Thursday, September 03, 2009
When one thinks of a typical Chinese breakfast, Dim Sum usually comes to mind. What some people don't know is that Dim Sum is a Cantonese-based breakfast and like most Chinese cooking, it's not the only game in town. So if you're looking for something a little bit different, why not check out the Taiwanese breakfast and that's exactly what I did for a couple of outings to Yung Ho in San Gabriel.
While the Taiwanese breakfast does include dishes found at Dim Sum restaurants like dumplings and congee (rice porridge), the main influence seems to come from Northern China, which is known for their noodles, steamed breads, and pancakes. I'm by no means a Chinese food expert, so if I'm incorrect, please let me know, but based on the meals I had at Yung Ho, I could see the connection.
Between two different visits with my dining group, I was able to sample 14 dishes. 3 of them included vegetarian buns, pork and mushroom buns and pan-fried dumplings, which are standard fare at Dim Sum. Although they were fine, I'm going to skip over them and concentrate more on those foods that may not be as familiar.
First and foremost, there's the Twisted Cruller also known as You Tiao. It's basically dough that is long, twisted and fried and usually eaten as an accompaniment for congee or soy milk, both of which are served in a bowl. We had ordered a sweet soy milk to go with the cruller, but with or without the soy milk, I found the cruller to be a bit oily and lacking in crispiness.
The other soy milk option was the Salty Bean Flower with tofu, green onions and cruller. I was actually quite surprised at how much I liked this dish. Salt and milk didn't seem like a good combination, but in an odd way, this salty soy milk reminded me of oatmeal and I just happen to like oatmeal.
One of two favorites from both visits was the Hubei Doupi , a three-layer extravaganza of sticky rice topped with minced pork and green onion and then topped with some kind of egg-flour pancake. The browned pancake had a light crispy texture and I liked the sweet and savory combo of the rice and pork.
My other favorite and a must order was the Beef Pancake, which is actually beef that's rolled into sesame bread. The bread was wonderfully crusty and went well with the thinly sliced marinated beef.
Soup is something I usually don't associate with breakfast, but at many a table, customers were consuming various different bowls, so we followed suit and ordered a Spicy Beef Noodle Soup. I will never be a naysayer again. Forget oatmeal. Give me a hot bowl of soup any day, especially when it has tender cuts of beef and a delicious spicy broth.
As a Filipina, I'm used to the idea of having rice as part of breakfast and apparently so are the Taiwanese. First, there was the Hubei Doupi that I mentioned earlier, but we also had two different kinds of stuffed rice rolls. One was a Sweet Rice Roll with a sugar filling and the other was a Salty Rice Roll with a pork filling. Both were okay, if not really that memorable.
The one dish that confused me the most was the Steamed Taro Bread. It was large and lumpy and there didn't seem to be much to it. I did take a bite of it but found it dry. I later found out that it's usually eaten like a sandwich. Break it in half, stick egg in the middle and you're good to do, which is kind of strange because I don't remember seeing eggs a la carte on the menu, so if I'm incorrect about the right way to eat it, please let me know.
When it came to egg, the next two dishes weren't lacking in that respect at all. First, there was the Green Onion Pancake with Egg, which was basically an omelet put between two green onion pancakes and than cut into pizza slices. What a perfect use of these two ingredients. The egg by itself is nothing exciting, but I loved the crispiness of the pancake when both were eaten together.
Second, there was the Turnip Cake with egg wrapped around it. Turnip cakes are always one of my favorite Dim Sum dishes to order, but having egg wrapped around it took it an entirely different direction and I loved it.
With all these savory items, we did manage to sample one sweet item which were the Sweet Boiled Sesame Dumplings. The texture was a little too glue-y to my taste, so it's not something I'd order again.
Between the noodles, the various breads, the pancakes, rice and the cruller, eating breakfast Taiwanese style could certainly put you into carb overload, but for a once in a while morning option, why not? You can always walk around the block a few times afterwards, right?
Yung Ho Restaurant
533 W. Valley Blvd.
San Gabriel, CA 91778