Two Breakfasts, One Afternoon Snack: Taiwanese Food in the 626 (Huge Tree Pastry, Four Sea, and Old Country Cafe)

Happy 6/26 Day! Unfortunately, I cannot make it to the SGV to partake in the festivities, but I’ll comfort myself with thoughts of the two Taiwanese breakfasts and one Taiwanese snack I had on a hot, sunny Father’s Day a few weeks ago.

Huge Tree Pastry [Yelp; restaurant has no website]

I arrived at Huge Tree Pastry around 10 AM.  The interior of the restaurant was not very big and not very new, but very clean, so fairly authentic for a Taiwanese restaurant.  It was only two tables full.

Huge Tree Pastry (© 2012 The Offalo)

Huge Tree Pastry (© 2012 The Offalo)

Those of you non-Chinese speakers worried about any language barriers at HTP should be relieved, as the young waitress taking most of the orders and serving the tables yesterday was obviously Americanized and spoke perfect English in addition to Mandarin and Taiwanese.  Still, I used my poor Chinese language skills to order mi jiang (peanut/rice milk) hot, you tiao (fried crueller), and ô-á-chian (Taiwanese oyster omelette/pancake).

The mi jiang and you tiao arrived at my table within minutes.  Said waitress warned that the mi jiang was very hot.  I haven’t had mi jiang in a while, but HTP’s was delicious.  It wasn’t as heavy as I was anticipating, nor as sweet, and it was indeed extremely hot.

Mi Jiang (Peanut/Rice Milk) from Huge Tree Pastry (© 2012 The Offalo)

Mi Jiang (Peanut/Rice Milk) from Huge Tree Pastry (© 2012 The Offalo)

The you tiao was nicely fried, crisp without being overly oily.  Naturally I tried dipping it into the mi jiang, and it made for a hearty combination, though the flavor of the mi jiang did overpower the you tiao in a way that dou jiang (soy milk) does not.

You Tiao (Fried Cruller) from Huge Tree Pastry (© 2012 The Offalo)

You Tiao (Fried Cruller) from Huge Tree Pastry (© 2012 The Offalo)

The ô-á-chian arrived ten minutes later.  It was a larger portion than I anticipated, cut into four pieces.  It could have been split between two people easily.  The pancake was appropriately glutinous, and the sauce was tangy and mildly spicy.  The amount of oysters in the dish were not generous but sufficient.  One egg and some bean sprouts and cabbage made up the rest of the filling.  I’m not used to this dish having a lot of vegetables in it, but they did round the dish out nicely.

Ô-á-chian (Oyster Omelette/Pancake) from Huge Tree Pastry (© 2012 The Offalo)

Ô-á-chian (Oyster Omelette/Pancake) from Huge Tree Pastry (© 2012 The Offalo)

I finished the you tiao and ô-á-chian and took about half the mi jiang to-go.  The total bill was just under $10, so I left $12.

Si Hai (Four Sea) [Yelp; restaurant has no website]

Si Hai has a clean, air-conditioned, Taiwanese bakery feel.  The A/C was particularly nice, as the temperature in SGV started rising.  There were a half dozen people in line, and unlike HTP, it seemed much less English-speaker friendly.  While the various pastries in the cases had English on the labels, the large menu on the back wall did not have any English.

Si Hai (Four Sea) Restaurant (© 2012 The Offalo)

Si Hai (Four Sea) Restaurant (© 2012 The Offalo)

Somewhat intimidated, I accidentally ordered just a suan cai fan tuan (salty rice roll with pickled vegetables) instead of the lu dan suan cai fan tuan (rice roll with marinated egg and pickled vegetables) I meant to order.  I also ordered a cold dou jiang (soy milk) and a gua bao (marinated pork sandwich bun), which was in the cold case.  The cashier asked if I wanted it warmed up, to which I said yes.  The total cost was around $12.

Gua Bao (Pork Sandwich Bun) & Fan Tuan (Rice Roll) from Si Hai (© 2012 The Offalo)

Gua Bao (Pork Sandwich Bun) & Fan Tuan (Rice Roll) from Si Hai (© 2012 The Offalo)

They seemed to be doing a healthy amount of take-out business, so there were several of us sitting at one of the larger tables waiting for our order.  My order came out in less than 5 minutes.  The dou jiang was mildly sweet, and very cold, which I appreciated as the temperature just got hotter in SGV.

Fan Tuan (Rice Roll) from Si Hai (© 2012 The Offalo)

Fan Tuan (Rice Roll) from Si Hai (© 2012 The Offalo)

The fan tuan was very good.  The individual grains of rice formed a nice structure without being a sticky mess.  The filling was plentiful, with you tiao and rousong (meat floss–better than it sounds; think machaca) providing the base and generous amounts of suan cai.

Gua Bao (Pork Sandwich Bun) from Si Hai (© 2012 The Offalo)

Gua Bao (Pork Sandwich Bun) from Si Hai (© 2012 The Offalo)

The gua bao was also very good, though the trip in plastic wrap made the bun a little little gummy, but the single slice of stewed pork was nice and thick, the vegetables were savory, and the bun adding a bit of necessary sweetness.

Old Country Cafe [Yelp; restaurant has no website]

If HTP reminded me of a typical Taiwanese breakfast place, and Si Hai reminded me of a typical Taiwanese bakery, Old Country Cafe reminded me of those tiny shacks in Taiwan with a window into a kitchen right on the street and a few tables to eat at. The place was very small and kitchy, dominated by a bar that seated about 10, and a flatscreen TV on a Chinese-language station. The kitchen was partially visible behind the old, dingy teddy-bear “noren” (the cloth room dividers commonly found in Japanese restaurants). I ordered a zhu xue gao (pig blood cake) and a chou dou fu (stinky tofu, listed as “Special Fried Bean Curd” in English).

Zhu Xue Gao (Pig Blood Cake) from Old Country Cafe (© 2012 The Offalo)

Zhu Xue Gao (Pig Blood Cake) from Old Country Cafe (© 2012 The Offalo)

The zhu xue gao came out first. It was very glutinous, as the “cake” is formed by mixing the blood with sticky rice. The taste was surprisingly mild. I could not really tell that it was cooked pig’s blood I was eating. The sauce on it was both a little too sweet and a little too spicy for the dish, overpowering the already mild taste of the the cake.

Chou Dou Fu (Stinky Tofu, a.k.a.

Chou Dou Fu (Stinky Tofu, a.k.a. “Special Fried Bean Curd”) from Old Country Cafe (© 2012 The Offalo)

The chou dou fu, as soon as it left the threshold of the kitchen, immediately attacked my nose. This was a good sign, I thought. The cubes of tofu were small but plentiful, and expertly fried. The pickled vegetables were not as tangy nor as spicy as I’ve had, nor was the dipping sauce. The tofu pieces held the pungency well, but did not have a very strong fermented flavor.

I ordered a passion fruit juice to-go for the hot drive home, and the bill was, just like the other two stops, right around $12.

Conclusion

Granted, I only tried two dishes at each location, but based on my impression of what I had, I would definitely go back to HTP and Si Hai again and try other dishes for Taiwanese breakfast. I am not so sure about OCC. I wouldn’t render final judgement based on just the two dishes I had, but with Happy Garden around the corner beckoning me, I’d definitely try other Taiwanese restaurants before going back to OCC.

Huge Tree Pastry [Yelp; restaurant has no website]
423 N Atlantic Blvd
Monterey Park, CA 91754
(626) 458-8689

Si Hai (Four Sea) [Yelp; restaurant has no website]
708 E Las Tunas Dr
San Gabriel, CA 91776
(626) 285-8369

Old Country Cafe [Yelp; restaurant has no website]
2 E Valley Blvd
Alhambra, CA 91801
(626) 284-4610

26. June 2012 by The Offalo
Categories: Chinese, Taiwanese | Leave a comment

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