Chapulín Shu Mai Dumpling brings together Chinese, Vietnamese and Oaxacan cultures in the form of dim sum in Culver City

There has been a recent era where businesses and independent kitchens have chosen to express their affinity for Mexican cuisine and culture in the form of a taco. Slip boiled cabbage, salt pork and mashed potatoes between the wings of a corn tortilla, and suddenly you’re not just an Irish food truck anymore, but an Irish food truck at listening to the psychic wavelength of the Los Angeles appetite that “gets it.”

Over the past year, we’ve seen chapulines – the most famous grilled grasshoppers with comal and seasoned with salt and citrus fruits eaten as snacks and ingredients in Oaxaca and other parts of Mexico – make an appearance on the local food scene as the latest nod to the city’s majority.

Chapulines are becoming the snack of choice in Major League Baseball stadiums and science museum gift shops across the Southwest. They are seen chopped and spotted on french croissants in the arts district and mixed with high cream sauces in the posh beach towns of Orange County.

Now, we find the crispy little creatures used in a dish that we can only imagine would make sense to Los Angeles diners: dumplings topped with chapulín.

Dim Sum & Bar iron teapota 17-month-old Cantonese Kitchen Corner in Culver City, is where you’ll encounter this synthesis of three distinct cultures that incorporate Chinese, Vietnamese, and Oaxacan flavors into a single pork and shrimp shumai.

So… what exactly is going on?

Iron Teapot owner Sally Chan tells LA TACO that the exclusive dish is a singular expression of her multicultural LA upbringing.

Chan’s parents, who have Cantonese and Teo Chew heritage, moved from China to Vietnam, where she was later born. When she was one, the family moved from Vietnam to Rosemead and the San Gabriel Valley, where her strongest childhood memories were formed over weekend dim sum, Cantonese and Hong Kong pop culture, and the ten years her family spent selling clothes at flea markets. .

“The flea markets were mostly Latino,” she says. “Menudo was our favorite dish. My best friends were Mexican. I’ve never had a birthday without a pinata. I’m sure my dad thinks he’s Mexican. He has a big mustache and looked like the Nightstalker back then.. He first spoke Spanish and still speaks Spanish better than English.

An attorney at her own law firm, Chan opened Iron Teapot in hopes of “introducing dim sum to people outside of China and outside of men who date Chinese women.”

After finding it ‘impossible’ to get a classic SGV dim sum chef to team up and open with her on the Westside – after practically ‘begging’ ‘friends and family’ at NBC Seafood and 888 Seafood to do so – she eventually opened a kitchen on the east side for a chef willing to hand-make dim sum there. A mostly Mexican staff cooks and prepares the food in its Culver City kitchen, with pre-made dim sum delivered there three times a week.

It was a visit to downtown Cha Cha Cha that turned her into a big fan of chapulines, sparking the idea of ​​adding salt-and-lemon roasted grasshoppers to her shumai, a kind of remix of the Japanese influence, topped with yuzu-kosho. shumai she had previously introduced to the spot, which has a similar acidity and crunch.

“I have a lot of employees from Oaxaca in the back,” she says. “I thought it would be cool to put hats on my shumai as a nod to my team. And they were really happy about it. I just had to warn them to stop eating them all because we would run out.

We ordered these shumai earlier this week, prompting the waiter to ask if the three very Slavic people at our table are of Oaxacan ancestry.

“Some of our colleagues in the kitchen are and love [chapulines]so I was curious,” he said.

Three dumplings arrived on the plate, in a recognizable form from top to bottom. Each dumpling was crowned with a small red pool of sriracha. Chan uses Huy Fong, Southeast Asia’s best-known brand of chili sauce, made by David Tran, himself a Chinese immigrant from Vietnam originally from Rosemead. Three chapulines sat atop each dumpling, doing the backstroke, most with their spindly legs—the part that usually curls between diners’ teeth—more attached to their crisp little bodies.

And what does adding chapulines add to a trio of pork and shrimp shumai, other than an extra $5.50? The dumplings were exceptionally plump and juicy, the airy and earthy dried grasshoppers adding a slight crunch to the tender shumai, with a pronounced saltiness and a nicely tangy citrus kick in every bite. It may not be the way we always want shumai to go, but it’s a flavor that has developed within us the longer we persisted.

“You have the people ordering out of curiosity, like ‘grasshoppers…disgusting!'” Chan says, of the customers who tend to order the dish. “The whole Fear Factor thing, with our guts and chicken feet. Then there are those who order it because they like it, which tend to be Oaxacan.

The chapulín shumai fits perfectly into Iron Teapot’s unconventional approach to serving dim sum. The restaurant is open for dinner and supported by a full bar. You can order jet black har gow, chicken curry crystal dumplings, rainbow XLB, vegan versions of sticky rice, prawns, soup dumplings and an adorable chicken head bao. pig for dessert, served by one of those cat-headed robots we’re seeing more around town.

“In Chinese, dim sum means ‘from the heart,'” Chan says. “Our dim sum represents the core of who I am, who is Chinese. The sriracha and many drinks in the restaurant contain Vietnamese ingredients because I also have a lot of Vietnamese background. My family was Chinese who fled China to Vietnam And then I thought the chapulines were a very cool nod to Mexico, which played a big part in my upbringing.

Dim Sum iron teapot ~ 10306 Venice Blvd. Los Angeles, California 90034

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