Frankenstein dumplings, or the pizza dumpling you never knew you needed


Some dumpling fillings are expected. Pork, cabbage, potato, ground beef and just about any combination of protein and vegetable fillings can be found in restaurants and on street corners around the world. This week’s episode of “The Bucket List: Dumplings” is devoted to dumplings with flavors you may recognize, but never thought to stuff inside of a dumpling. These are what we like to lovingly refer to as our favorite Frankenstein dumplings.

Allan Tea of the Cali Dumpling pop-up and delivery service is no stranger to creative filings. His company, which makes around a dozen pork, shrimp, vegetable and chicken varieties, ships dumplings all over Los Angeles and Orange County. But he and his team also make a handful of nontraditional fillings as well, experimenting with new flavors at the Cali Dumpling booth at the Downtown L.A. Smorgasburg market every Sunday. One of those flavors is tom yum soup.

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“We looked at different types of soup,” Tea says. “We’ve done a pho dumpling before that did really well and the next exciting flavor on that spectrum is tom yum.”


Tea’s tom yum xiao long bao are packed with the familiar lemongrass and makrut lime leaf flavors the soup’s intensive broth, with lots of chiles and the funk of fish sauce.

He’s also making a pan-fried pizza dumpling, filled with bits of pepperoni, cheese and tomato sauce.

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For our first stop on this episode, we get a behind-the-scenes look inside the Cali Dumpling factory in Vernon to learn how Tea makes the tom yum and pan-fried pizza dumplings.

Then we head to Beauty & Essex in Hollywood, where chef Daniel Kotz crams the gooey melted cheesy goodness of a grilled cheese sandwich and the comfort of a bowl of tomato soup into a tiny dumpling the width of a quarter. It’s a dumpling with six different kinds of cheese inside, including sharp, aged cheddar and smoked goat cheese.

The restaurant, which has three locations around the country, collectively makes around 800,000 grilled cheese dumplings a year.

On this week’s episode of ‘The Bucket List: Dumplings,’ we visit Kang Kang Food Court to learn how to make sheng jian bao, then we head into our Los Angeles Times kitchen with dumpling chef and expert Britney Wang.

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“It’s comfort food and it just makes people feel good,” Kotz says. “This is just a fun way to do it.”


This episode left video journalists Yadira Flores, Cody Long and I dreaming about our own Frankenstein dumplings. At the top of our list: A pan-fried or sheng jian bao-style dumpling with apple pie filling for Long, a sheng jian bao-style dumpling filled with albondigas for Flores, and for me, a pan-fried dumpling filled with the green curry mussels from Jitlada.

What’s inside your dream dumpling?

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Businesses featured in this episode

Cali Dumpling,

Beauty & Essex, 1615 Cahuenga Blvd., Los Angeles, (323) 676-8880,