. Repurposing a coffee jar as a vase.
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.
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.
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.
That’s a lot of dong. Or maybe not. I dunno the exchange rate.
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!
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.
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.
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” 😛
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.
The spring rolls were good. No complaints. A good amount of food for $9.
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.
Hotel Room Eats featuring Boba Ave 8090 & George’s Liquor
This place was a few minutes walk from our hotel. So, what kind of beer can a place like this stock?
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.
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.
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.
I liked the crispy edge on the sunny side-up egg.
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.
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.
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.