Joy is what I felt this past weekend when I found out about a little Taiwanese dumpling shop in Hayward called Lai Young. This place has been around for twenty one years! I was born and raised in Hayward, but it turns out that I was actually living underneath a rock during that entire time.
Lai Young is located on Oliver Dr., across the street from where I went to high school, in an awkward mini plaza within a residential area. When I was sixteen, I used to leave campus with my friends to walk over to the Quik Stop located in this plaza to buy cigarettes (they shut down for selling to minors), and then we almost got hit with empty glass bottles by some mean characters trying to scare us. Lai Young may be in a strange and slightly-shady location, but these dumplings are worth checking out.
This isn't a restaurant and there are no tables. Lai Young is a takeaway shop where you buy your dumplings frozen and take them home to cook yourself. The store front is unattractive and discreet. Inside were two people hand making beautiful dumplings and two freezers full of frozen food.
The owner was friendly, and he looked genuinely happy to see us. Patrick and I purchased the shrimp and pork dumplings and xiao long bao soup dumplings, which they call "mini pork bunns". There's nothing I love more than a quick and easy transaction; we were in and out in 5 minutes.
Nice, high quality dumplings. The craftsmanship of these dumplings are on point and consistent, identical in shape and size.
The xiao long bao skin has a semi-sticky texture to the touch, an appetizing stretchy thick dough that produces a pleasant chew. The filling is fantastic with a flavorful pork meatball and rich broth that's quite satisfying.
The shrimp and pork dumplings are just as wonderful in both texture and flavor. Patrick and I prefer them boiled versus steamed, haven't tried it pan-fried yet. When it's cooked under a controlled boil that's incorporated with cold water, these dumplings get nicely plump. The texture of the skin is delicate and slightly thicker than the texture of a won ton skin.
Dumpling Cooking Directions & Tips
It's extremely important that you know how to properly cook your dumplings, otherwise you won't be able to enjoy them as intended. The biggest mistake you can make is boiling them rapidly to the point where they break a part, or steaming without placing a barrier like parchment paper in between the dumplings and the bottom of the steamer.
There are no instructions on how to cook the dumplings on the packages, but here's a quick guide from Dumpling Man: Frozen Dumplings.
Tip: For the xiao long bao, be sure to steam it and use parchment paper or the dough will stick to the surface of the steamer. Do not overcrowd the dumplings in the steamer as they will expand during the cooking process.
Visiting Lai Young
You can choose from a mix of pork, pork & chive, chicken, shrimp & pork, vegetable dumplings, xiao long bao soup dumplings, and onion cakes, radish cakes and chive pockets. The dumplings all come in a bulk of 50 frozen pieces.
Be warned - they do sell out of dumplings, so if you're set on something maybe call first.
Prices range from $13 to $17. Cash only.
2609 Oliver Dr Hayward, CA 94545
Open Monday to Thursday from 9am to 5pm, Saturdays 9am to 4pm.