I love Taiwanese tidbits. "Tidbits" is my own terminology. Literally translated, the phrase is "small eats," but isn't "tidbits" cuter? If you haven't sampled Taiwanese tidbits, you should, especially if you like tapas, dim sum, or izakaya.
Mama Monkey is back from her 15-day European adventure, so Mr. Monkey, Brother Monkey, and I met her for Taiwanese tidbits at Plaza Deli (18920 Gale Avenue, Rowland Heights).
This place rocks. The food and service are good, and the prices are great.
You do have to know what to order, though, or you could be disappointed. I think this happens a lot to patrons who don't know they are in a Taiwanese eatery. They order Chinese dishes and miss out on Taiwanese treats.
My absolute favorite Taiwanese tidbit is ba-wan (in Taiwanese) or rou-yuan (in Mandarin). It is often listed as "meat ball" on menus, which gives you no idea of what this delicacy actually is. Here is Plaza Deli's version ($2.50).
Ba-wan has a thick translucent "skin" made of rice flour, corn starch, and sweet potato starch. If you like the consistency of mochi, you will probably like ba-wan skin. The skin envelops pork, bamboo shoots, and shiitake mushrooms. A sweet red sauce tops it all off.
Plaza Deli's ba-wan is delicious. The skin was nice and chewy, a key characteristic of a decent ba-wan. Thumbs up!
My second-favorite Taiwanese tidbit is gua bao ($2.50). Some call it the "Taiwanese hamburger," which I think is a stupid name, given what's in a gua bao.
The gua bao is closer to being a soft taco or a torta. If you've had Peking duck, you are familiar with the little steamed pillow-like bread. Inside this white fluffiness is stewed fatty pork, pickled cabbage, cilantro, sweet sauce, crushed peanuts, and sugar. When done right, it is heaven in your hand. Plaza Deli's gua bao had potential, but the pork should've been more tender. I still liked it anyway.
Another typical Taiwanese tidbit is bi-ko ($2.50). This is similar to the sticky rice you might find at dim sum wrapped in lotus or banana leaves. Pretty yummy.
Fried tofu ($2.50) always pleases everyone. For Mr. Monkey's sake, I didn't get the traditional Taiwanese stinky tofu.
The Tainan Peddler Noodles ($4.95) were great. Mama Monkey informed us that, in the city of Tainan, they come in a much smaller bowl. Yay for American sizing!
We were intrigued by the goose meat soup noodles ($5.95).
The broth and noodles were lovely, but the goose was a bit tough. Dipping the goose in this sauce helped a bit, but I don't think we'll order this again.
Of course, we can't go to a Taiwanese place without ordering pork chop rice.
Home food at its best. Crisp and crunchy and juicy and awesome. We even got one to take home. It was that good.
We washed everything down with boba milk tea ($2.50 -- buy one, get one free). The boba were perfectly chewy and sweet.