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onion-soup-toast-camphor-spicy-dumplings – Los Angeles Times

There is a common thread that connects the dishes I recommend every week. Other weeks, it’s completely random. This is one such week. The first dish is a playful version of a French soup, while the second is a bowl full of won tons that will make you laugh.

Camphor French onion soup toast

Many things are proudly held by the French. They invented pasteurization, the Etch A Sketch, the metric system, bicycles and calculators, they have a stellar soccer team and they’re responsible for the wonder condiment that is mayonnaise (depending on which historian you ask). French onion soup is perhaps the most striking of all.

What’s not to love about the lusciousness of long-simmered onions, rich beef broth and a crouton abundantly blanketed in Gruyère cheese that melts in tempting globs over the bowl? These are all wonderful things. It tastes fancy, just like the dimly lit, smoke-filled French bistro in my dreams. I want to eat it all, then eat the melted cheese until my bowl is clean.

The only problem (if you’re in a group) is that it is difficult to share, so chefs Max Boonthanakit and Lijo George turned the beloved soup into a shareable toast at their Arts District restaurant Camphor.

“The weather was getting cold and our wives kept talking about French onion soup,” Boonthanakit said during a recent call. “All the dishes kind of come from just what we want to eat, or what the people around us want to eat.”

The dish starts with a loaf of sourdough bread, which is then brushed with brown cheese and baked in the oven. The chefs then spread on their own version of a soubise. This is made with lots of caramelized onions and butter, along with butter, chives, thyme, and apple cider vinegar. Both shredded Comte (for the funk) and Gruyère (for the melt) are added to the top; the toast then sits in the oven until the cheese browns and bubbles.

This is how the dish looks on a large white platter. Before I could grab a slice of bread, the server slowly poured hot soup around my plate, making the loaf of bread into a gigantic crouton.

The soup was rich and thick, like gravy, and sweetened with meaty flavors. It also had a strong poultry flavor. Instead of using veal, George Boonthanakit makes duck bouillon.

“I wanted to have a sweeter version without adding any sweetness to the soup,” George said. “Duck just came to mind.”

Take a slice of toast, and dip it in the soup. Continue to soak up the soup until the bread is fully coated. Vive la France!

All the spicy goodies from DX-Lab

DX-Lab San Gabriel: Spicy won Ton soup

(Jenn Harr / Los Angeles Times).

DX-Lab is a medium-sized shopping center on Valley Boulevard in San Gabriel. It’s not the most well-known spot for steaming hot soups, noodles, and dumplings. It is best known for its colorful buns, which are filled with mushrooms and pork in colors that match the vegetable juice in their dough. Or the Super Flight, which comes in five small bowls stuffed with spicy, crunchy beef noodles as well as spicy pork dumplings, spicy pork noodles, sweet and fruity Bingfen and spicy dan dan noodles. But if you’re in the mood for won ton soup with a punishing heat, a bowl dominated by chiles and garlic, this is the place to be.

The Numb Me B— is one angry bowl of soup. The pork wontons flounder in a scarlet liquid that is flecked with chiles. These chiles float menacingly among the dumplings. There is a pool of Chile oil on the surface. You can also see bits Sichuan peppercorn waiting for their turn. The mala starts almost immediately and, by the second wonton that familiar numbness creeps into your mouth, it warms you up.

The bang bang chicken is a less agitated, but still has a lot of garlic and chiles. If you Google “bang bang chicken,” variations of fried chicken dunked in a mayonnaise- and Sriracha-based pink sauce dominate the results. This is a very different bang bang chicken. The meat is cut into pieces and tossed in a bowl of sauce with a heap of garlic, dried chiles, and green onions. One spoonful is enough to cover a whole plate of rice.

A bowl of chicken.

The bang bang chicken of DX-Lab San Gabriel.

(Jenn Harr / Los Angeles Times).

The chicken skin is reminiscent of Hainan chicken. It has a rubbery, gelatinous texture. It’s the perfect vessel for the sauce, which seeps under the skin and into the meat, injecting it with heat. I was sweaty and irritated as I thought about all the other foods I wanted to be drenched in the sauce. Later in the week I used it to season a bucket Jollibee fried Chicken.

What to eat this Week

Camphor, 923 E. 3rd St Suite 109, Los Angeles, (213) 626-8888,

DX-Lab, 529 E. Valley Blvd Suite 108A, San Gabriel

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