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[Updated, Again] San Gabriel Mayor Arrested: Or, More Fun With Xiao Long Bao

xiao long bao
xiao long bao
Flickr user Gary Soup

Update: Do we have breaking news on the infamous soup-dumpling incident? I'm afraid to say, we do not. The vinegar has been long mopped from the floor, San Gabriel mayor Albert Y.M. Huang's resignation is yesterday's news, and the lawyers still huddle in the wings. The reporters have reluctantly pried themselves from their tables at New Taste Dumpling House, wishing perhaps that their editors might find another story for them that involved massive consumption of xiao long bao.

But what we do have - God bless the Taiwanese networks - is a pretty astonishing CGI of the incident: the flinging of the soup dumplings, the retaliatory vinegar splash, the tussle, the purse snatch, and the mayor's high-speed escape with his companion desperately clinging to the side of his SUV - all in a Grand Theft Auto-style computer re-enactment so vivid you could swear you can see the soggy shreds of ginger lodged in the victim's hair. The animated reenactment starts 32 seconds into the clip. Hat tip to Alhambra Source for the link.

"I don't want to say anything bad about him, but he wasn't very good of a neighbor,'' says a neighbor interviewed towards the end of the segment. "He was a jerk.''

Update, October 19th: Mayor Huang, possibly still nursing dumpling-related wounds, resigned from the San Gabriel city council this morning, stating that the "unwanted media attention has greatly affected [his] family.'' Which would seem to be an understatement, but we'll give him the benefit of the doubt. According to the Alhambra Source, Huang swore his reputation would be restored.

Then again, also according to the Source, his XLB-flinging companion reportedly owns one of the area's many, many foot-massage parlors, and a group of local businessmen, most of them former business partners of Huang, have apparently banded together to sue the now-ex-mayor on a separate civil matter. When the bao breaks, apparently it breaks hard.

The original story, published yesterday afternoon:

When we heard that the mayor of San Gabriel had been arrested on Valley Boulevard late Thursday night, our thoughts predictably lingered less on the details of the alleged crime - purse-snatching and assault, apparently - than they did on the identity of the restaurant where he had been eating. If there was a place good enough for Mayor Albert Y.M. Huang to eat at 1:30 in the morning, we wanted to know where it was.

The first reports said only that the restaurant was on the 300 block of West Valley, which narrowed it down to, like, a million - that stretch is probably home to more Chinese malls than all of Shanxi province - and the police report said that the incident occurred at a cafe called Dumpling House, which didn't narrow it down much more. The mall at 301 W. Valley, the U.S. epicenter of the soup dumplings called xiao long bao, has no fewer than three or four places that might answer to that name, including Chowhound-favorite J&J, plus the dumpling-intensive Shangainese restaurant Mei Long Village, which may have the best XLB in town. Early betting was on Happy Kitchen, which stays open late. I was kind of thinking it was pan-Chinese newcomer New Taste Dumpling House, a guess that turned out to be correct.

"Police confirmed.'' tweeted my friend Daniela Gerson, who runs the hyperlocal news site AlhambraSource.org "I think this investigation will need to involve some dumplings for lunch.'' New Taste was soon crawling with reporters, who were drawn to a story involving dumplings -- and a mayor out with a woman, not his wife, at 1 a.m. -- the way that beat cops might be to a doughnut-shop robbery.

The alleged crimes themselves were non-trivial: Mayor Huang is said to have grabbed his companion's purse and keys after an argument, jumped into his SUV, and sped off up Prospect Avenue at 45 miles an hour while the woman clung to the side of his car. But the incidents leading up to the event, as New Taste owner Bao Gang Li told Alhambra Source reporter Tina Zeng, were like something out of a Chinese soap opera: She hit the mayor with a full steamer of xiao long bao. He sloshed a dish of black vinegar back at her. For a brief, lovely moment, I like to think, at least one soup dumpling met the arc of vinegar midair, becoming briefly but miraculously seasoned before joining its sisters on the floor. Huang was released Friday on $100,000 bail.


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