For the Chinese, breakfast is the most important part of the day. A steamed pork bun and a soy milk for take-out is pretty standard, but if you want to make it a sit-down affair, try salty soy milk with crispy chunks of twisted cruller (also known as you tiao 油条), a large turnip cake with the sides lightly crisped, and a flaky green onion pancake topped with an egg.
The composition of Chinese breakfast joints in Los Angeles can get complicated. You have your Hong Kong and dim sum restaurants, and then you have an entirely different genre of Chinese breakfast restaurants, often labeled Taiwanese or Northern Chinese.
For this particular genre, add in the context of Los Angeles and the distinction gets difficult. Places like Ye-May and Yung Ho Restaurant market themselves as Taiwanese breakfast joints, but are managed by a Chinese staff. Or take Garage Restaurant in Monterey Park: It's a Tianjin-style (Northern Chinese) place, but has a fair number of "tai shi" (台式), or Taiwanese, items on the menu.
But at all these eateries, whether strictly Taiwanese or partially Chinese, the dishes are the same: twisted cruller, green onion pancake, soy milk, various buns, egg pancake, turnip cake, and rice rolls. There aren't that many, but we rounded up the 10 best Taiwanese breakfast places in Los Angeles. Get to these places early -- they're notorious for running out of items by noon.
10. Ding Pangzi:
The English translation for Ding Pangzi is Ding Fatty. It's actually a Sichuan restaurant with a section of the menu serving Taiwanese breakfast specialities. Though the selections are really limited (soy milk, you tiao, scallion pancakes, among the core) it's a good alternative if you also crave a heaping of spicy Sichuan cold appetizers. 117 N. Lincoln Ave., Monterey Park; 626-288-2211.
Yung Ho, which was previously owned by the Taiwanese management of Yung Ho City Restaurant, is now a Chinese establishment serving up the classics. The tables get a little sticky in here, but they make a mean salty soy milk (spongy pieces of you tiao and scallions) and rice rolls embedded with chopped cruller, pork sung, and pickled vegetables. Everything is served up freshly made from the kitchen. Despite the downhill service at Yung Ho, their tables are always full with patrons from around the SGV looking for cheap grub. 533 W. Valley Blvd., San Gabriel; 626-570-0860.
Located inside a strip mall on the iconic Valley Boulevard, Ye-May Restaurant is a small hole-in-the-wall with modest decor and a few tables. The sweet Cantonese staff speaks Mandarin and horribly broken English. Pastries are made fresh -- don't be alarmed when you're confronted with a rack of abnormally large twisted crullers by the cashier. There's a lot of Taiwanese specials (oyster pancake, Taiwanese meatballs) available, but stick with the breakfast items. Be sure to check out the large pastry selections -- try the curry cake ($1.10) and slice radish cake ($1.10). 608 E. Valley Blvd., San Gabriel; 626-280-8568.