South Bay residents no longer have to visit the San Gabriel Valley for a proper way to get their Chinese dumpling fix. Huaen, which opened in Gardena last year and has been expanding its menu ever since, specializes in pan-fried and steamed pork dumplings. The dumplings come in four varieties (all $7.99 for 12): with chives, Chinese cabbage, celery, or basil. These are big, plump dumplings. Two orders can be lunch for three people.
Huaen’s Taiwanese proprietors also make spicy wontons and limited batches of fried buns for both lunch and dinner. Sometimes, customers on their way to shop at the Marukai market in the same strip mall (which also houses popular dim sum destination Sea Empress) will call Huaen to order all the buns.
While many visit Huaen only for dumplings and buns, the restaurant has quietly added a wide range of other items in the 11 months it’s been open. There’s a respectable list of small dishes made with care: fried squid balls, shredded seaweed, tea eggs, and much more. There are big plates of fried rice and noodles, and meal-sized Chinese pancakes filled with beef. Sometimes, Huaen has served pig’s feet and Americanized Chinese dishes like orange chicken.
The food in this cozy storefront makes you feel like you’re eating in somebody’s house, a place where the chef has a few specialties and then also cooks whatever she feels like that day. But consider all these other plates at Huaen the side dishes to your dumplings. You’re here for the main event, which is pan-fried dough filled with juicy pork and fragrant vegetables. Get plumped.