Alan Lam lived in San Gabriel for 15 years before deciding to open a Chinese restaurant in town with wife Grace. According to son Eric Lam, who runs front of the house at Luscious Dumplings, “My father was a big fan of dumplings. He found a recipe that was very good.” The recipe came from his mother, a native of northern China. “My mom was a cook for elderly people. She had a lot of help from other friends.”
To prepare for the opening, the family debated menu ideas at home, which involved a lot of cooking, and a lot of eating. Eric’s brother came up with the name. “He looked it up in the dictionary.” The restaurant opened in 2001. According to Eric, “We had no experience, so the first couple years were a struggle.” Now the restaurant features a steady stream of customers. Thankfully, the tables turn over quickly. When asked what separates Luscious Dumplings from other restaurants in the area, Eric said, “Commitment. We get up early in the morning, make everything fresh each day. We buy the meat fresh every morning,” as opposed to many other San Gabriel Valley Chinese restaurants, which use the same frozen meat for a week.
On the table were little pitchers of soy sauce and vinegar, plus a container of chili oil, laced with chili flakes, not that my soup or dumplings needed any flavor boost.
Other compelling fried options include dumplings filled with Napa cabbage, pork and sole and a sort of pan-fried Chinese empanada filled with chives, pork, egg and glass noodles. On the noodle soup front, I’ve enjoyed stewed pork and salted pork versions, plus a shredded pork version with shredded Szechuan pickle. There are even two noodle bowls with the soup served on the side, one topped with a Bolognese-like mushroom meat sauce, and another with gelatinous beef tendon in hot and sour sauce. The Lams are so skilled, they’re even able to coax big flavor from cow tendon.
I’m glad the Lams trusted in their vision during those rough first two years. Lesser owners may have compromised on quality to survive. Thankfully the Lams persevered. Los Angeles is a better city thanks to their restaurant with the well-deserved name.