Monday, July 6, 2009

Full House, Arcadia CA

Chinese ladies in red, peddling hot carts with tiny, steamed pieces of heaven...AKA dim sum. If i were to specify in only 3sec ONE thing i love to eat and would eat everyday...i wouldn't even bat an eyelash, would not even hesitate one's dim sum. It has been one of those rituals or routines that i have down to a peg. Whenever i get a day off during the workweek...i have to have dim sum. They have dim sum Saturdays and Sundays but slightly more expensive and a little bit more crowded than i actually prefer (not that i would say no to your invite...if you want to go, i'll be right behind yah). I've been to several dim sum places and hundreds of times at Full House, the slow wait staff, the nice ladies offering me goodies, and the huge variety of food are all not new to me. To change it up, every time i go to any dim sum place i have to order something new, unique, or "something different". This time i had tito with me to share that something "interesting". We'll get to that soon enough...for now let us begin our dim sum feast.
We never waited more than 3min here at Full House, except that one holiday called Memorial Day, when everyone was off and seemed to want to dim sum with me...aarrgghh. There was no hostess at the door, she's usually standing there taking you to your tables, but not to worry one of the waiters flagged us down (yes, like a cab) and just pointed to "that" direction. We found a table for four at the very front of the bustling kitchen, and sat down. Another waiter gave us the "ticket" (were they stamp corresponding letters/numbers according to the price of the item you ordered), tea, and hot sauce and mustard (a traditional dim sum dipping sauce). We have the best table in the soon as these carts came out of the kitchen, we knew we had first pick at everything. Our first attempt at gluttony were lollipop shrimp with sweet and spicy sauce (think meatballs but its shrimp rolled in breadcrumbs, poked with a sugar cane stick for easier handling then fried to a golden orange goodness), sausage pastry (hotdog wrapped in dough), fish cheong fun (rice noodle roll filled with anything from bbq pork to fish to beef), and fried salt and pepper tofu (salty fried tofu bites with green onion on top). Nice.
My first bite was the tofu and it was delicious, with a crunchy, salty outside and a silky, melts in your mouth inside. In fact, one plate was not enough, we had order one more to satiate our salivating palates. I thought the sausage pastry was an interesting concept, reminiscent of the hotdog pastry topped with ketchup i used to get in the mornings at a Korean bakery when i used to live in ktown. Tita wanted to save it all for herself and i did not complain, in fact i was smiling deviously from the means i had more room in my tummy for more note-worthy dishes.
Here comes the next parade...chinese broccoli with oyster sauce (a very staple dish whenever Filipinos gather around "Chinese" tables), our second helping of fried tofu, shrimp balls with sticky rice (same base as the lollipop shrimp but instead of bread crumbs and fried, it's rolled in sticky rice and steamed), shrimp and pork "siu mai" or shaomai (small steamed dumplings inside a thin wheat flour wrapper filled with many different ingredients and combinations, from pork to shrimp to sharks fin). We also had turnip cake.Turnip cakes are mashed daikon radish filled with bbq pork bits, steamed, cut into squares then pan fried to yummy goodness. This dish was introduced by a friend and a fellow foodie, it was also at Full House when he said "this could be your something different for today" and i was hooked. We both agree that the turnip cake at Empress Chinatown is much better, only because its really fresh off the carts instead of served on trays, but i don't really mind. It has a unique, salty (from the bbq pork) taste you want to keep going back to.
Another cart came rolling out of the kitchen and this time it was the "gow" lady...SHRIMP har gow (shrimp wrapped in white/translucent rice flour skin and steamed) is one of my favorite plates at any dim sum place. You would rarely disappoint me except maybe if you serve me mushy shrimp and inedible wrapping, otherwise keep feeding me. Other than the fact that it is super delicious, it also showcases the artistry of the chef if handmade and from scratch. The skin is hard to make and the pleats or folds are just delicate and beautiful. I can just imagine making hundreds of these by hand...amazing.
We also added another plate of shrimp cheong fun and started our round II "rocky"ish battle. It was quiet, we were all digging in and enjoying the goodness of steamed bites of indulgence...until the roasted cart came by. She was offering us roasted pork and was easily denied by tita. I secretly wanted it to be my "something different" for today, but i guess the crispy skin and glistening meat will have to wait until another day off. She did insist on something much more interesting, at least for her taste. She was pointing at "noodles" and everyone around the table looked at her in amazement as she kept asking for it. Lo and behold...pig ears julienned thinly on top of sauteed bean sprouts. Now i would have eaten that, not a problem, but as soon as i translated to tagalog the poor Chinese lady's attempt on explanation, tita waived the plate no and onward she goes. Come back...i say, your cart has two of my "something different" picks...what to do, what to do.
I did not have to wait that long before i found my "interesting" dish for today...blood cake. It's coagulated blood squares boiled/stewed in a soy sauce base with radish, button mushrooms, and green onions. I would have loved it with tripe and chili oil, as i was expecting, but this time she did serve it as is. The bowl was dripping with sauce and the blood squares were over flowing. I had to hold my breath and started to pick one off the bowl. I am used to blood as an ingredient, in fact we Filipinos have dinuguan or "chocolate meat" which is meat with a blood-based sauce. I just am slightly picky as to who cooks it and how it is cooked. Full House's blood cakes were normal (if you can call it that), the usual, very mineral or iron-type with a very interesting after taste. The texture was much like tofu in its pure form, silky yet firm enough to be picked up even by the most inexperienced chopsticks user. Regardless, i found it ok...between tito and i, we finished the whole bowl...and if he's coming to our next adventure i would order this again (this time with the tripe please).
I have two more days off that is owed to me...i would like to try the chicken feet or "Phoenix Talons" next time, or maybe the roasted pork, or i think the pig's ears are calling my name...or i could just simply retreat to my comfortable shell and order my staples. It does not really matter to my taste buds, all they care about is to be satisfied. And when i come back to full house i will expect the wait staff to be slow (almost ignoring), place to be packed (as always), the Chinese ladies to speak to me in their language (not a popular non-Chinese location), the bill to be cheaper than any in Chinatown (adds to the place's popularity), and the food to be satisfying as some are interesting (can i say yummy again?). I do look forward to Savoy (Malaysian Cuisine) and their Hiananese chicken, but we can have an early dim sum brunch and a late Savoy rice dish snack...restraints please, i need to not pretend to cough and fake a stomach ache just to get a taste of my indulgences again...MANTRA says: i will work tomorrow, i will work tomorrow, i will work tomorrow.

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