One of the most odd food items a person can eat for breakfast is probably the Taiwanese rice roll, or “fahn-tuan” (excuse the poor pinyin), says ipsedixit.

There’s nothing exotic, or even complex, about this item. But when you take it in your hands and observe it carefully, you realize this is really Frankenfood. It’s sort of a quixotic mix of different cultures and eating styles. It has the faux lineage of a tamale, but the makeup and appearance of a Japanese sushi roll (sans nori).

When it’s done right, a rice roll can be a titillating experience. Place your order, and you’ll observe the chef scoop out a pile of cooked sticky rice, drop it onto a sheet of plastic wrap, pound the rice into a rectangular sheet, then build layers of filling with spoonfuls of pickled cucumbers (or mustard greens), fried and dehydrated ground pork, and perhaps other goodies, all before the equivalent of the maraschino cherry is placed into the center stack: the Chinese cruller (or “yiou-tiao”).

Then with deft hand and nimble fingers, the chef will roll it into a tubular shape, twist the ends of the plastic wrap, and voilà! A rice roll is born.

Unfortunately, even in the San Gabriel Valley, most are premade and abandoned under a heat lamp in the kitchen.

Four Sea in Hacienda Heights is the place to go, says Pei, who recommends this place so much she’s like a broken record.

And although the regular fahn-tuan is nothing special at Yi Mei, the vegetarian version is surprisingly nice ’n’ crunchy, salty, and oh so satisfying, says PandanExpress.

Four Sea [San Gabriel Valley]
2020 S. Hacienda Boulevard, Hacienda Heights

Yi-Mei [San Gabriel Valley]
736 S. Atlantic Boulevard, Monterey Park (Dingho Plaza)

Yi-Mei [San Gabriel Valley]
608 E. Valley Boulevard, #G, San Gabriel (San Gabriel Superstore complex)

Yi-Mei [San Gabriel Valley]
18414 E. Colima Road, #I, Rowland Heights (Hong Kong Store complex)


Board Links: An plea for the Taiwanese rice-roll

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