Sunday, January 11, 2009

Taiwanese Tidbits

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).
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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).
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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.
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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.
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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.
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Mr. Monkey is not as big a fan of Taiwanese tidbits as I am. His family never goes to these places, so I have to take advantage of the chances I get. But he enjoyed the other dishes we ordered.

Fried tofu ($2.50) always pleases everyone. For Mr. Monkey's sake, I didn't get the traditional Taiwanese stinky tofu.
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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!
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We were intrigued by the goose meat soup noodles ($5.95).
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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.
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Of course, we can't go to a Taiwanese place without ordering pork chop rice.
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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.
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They were invented by the Taiwanese, after all.


  1. yum. i need to try ba-wan. you already know the bear is a big fan of pork chop rice.

  2. You must introduce me to Taiwanese Tidbits in person. I've shamefully never been.

  3. love love love pork chop rice!

  4. is the tofu stinky because it smells, or stinky because its not the tidbits?

  5. I think this is the first place you've ever written about where absolutely nothing looks appetizing to me! I'm with Mr. Monkey on this one.

  6. My dad took me for dim sum for the first time at a place called Paradise Seafood and it was delicious. I am counting the days till I can go again.

    I am not sure what "Izkaya" means but we went to a place with that in the title on Friday and felt it was way over-rated. The yakisoba was totally dry. The sushi was good but everything else was mediocre at best and it cost us a fortune. This joint was new inside the Irvine Spectrum-we all know how that place can be!!

    I ordered the fried pork belly and my husband was appalled until I made him try it; I don't know ifhe'll have the courage to eat at dim sum since nothing is in English and you never know what you're gonna get. Ha!

  7. I love when rice is shaped into cylinders. Food is more interesting when it looks cool.

  8. Looks delicious! I definitely share your passion for Taiwanese street food (which is my general term for these tasty morsels).

    This might be completely unfounded, but I think Boba tea is actually invented by the people of Hong Kong (those clever restauranteurs) but perfected in Taiwan. Anyhoo, it's origin is really unimportant, so long as it is delish... :)

  9. I'm pretty sure the Taiwanese started the boba craze in the '80s. We called it zhenzhu naicha, or "pearl milk tea." What I will give to Hong Kong is the re-naming of the drink. Boba is Hong Kong slang for "boobies" or "titties."

    Thank you, Hong Kong, for changing the name to Titties Tea.

  10. I will never think of Boba tea the same way again, but I learned something new today!

    Can't wait to try Plaza Deli, thanks for the photos and review.

  11. Oh, and Julie Q, stinky tofu literally stinks because it is fermented.

  12. Ah, I knew there was a Hong Kong connection for Boba! I guess the Taiwanese do rule with yummy food items! :)

  13. tidbits is, indeed, a fun word.

    i think we need a taiwanese tidbits GTG. i've never had any.

  14. How funny! Filipinos eat biko too, ours is sweet sticky brown rice wrapped in banana leaves. That one bowl looked like Pho - yummeh! I have to admit that I am guilty of not knowing the difference between Chinese and Taiwanese cuisine, actually.

  15. This post was informational and fun to look at. :)

  16. i've never had taiwanese treats. i'd some pork chop rice, please.

  17. I must have missed the reference to Hong Kong being responsible for renaming it to mean Titty Tea - love it! And before I saw that I had already commented, I was going to say how Filipinos have a simiary dessert called Biko - brown sticky sweet rice. You'd really like it WM. Well, I think you would. Here:


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