Dumpling Fans of the World, Unite!

Today’s guest-post is from Davesgonechina – more, Dave!

Slate has a tasty offering on the soggy state of Chinese dumplings (meant to include jiaozi and assorted other meat-in-dough Chinese cuisine):

Dumpling rage, like road rage, strikes without warning. My first attack came in my mid-20s, while dining at Raku, a Washington, D.C., “pan-Asian” restaurant. I made the mistake of ordering something called Chinese dumplings. Out came a bamboo steamer containing what resembled aged marshmallows – dumplings cooked so long they were practically glued to the bottom of the container. Try as I might, I could not pry them loose, until one ripped in half, yielding a small meatball of dubious composition.

It was an outrage. To my friends’ embarrassment, I stood up and shouted at our waiter:

“What are these?”

“Dumplings,” he said.

“These,” I said, “are not dumplings. The skin is too thick. The meat is too small. It’s been cooked too long. The folding is done all wrong.” My friends begged me to stop, and the manager threatened to call the police.

I’m not a savvy enough dumpling connoisseur to start telling chefs what they’re doing wrong, but I too have suffered dumpling rage in the U.S. Indeed, it extends to other Chinese food outlets – who among us doesn’t believe that the mall food court chain Wok N’ Roll should be shuttered in the name of better U.S.-Chinese relations and better bowel movements? Perhaps every Confucian Institute ought to be equipped with at least one dumpling master to correct this injustice.

Who will join the revolution? And who just, well, doesn’t like dumplings at all?

The Discussion: 47 Comments

I see Ivan hasn’t posted yet. Allow me to anticipate his response:

“Who cares about dumplings? They are 100 percent worthless, because they are Chinese filth created by the filthy Chinese filth that is the Chinese people. Worthless backwater disgusting filthy communist argle blargle blarg. PS: Fuck Bingfeng.”

For my part, I generally know better than to expect proper non-Cantonese food in most parts of the States. I did once make the mistake of going to “Four Rivers,” a “Sichuan” restaurant in Philadelphia’s Chinatown whose sign had the gall to advertise “真å·?味.” In retrospect, I should’ve been tipped off by the fact that the waiter had a Taiwanese accent, but no — I made the mistake of ordering dandan mian, and received a bowl of spaghetti in peanut butter. A sad, sad day.

(Anyone reading from Philadelphia who is in search of reasonably plausible food should go to a relatively new joint on 9th and Arch Street called Tasty Sichuan House or something like that. It’s not 100% authentic, but it’s a pretty plausible substitute if you’re jonesing for 夫妻肺片.)

October 7, 2006 @ 3:50 am | Comment

That is outrageously hilarious. Dandan mian is spaghetti in peanut butter. Lol!

October 7, 2006 @ 4:21 am | Comment

Ah, wait, I suddenly remember … Brendan, there is a second style of Dandan Mian which is indeed in peanut butter. A couple from my Mom’s company brought these during an office spring outing (peach blossom picnic ). The dish was so popular – the noodle was named after the husband among his colleagues. It was partially a joke. Everybody was asking for the recipe. The noodle also had minced small tips of preserved vegetables (dong(1) cai(4)) in it. It is definitely called Dandan Mian; which is a different Dandan Mian than the thin noodles with spicy meat and hot pepper oil. I almost forget how frustratingly convoluted China is.

October 7, 2006 @ 4:33 am | Comment


How flattering of you to think of ME all the time, even to the extent of fantasising about what you think I would say before you even start making your OWN comment in your own words! It’s so flattering that it almost looks like you’re on the threshold of obsessive stalking.

Considering how I’ve never referred to “the Chinese people” as “filth”, and that all of my rants about the PRC having become a cultural backwater are always expressly directed at the legacy of Mao and the Communist Party and how they degraded Chinese culture (just like Richard’s simliar frustrated anti-CCP rants are, by the way), you’ve really put your foot in your mouth.

What’s next, are you going to join the chorus of those who put words in Richard’s mouth and accuse him of being anti-Chinese just because he rants about all the depredations of the CCP upon Chinese culture? There’s an audience for that kind of defamation over at China Daily, you know.

PS, what the hell does Bingfeng have to do with dumplings? What does the mutual dislike between me and Bingfeng have to do with this thread about dumplings?

(End. Nothing to see here folks; please get back to the original topic of this thread….)

October 7, 2006 @ 5:06 am | Comment

The day I moved from the T-Dot to D.C. was a day of mourning for my tastebuds.

Shanghainese soup dumplings remain my favourite among all dumpling-kind.

October 7, 2006 @ 5:12 am | Comment

Nausicaa — I remember there being a few pretty good Sichuan joints in Northern Virginia — Alexandria, if I recall. Prince Roy had a post rounding up the places with decent Chinese food a while back.

October 7, 2006 @ 5:33 am | Comment

Ivan — you’re probably right about never having caled the Chinese people filth, but not too long ago you did say “Considering the fact that China will always be a barbarian backwater full of brainwashed drones who have no original thoughts to express, I really don’t see the point in any of this.” So forgive me if I’m not convinced that you’re actually a friend of the Chinese people, or indeed anything but a nutjob racist without even the minimal sanity required to engage in civilized discourse.
If you were sleeping on a steam vent somewhere, I’d walk past you without a second thought, but being that you continue to show up here and spout your loon-frog bile, I see no reason not to continue to call you out.

October 7, 2006 @ 5:38 am | Comment


This is your site monitor here! I am at work and I don’t have time to intervene in a sh*t storm!

This is a nice, friendly thread about dumplings. Don’t make me have to be a post Nazi.

And props to Jessica (I can’t believe I’m writing this) for contributing an amusing, on-topic comment.

October 7, 2006 @ 5:43 am | Comment

…all the way out in frickin’ Alexandria? Are you kidding me? *sobs* Oh how I long for the days of taking ten steps anywhere and ending up in Chinatown (Spadina), Little Italy(College Street), or Koreatown (Bloor).

I’ve given up trying to find affordable,convenient, authentic, and delicious Chinese food joints (especially Sichuanese) in D.C.. Nowadays I just hang at Colorado Kitchen, which is close to wear I work and cooks up some mean soul food besides.

October 7, 2006 @ 5:52 am | Comment

I only have to drive to the San Gabriel Valley. Too many authentic, excellent, cheap restaurants to choose from. Not much of anything close to where I live, which is really a drag. I can get great Thai food, Japanese food, Indian food, Ethiopian food – and no decent Chinese restaurants!

On the other hand, if I’m willing to drive a bit, I can go to a branch of, what’s that very famous Taiwanese dumpling restaurant? Dim Tai Feng?

October 7, 2006 @ 6:10 am | Comment

[quote]I can get great Thai food, Japanese food, Indian food, Ethiopian food – and no decent Chinese restaurants![/quote]

Yup, that’s my problem, too. The Adams-Morgan area in DC offers some terrific international cuisine (mostly Latino, Carribean and African) but little in the way of Chinese, alas.

And yeah, I know Din Tai Fung! Usually I’m not a fan of big soulless franchises, but their dumplings are indeed excellent.

Damn, and now I’m hungry. Out to find some grub. See y’all.

October 7, 2006 @ 6:27 am | Comment

I don’t often think about moving back to the US, especially now that the Constitution has gone out of style. But when I do think about what it would be like to return, I always wonder if I would go into some kind of food shock. Where could I find good hongxiaorou? Guobaorou? Caotou?

I’ve already started using MSG when I cook western-style food at home, so maybe I’m beyond the point of no return. 🙂

October 7, 2006 @ 10:06 am | Comment

Forgot to add – great post, Davesgone!

You and O’Lisa are doing so well keeping things going, Richard better be careful, or he won’t be needed when he returns. :-0

Just kidding – Richard, we all miss you. 😉

October 7, 2006 @ 10:11 am | Comment

Thanks Slim, but I am but a pale substitute…so if you wanna post something, drop me a line! 🙂

October 7, 2006 @ 10:36 am | Comment

You guy have to come to Sydney for some really nice and authentic northern Chinese food. My favourite is a noodle and dumpling shop at Haymarket near University of Technology Sydney. There are plenty of genuine Shanghainess style restaurants in the suburb of Ashfield as well. Yum!

(Sorry Lisa, just a bit of a diversion from the topic. Brendan, you’ve totally, completely and utterly got the wrong end of the stick. If you really are a friend of Chinese people and respect Richard and TPD, then 2 words of advice from me “peaceful coexistence”. Thank you!)

October 7, 2006 @ 11:10 am | Comment

Any observations about why Chinese restaurants insist on translating ‘jiaozi’ into some as atocious as ‘dumplings’? I mean, WTF? Just go to any Japanese restaurant in North America and order ‘gyoza’ for twice the price and half the taste, and watch the ‘natives’ would be gaga over it. I think it all comes down to Chinese self esteme. Why translate everything instead of just using the proper Chinese name? 怪味鸡 becomes ‘chicken in a strange brown sauce’…yeah, really appetizing. What is wrong with the Chinese anyways that they are too ashamed to use their own language?!

October 7, 2006 @ 11:44 am | Comment

And Ivan,

Yeah, jiazi beats pierogis and varenikys hands down…with or without the sour cream. So there! You can just kiss my wowotou.

October 7, 2006 @ 11:48 am | Comment

yeah, yeah, got a little ahead of myself with the typing: go gaga, low Chinese self esteem, jiaozi.

October 7, 2006 @ 11:57 am | Comment

…and atrocious

October 7, 2006 @ 11:59 am | Comment

Hey, happy to see everybody cares about dumplings.

@Shanghai Slim: Prey tell, how do you use MSG in Western food? Sprinkled in chili con carne? mixed into an alfredo sauce or some tsatsiki? Do you throw a thimbleload into a tuna salad sandwich?

@Schtickyrice: Dead on about gyoza my friend! Usually fried to death and undernourished in U.S. Japanese restaurants, yet Japanese food is considered cooler. Sushi did, however, start off as an upmarket yuppie food in the U.S., while Chinese food started on the lower rungs of the cuisine classes. While Chinese food has been struggling for respectability, Japanese food of late has been slumming it over at Teriyaki Boy.

Teriyaki Boy, by the way, should be suffering the same fate as Wok N’ Roll. Hasn’t anybody else suffered food poisoning at one in a suburban mall once?

October 7, 2006 @ 2:13 pm | Comment

MSG…in tuna salad? Say you’re not at that point yet, Shanghai Slim! Next you’ll be telling me you marinate meat with baking soda! (the secret of Chinese cooks everywhere, btw.)

It used to be that the only people who ate Chinese food in the States were the Chinese and the Jews. Back when all Chinese restaurants were ghetto and there’s was no such thing as “pan-Asian”/fusion (ugh) cuisine. Nowadays Chinese cuisine is..well, still pretty ghetto, actually. But at least it’s popular. (Which is more than can be said for Korean cuisine. Try finding a good Korean restaurant around here! ;-))

I have to say, though, that *no* national cuisine has as much respectability and prestige in the States as French. And for that we have to thank Escoffier and Julia Childs, who really were instrumental in popularizing it.

October 7, 2006 @ 3:18 pm | Comment

Nausicaa, you know what Julia Child and James Beard really popularized in America? Wine drinking. And butter.

And to this day, that remains most middle class Americans understanding (including mine) of French cuisine: wine and butter.

Or, as Julia once put it, the perfect meal actually is: “red meat and a bottle of gin”. God, what a woman!

October 7, 2006 @ 3:40 pm | Comment

And a Julia Child factoid, from the Presidential Medal of Freedom page:

The future chef was born Julia McWilliams on Aug. 15, 1912, in Pasadena, Calif. Her mother was a free-spirited Smith College alumna and her father an aristocratic, conservative Republican farm consultant.

Child, her brother and sister were all unusually tall and athletic. Though the expectation was that Child would be a wife and mother, she attended Smith, where she was a C student.

Though she dreamed of being a basketball star, Child moved to New York City and wrote ad copy. When World War II began, Child joined the Office of Strategic Services — precursor to the CIA — and was eventually sent to Ceylon (now Sri Lanka).

Though not much more than a glorified file clerk, in 1944, she helped the OSS cook up a shark repellant to protect the Navy’s boats. Child also soon met her husband-to-be, artist, poet, gourmand and OSS cartographer Paul Child.

They married in 1946, relocated to China, and Paul introduced her to Chinese cuisine.

Child often said that her initial interest in food came from always being hungry. It wasn’t until they moved to France, though, and had their first meal in Rouen, that Child found her life’s true passion. “I just couldn’t get over it,” she once told ABC News. “I’d never eaten that way.”

She soon enrolled in classes at Paris’ Cordon Bleu culinary school, the only woman in her class. She supplemented her education with lessons from France’s great chefs. She was also motivated by a desire to cook well for her sophisticated husband.

The OSS and China? Damn, what a woman!

October 7, 2006 @ 3:44 pm | Comment

Ohhh, Nausicaa, we have tons of good Korean places in LA – not nearly as far a drive for me as all the great Chinese places. I’ve been to this one Korean barbecue joint a couple of times called “Soot Bull Jeep” – how could you forget that name?!

October 7, 2006 @ 4:26 pm | Comment

Most people don’t know and don’t care to know about the Chinese food you appreciate. Tons of Westsiders would shed no tears if all the handful of Chinese restaurants close. It’s far more fashionable to snub Chinese food, haven’t you noticed? Esp. in California.

October 7, 2006 @ 5:58 pm | Comment

Jason, what’s up with the attitude? Who are you to talk for “most people”?

Lisa, Dave, Raj et. al., thanks for the amazing guest bloging. I am on the run, with no end in site for another full week. Please keep up the great work.


October 7, 2006 @ 7:03 pm | Comment

MSG in tuna salad? Ugh! I don’t think MSG would taste good in anything cold.

I mainly use it in some kinds of western soups and sauces, it makes things taste heartier and “yummier”, similar to the effect of mushrooms or bullion.

October 7, 2006 @ 8:47 pm | Comment


Good Sichuan joints are in Rockville, Alexandria, Chantilly and Faifax. Unfortunately, most Chinese live in the burbs and that’s where the action is. Joe’s Noodles in Rockville is the current fave of the chowhounds but China Star is still pretty good. Go to Chowhound.com and look up the DC boards for the Sichuan recommendations.

October 7, 2006 @ 9:58 pm | Comment

Jason, you’re…really weird.

I can’t figure out the lack of good Chinese restaurants on the Westside; you’d think the Chinese population at UCLA alone would ensure we’d have a few. But no. There’s one decent Hong Kong seafood place and an okay dimsum place that I know of, and that’s it.

Oh, and yuppie joints like Crustacion. But that doesn’t count.

October 8, 2006 @ 1:35 am | Comment

Thanks, Pan!

October 8, 2006 @ 4:38 am | Comment

If anyone is ever in the Ft. Lauderdale area, there are two Chinese restaurants I can recommend. The first is a hole in the wall takeout place, Lily Garden, that is miles above and beyond all other similarly priced Chinese takeout places. You know, the ones that happen to all use the same menu and sauce. It’s very good and their Kung Pao chicken is always fresh.

The second place, a more dine in experience is Silver Pond. Their spicy szechuan style veal hot plates are to die for. Soups good too and so is the stir fry crab.

October 8, 2006 @ 6:45 am | Comment

Otherlise – WLA has not much of a Chinese population to sustain good Chinese restaurants. Add to that the high rents in that area. UCLA students are probably not able to sustain good restaurants on their own. But look at Irvine, where there are plenty of Chinese students at UCI, and where also there is a sizable Chinese population. There are quite a few good Chinese restaurants there. But since everyone in LA has a car, they all gravitate to San Gabriel Valley for real Chinese food. When we visit my wife’s family in LA, we always end up in Irvine, Monterey Park, or Rowland Heights for good Chinese meals.

October 8, 2006 @ 7:28 am | Comment

Thanks, Pan. I do go to San Gabriel Valley when I can. It’s like being in China, they have so many good restaurants (and inexpensive too!). But I’m spoiled. I don’t like driving very much. If only there were ONE good Chinese restaurant I could bike to…

I had no idea about Irvine though. I’ll have to check that out.

October 8, 2006 @ 10:24 am | Comment

Oh I’m SO glad that this thread got back onto the right track, talking about IMPORTANT things like FOOD!

And I have some good words to say about food, but before I go there, I must respond to what “Brendan” said to me (scrolling up)

Brendan wrote:

“…(Ivan is a) nut-job racist….If you were sleeping on a steamvent somewhere, I’d walk past you without a second thought, but being that you continue to show up here (etc etc)”

Well. Brendan. You callow sophomoric little shit who has had no experience in the real world (as is evident from you own blog in which you state your age, and combining your very young age with your role as a student of Chinese, it’s obvious that you never had to do any REAL work for a day in your life….

….Brendan, FIRST of all:

1. The greatest mentor I have ever had was a son of Chinese immigrants. And at this time, one of the three best friends that I have in the world is Chinese. So fuck you up the ass with a pinecone, for your accusations of me being “racist”

2. I’ll bet a thousand to one that you have never had as many REAL Black friends as I have had, like friends who literally saved my life in the ghetto. How do I know this? Because if you had ever really lived in the ghetto – I mean REALLY lived there – then you wouldn’t be such a vapid nasty little shit who snipes at people like me who has never (until now) gone out of my way to attack you personally. But YOU asked for it, you nasty spoiled little White Boozhie sack of shit, so here you go.
(Oh yeah, OH yeah, Brendan, I know your kind.
You never had to do any REAL work in your fucking life. It’s so fucking obvious. You’re a nasty little Boozhie White Boy whose parents supported him through college. Oh yeah, I know your type, SO well.)

3. So, don’t you DARE talk to me about “race’, you little Boozhie White Boy, unless and until you’ve lived among other races OUTSIDE of your little bubble. Oh yeah, I know your type, you think you’re so fucking BROAD MINDED because you study Chinese and then you move to China and you convince yourself that it makes you one of them. Well, no. No. Brendan, you will never know JACK SHIT about other races unless and until you live among them in fucking ABJECT POVERTY. And unelss and until that day comes, you can just shut the fuck up about race. Nasty little Weak Boozhie White Boy.
(Um, sorry, to others, if my Black-American slang is outdated. I lived in the ghetto of a North American city around 20 years ago, so maybe the jargon has changed. But 20 years ago, my neighbours in the ghetto would have called Brendan a “Weak Boozhie White Boy.”)
(I mean, WHO ELSE would get SO pissy about my criticisms of China, other than a Weak Little White Boy who had everything handed to him by his parents, and who knows absolutely NOTHING about REAL sufferings of other races? Brendan, that’s who, Weak Little Boozhie White Boy, pretending to “understand” other races, who hate him for his condescension…..)
AND, Brendan, you also mentioned how I “continue to show up here (on TPD)
Well. Brendan. Bring your ears close to me, so that I can shout in your ears:
I came back to TPD because RICHARD ASKED ME TO!
The reason why I “continue to show up here”, is because OUR HOST, RICHARD, ASKED ME TO!
So, Brendan, if you don’t like me or what I say, take it up with our host, Richard.
Meanwhile, you can just stop baiting me on these threads. YOU were the one who started a feud between you and me on this thread. And that says far more about you than it says about me.

October 8, 2006 @ 3:24 pm | Comment

Okay, as your site Nazi, I am somewhat at a loss here. My temptation is to just close this thread, except some of us are still talking about food, dammit!

Ivan, Brendan, I love ya both, and you’re both driving me slightly crazy here…

Now that both of you guys have discharged your metaphorical shotguns, can we call it even?

Please continue to disagree. Please stop insulting each other. I would really appreciate it.

October 8, 2006 @ 3:31 pm | Comment

Lisa, may be you should just leave them alone to sort out their differences. It’s got to be done one way or the other.

I’m a good cook. But I just can’t make yummy jiaozi, even if my life depends on it. I don’t know how to make the pastry so that it won’t fall apart when I boil or steam the jiaozi. Any practical advice will be greatly appreciated.

October 8, 2006 @ 6:02 pm | Comment

Lisa, my friend, let me give you a good way to close this thread, with a Russian joke about food.

This is what one of my Russian friends told me:

Back in Soviet times, in the 1970s, an American Army General met with a Russian General in Moscow. And the Russian told him:

“You must beware! Our Russian soldiers are STRONG! Every Russian soldier eats TWO THOUSAND calories a day!:”

And the American General replied, “HA! All American soldiers get FOUR thousand calories a day!”

And the Russian General said:

“Nyet! Nye pravda! You lie! NOBODY can eat SO MANY POTATOS in one day!”

😉 🙂

October 8, 2006 @ 6:38 pm | Comment


Fat Cat, I am not a great cook, just a great eater. The only times I’ve made jiaozi, we’ve used the pre-made jiaozi wraps that you can get at any good Asian market. Those work pretty well and taste pretty good.

Dang, I’m getting hungry…

October 9, 2006 @ 3:01 am | Comment

There’s a fairly decent place for xiaolongbao in New York’s Chinatown, across the street from Confucius Square. Not killer, but for the States, it’s OK. Of course, Din Tai Fung is the place to go: their dumplings are said (quite rightly) to have mild aphrodesiac properties.

October 9, 2006 @ 5:32 am | Comment

Fat Cat,

The key to a good jiaozi wrapping is lots of good old fashioned kneading. Like good pasta or real bread (not cake-like Wonderbread) you have to give the gluten in the dough a chance to really go to work and form long, elastic polymers to give the final product any kind of ‘bite’. A dough is not thoroughly kneaded until all three surfaces (the dough itself, the mixing bowl, and your hands) are clean and ‘shiney’. After thoroughly kneading the dough mixture, the finished dough should be allowed to ‘rest’ or “awaken” as the Chinese saying goes for at least half an hour or so (covered with a damp cheescloth) before dividing and rolling into wrappers.

The same principle applies to pulled noodles (lamian/laghman), only this time, divide the dough and roll into long thick rods, coat with some vegetable oil, and let sit for a good half-hour before pulling into noodles and dropping directly into hot water. Good luck and I hope you will try it.

October 9, 2006 @ 7:18 am | Comment

Now, I know quite a few Americans who said: “I do not eat Chinese food.” The reasons are either Chinese food is dirty; or they are allergic to Chinese food. As any mentioning of tofu or sushi, they appear to be utterly disgusted.

Now, most of the westerners posting here have been living in China for a while. Now, I would like to know what you think about these people who “do not *eat* Chinese food.”

October 9, 2006 @ 7:20 am | Comment

Well, living in California, I don’t know many people who won’t eat Chinese food. We have some of the best Chinese restaurants around in CA (just not in biking distance from my house, dang it).

But I’d say, those who don’t, they don’t know what they’re missing!

I’d also say, I’ve met plenty of Chinese students here in the States who would rather eat bad Chinese food out of steam trays than try different kinds of cuisine. Some people just aren’t adventurous, regardless of where they’re from, and don’t want to try unfamiliar things.

October 9, 2006 @ 8:00 am | Comment

I agree Lisa. Chinese are some of the most conservative ‘eaters’ out there. I don’t know how many new stories I have read about Chinese athletes subsisting on nothing but instant noodles and salted vegetables during competitions abroad because they can’t stomach ‘western’ food. As far as Chinese appreciation of other ethnic foods, forget about it.

This is a generality of course. In the end, people will appreciate or dismiss other cuisines based on their own sense of adventure or anal retention, regardless of their ethnic background.

October 10, 2006 @ 5:27 am | Comment

Jessica said: “Now, I know quite a few Americans who said: ?I do not eat Chinese food.”

Huh? Chinese food is one of the most popular cuisines in the US! There are about 36,000 Chinese restaurants in the US.

“A study by the Center for Culinary Development, a food product development company, found that 39 percent of children between the ages of 10 and 13 who were surveyed said Chinese was their favorite type of food, compared to only 9 percent who chose American.”

From: “As All-American as Egg Foo Yong”
New York Times, 9/22/2004

October 10, 2006 @ 12:22 pm | Comment

schtickyrice, thanks for the great jiaozi making tips. They make perfect sense to me. I tried it out last night, and, voila! the first time ever I managed to serve some decent looking (and tasting) jiaozi. Many thanks again.

October 10, 2006 @ 5:14 pm | Comment

Mei guanxi! Glad to help Fat Cat, you are on your way to becoming a jiaozi wang!

October 11, 2006 @ 8:30 am | Comment

Now that this is far down enough that nobody else is likely to be commenting:

Wow, Ivan, you figured out that I’m young and white? Did you do that one all on your own? I’ve given my age all over, and a single glance at my name will reveal that I’m so white as to be borderline transparent. As for my economic background, without getting into the whole pissing content of “you say you were poor? No, I was poor!” you’re wrong. I’d say to let that be an end to it, but I’m sure you won’t.
As for picking fights with you: I’ve given my reasons. Anyway, yes, it seems we’ve sized each other up: I’m young, callow, and white, and you are exactly what I said you were.

October 16, 2006 @ 5:11 am | Comment

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