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 ping-ying).
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 Franken-food. It's sort of a quixotic mix of different cultures and eating styles. It sort of 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, drops it onto a sheet of plastic wrap, pound the rice into a rectangular sheet, then proceed to 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 marchiano cherry is placed into the center stack -- the Chinese cruller (or "yiou-tiao").
Then with deft of hand and nimble fingers, the chef will roll it into a tubular shape, twist the ends of the plastic and wrap, and, voila! ... a rice-roll is born.
But, alas, here in SGV, I have yet to find a good place for rice rolls. Most are pre-made, left to bake under a heat lamp in the kitchen. It seems I've tried them all, from Ding's to Yi Mei to Yung Ho Tou Chiang, and all are lacking.
There used to be a place a long, long time ago in the Di Ho Market shopping center on Atlantic Blvd. in Monterey Park that used to make rice rolls on the spot (they also had great salty soybean milk for breakfast too, but I digress), but that place has perished with the rest of that plaza.
So I ask, more like beg, of all chowhounds out there ... is there someplace that serves a decent rice roll???
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