Archive for the 'Taiwanese' Category

Tofu King – Arcadia

Tofu King - Arcadia

I had my first encounter with stinky tofu three years ago at a hotpot joint in Monterey Park. Though the neat, triangular slabs of pressed soy bubbling beneath the broth didn’t taste as gnarly as they smelled, their wildly odious flavor failed to capture my affections.

My second brush with the stanky delicacy came a few months later at a San Gabriel pub known as the “Taiwanese Hooters.” The deep-fried rendition served here was certainly more palatable than the simmered variety, but hearts and minds were not won this time either.

Tofu King - Arcadia

I was inspired to seek out stinky tofu for a third time at Tofu King after stumbling upon C. Thi Nguyen’s brilliant article, “Stinky tofu restaurant may find converts” in the Los Angeles Times. It’s a must-read for anyone who appreciates delightful prose.

The Astronomer, normally an adventuresome restaurant-goer, refused to dine at Tofu King since he absolutely loathes stinky tofu. Fortunately, my friend Pat from Eating L.A. stepped up to the plate.

Tofu King - Arcadia

Tofu King serves two sizes of deep-fried stinky tofu—large slabs and small cubes. Pat and I chose the “Bite-size Stinky Tofu” ($5.50) to minimize the amount of actual tofu and maximize the deep-fried surface area.

To make the stinky tofu, they make a mash of mixed vegetables and ferment it for six months. Then they take fresh tofu and give it a nice, long flavor-soak in the fermented mash. The tofu burial ought to last for a week, and that’s how they used to do it, but the health department didn’t approve, so they’ve shortened the fermentation bath to three days. Thus: half-ripened, gateway stinky tofu.

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Dai Ho Restaurant – Temple City

Dai Ho Restaurant - Temple City

With its signature beef noodle soup ringing in at a whopping $9 a bowl, Dai Ho may be the most expensive noodle hawker in the San Gabriel Valley. While sticker shock might keep some penny pinching noodle soup devotees away, those who take a chance are handsomely rewarded with one of the best renditions of Taiwan’s national dish.

Dai Ho Restaurant - Temple City

Each bowl is packed with bouncy egg noodles that are the very definition of “Q,” a chewy texture prized by connoisseurs. The broth is deep, dark, and unabashedly beefy, while the chunks of stewed meat collapse with the gentlest of bites.

Dai Ho Restaurant - Temple City

This bowl was made for burying one’s face in, preferably uninterrupted.

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{swoon} Fan Tuan at Huge Tree Pastry

Huge Tree Pastry - Monterey Park

There are a handful of restaurants serving traditional Taiwanese breakfast in the San Gabriel Valley, but my favorite is the one operated by the Liu family in Monterey Park. Tucked behind a grocery store on the far end of a strip mall, Huge Tree Pastry is the place to get your you tiao on. Deep-fried to order, these twisted, golden crullers shatter at first bite and are just as good dipped in a bowl of steaming soy milk. Scallion pancakes, which come with or without an eggy coating, benefit from a drizzle of soy sauce. Chili oil is nowhere to be found here.

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Six Taste: Delicious Dumpling Tour

Six Taste: Delicious Dumpling Tour - Arcadia

Founded in 2009 by Jeff Okita and Alex Tao, Six Taste is a local company that leads culinary tours across the Southland. Stretching from Santa Monica to Arcadia, these tours explore the histories and eateries of Los Angeles’ diverse neighborhoods and ethnic enclaves.

Six Taste recently held a “Media Day” that allowed me the opportunity to participate in one of their highly-touted outings. Since my mom was in town for the weekend, she was invited to come along as well. Joining us on the Delicious Dumpling Tour was Esther of EstarLA, Marian of Marian the Foodie, and Krista of BrandX. Everyone was excited to see and experience the city of Arcadia through Six Taste’s food-focused lens.

Six Taste: Delicious Dumpling Tour - Arcadia

Our fearless leader was Michael Lin (left), a Taiwanese-American born and raised in Arcadia. Six Taste’s founder Jeff Okita (right) also came along for the ride.

Located a few short miles east of Pasadena, Arcadia is home to the third largest Taiwanese population outside the island. I’ve eaten at a few of the restaurants and cafes that line Baldwin Avenue, but doing so with an expert by my side was a completely different experience. Our guide’s knowledgeable insights and funny anecdotes provided proper context and an interesting perspective to everything that we ate. I learned so much from Mike and definitely came away with a better understanding of not only Taiwanese cuisine, but the Taiwanese diaspora as well.

Six Taste: Delicious Dumpling Tour - Arcadia

The Delicious Dumpling Tour, which is priced at $55 per person, began at 9:30 AM and included five stops spanning two neighboring strip malls. While we were waiting for the group to assemble, Mike passed out hotdog stuffed croissants hot from the ovens of J.J. Bakery, our first stop on the tour.

The buttery croissant had a pliable and slightly stretchy consistency that is characteristic of Taiwanese baked goods. The hotdog, on the other hand, was snappy, salty, and all American.

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