Thursday, September 17, 2009

Being Bourdain: Hong Kong Plaza in Rowland Heights

If you follow my Twitter, you know I detest Anthony Bourdain, but I'm jealous too. He gets to travel all over the world and try different cuisines, he has the best job in the world!

Unfortunately I don't have the finances to travel but I'm blessed to live in the melting pot of the world. I'm going to do a monthly post called "Being Bourdain" where I travel to unexplored ethnic epicenters and sample local cuisines.

To kick off the series is Hong Kong Plaza in Rowland Heights. I've been eating and shopping here for years (ever since it opened) and it's been home to many new and interesting dining experiences. Some have been good and some have been bad.

My first stop was at the newly opened Tanbii Bakery Inc. next to Supreme Dragon. They were having a special on mooncakes, which are hard to find, so I had to check it out.
 Mooncakes consist of a thin tender skin enveloping a sweet, dense filling. The mooncake may contain one or more whole salted egg yolks in its center to symbolize the full moon. Traditional mooncakes have an imprint on top consisting of the Chinese characters for "longevity" or "harmony" as well as the name of the bakery and the filling in the moon cake. Mooncakes are considered a delicacy; production is labor-intensive and few people make them at home. From wikipedia.

Tanbii had a big variety of mooncakes, my favorite was the honeydew. It was cloyingly sweet, with a jelly filling and an egg yolk at the center. Interesting, but next time I'll pass, mooncakes are not my favorite pastry. They are around $2 each.

Tanbii Bakery Inc on Urbanspoon

My next stop was down the plaza to Tofu King. Even though it was a hundred yards down, I could smell it. Tofu King serves stinky tofu, a Taiwanese snack that consists of  "tofu which has been marinated in a brine made from fermented milk, vegetables, and meat for as long as several months.""the odor of stinky tofu is said to resemble that of rotten garbage or manure, even by its enthusiasts" Both quotes from wikipedia.

 The above description is right on for the smell. As you stand downwind from Tofu King, the odor blasts your nostril, it's a putrid combination of smelly sock, mold and savory food. You have to smell it to experience it, words cannot do it justice. As everyone else says, the taste isn't as bad, the tofu tastes like fried tofu, slightly sweet. The sauce is pungent, tangy and fermented, not bad. But you have to get over the stink to enjoy it, which is no small task. To further explain how bad it was, we were sitting outside, next to a sewer manhole, and I didn't even notice the sewer smell until we finished.

Here's Andrew Zimmern's take on stinky tofu. He says it's the only food that ever beat him. LOL

Tofu King on Urbanspoon

My last stop was my regular stomping ground, Hsin Hsin Shau May Deli. I've been coming to this place for at least a decade and I eat here often. The place is so cheap! $3.50 for two item combo, it's enough food for dinner, then lunch the next day. Score! Food is meh, but at that price, I don't expect much. They have great shaved ice too for $3.50.

Hsin Hsin Shau May Deli on Urbanspoon

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