10/23/2006

Diho Bakery - Irvine, CA [Supplying]

A South African braai is a combination potluck and BBQ where friends come together to share food and good times. Back when my friend Kung Fu Monkey still held massive quarterly LAN video gaming parties at his house, we would always have a braai in the middle of the second day. Having been hooked on that tradition, I decided to hold my own "Samurai Braai" today. A number of friends were invited to my house to watch martial arts movies, share tasty side dishes, and grill meat. With the guidance of two of the South African attendees, Grafalgar and Vektuz, Maniacal Penguin made potjie, a South African meat stew cooked in a cast iron Dutch oven we placed over a fire built in a second grill. We also watched the following two movies: House of Fury and Azumi.

Thirteen people: Grafalgar, Ms. E, Shire Nomad, Maniacal Penguin, Vektuz, Mama Bear, Single Malt, Alpha Narf, Elewhen, Nahoko, Stitch, Cat, and myself.

We started around 1:30pm and finished around 9:30pm. We made and consumed: Japanese Chicken Curry, African Chicken Curry, Beef & Beer Potjie, Rice, Grilled Pork Chops Marinated in Cinnamon and Honey, Grilled Lemon Chicken, Grilled Lamb Chops with Chocolate Sauce, BBQ Pulled Pork. Grilled Italian Sausages, Grilled Steaks, Dirty Water Hot Dogs, Garlic and Sage Foccacia with Garlic Butter, Macaroni Salad, Potato Salad, Hummus & Pita Chips, and Deviled Eggs. We also consumed a whole lot of Asahi and Newcastle beers.

So, you ask, "Where are the pictures? Why is the title of this post 'Diho Bakery' and not 'Samurai Braai'?" The answer is, I was so busy cooking and having a good time, I forgot to take any pictures. I have failed you. However, since I'm Taiwanese and not Japanese, there will be no seppuku-panda-belly-slicing here. Instead, I'll try to distract you with pretty pictures and hope that you forget all about my Samurai Braai until I can have another one and actually take pictures. No panda bacons for you. Muwahahahahahaha!

Ahem! On with the show.



Tucked away in the side of Irvine's Persian center is, of all things, one of my favorite Taiwanese bakeries. A genuine mom & pop operation, Diho Bakery has the single goal of getting fresh, tasty, Taiwanese pastries into your belly for a nominal fee. If I've gained any weight from carbs lately, my Diho addiction is the main suspect.

Since Diho's focus is primarily on the food, you'll find few of the fripperies or amenities here that you might at many other Asian bakeries. Three shelving units for displaying baked goods, two freezer units for displaying frozen buns and dumpling, and a cake case are all you'll find. That's it. No boba, no meal sets, nothing. Just buns, dumplings, and cakes. However, it's the quality of those goods that keeps me coming back for more.



The Diho baked goods selection is varied and creative. Freshly baked every morning, each bun is helpfully labeled in both Chinese and English, with a very handy English description of the ingredients. If you don't read Chinese and are intimidated by the language barrier, Diho is the place to go. Their product cards are so descriptive, you won't feel the need to ask any questions.



One of Cat's favorite's from the baked goods section is this football-shaped Raisin Bread. With a soft crust and a thick, fluffy, and chewy crumb, this mildly sweet bread is studded throughout with plump, juicy raisins. The consistency is like a cross between pain de mie and brioche.



I, on the other hand, tend to prefer more savory breads like this Pickled Mustard Green Bun. The standard lighter, softer, brioche-like dough preferred by the Taiwanese and Chinese envelopes a delectable mixture of minced Chinese Pickled Mustard Greens and sautéed ground beef. The resulting combination of sweet, salty, beefy, and bready flavors takes me back to childhood visits to Taiwan. To me, pickled mustard greens and ground beef taste like memories. If Taiwan has a signature flavor, this might be it.



For those who like variety without extra calories, there's always this Four-in-One Bun. Four miniature buns with different fillings are allowed to proof close to one another so that they meld into one easily separated bun when baked. Diho's version offers Green Onion & Shredded Pork Sung, Cha Shao (Cha Siu), Custard, and Sweet Red Bean fillings. It's a four course bun tasting for the price of one.



As splendiferous as Diho's baked bread is, their real draw is their steamed buns (bao/nikuman). Made fresh every morning, the bao are at their best right out of the steamer. Although they reheat very well in the microwave if wrapped in a slightly damp paper towel, steamer-fresh is the way to go, which explains the large crowds that tend to gather in the bakery on weekend mornings. Diho's selection is massive, although availability depends on what's in the steamer when you walk in. When Cat and I stopped by on Saturday morning, we managed to score four of their most popular bao.



Diho's top selling bao is this Cai Rou Bao (Pork & Vegetable Steamed Bun), which contains seasoned ground pork, leeks, ginger, and rice noodles. One bite and it's easy to see why these outsell almost every other bun two to one. The pork is juicy without being greasy, the seasonings are well balanced and bold, and the rice noodles add a very pleasant textural component.



Always popular are these Cha Shao Bao (BBQ Pork Steamed Buns). Diho's is probably the best rendition I've had in a long time. The pork is perfectly seasoned, not too sweet, and juicy instead of dry. The bun-to-pork ratio is excellent. Most telling is how masterfully the bun has been shaped. You see the thickness differential between the top and bottom layers of the crumb? Diho is following the 60-40 rule in baking sandwich rolls, which states that 60% of the bulk should be in the top layer and 40% in the bottom. Since the human jaw exerts pressure from the top and supports from the bottom, baking at this ratio allows for the easiest consumption. It also prevents the bottom layer of the bun from being too thin and tearing when eaten. If I have to flip a bun over when eating it to keep the insides from spilling out, someone screwed up.



A big fan of mushrooms, I never pass by the opportunity to snag one of these Xiang Gu Bao (Mushroom Steamed Buns). Containing a flavorful mixture of sautéed Shitake mushrooms, ground beef, and onions, these buns are remarkably similar to one of my favorite Taiwanese noodle dishes, Ma Yi Pa Su (Ants Climbing Trees), with a strong mushroom component. It's like noodles in bun form. Brilliant!



The last bun in my lineup is this Su Cai Bao (Vegetable Steamed Bun). I tried this bun for the first time on Saturday, and it was a revelation. Think of the best egg roll you've ever had. Now make it a bun. Stuffed with the standard egg roll filling of stir-fried Shitake mushrooms, cabbage, carrot, garlic, and seasonings, this light and refreshing bun even tastes healthy. But, healthy in a flavorful way. If I was a vegetarian, which I try to be during weekdays, I wouldn't feel in any way meat-deprived with this bun as a snacking option.

I hope this lineup of tasty buns from Diho Bakery has atoned for my grievous error. I violated the first rule of food blogging and forgot to take pictures of my Samurai Braai. Deeply ashamed, I offer this sacrifice in the hope that you will be distracted by the pretties and overlook my transgression.

As a side note, I had an awesome time at the braai. (^_^)


Diho Bakery - For the freshest, tastiest, Taiwanese steamed buns in all of Orange County at a great price. Oooh! Look at the shinies! The entire lineup cost less than $10.


Diho Bakery
14130 Culver Dr # J
Irvine, CA 92604
1-949-857-6415

11 comments:

Ahhh, droool - I LOVE bakeries!!!
Everything looks so good, especially the steamed savory baos. I don't think I've come across any Taiwanese bakeries in the San Gabriel area but man if I do, I've got your post for guidance! :)

(That 4-mini buns in one pack is a brillant idea, hehe!)

CP,

You're probably aware that in Hawaii those steamed buns are called MANAPUA. In fact, that's exactly what I'm currently using as a photo on my blog's main header... Manapua from Char Hung Sut in Chinatown, Honolulu.

Too funny how you start that post about Diho's completely OFF TOPIC! :-p Sheez.. you guys partied for over 8 hours? Everyone must've been HAMMERED. lol

I'll ask my friend who lives near LA if his fiance (who's also Taiwanese) is aware of this bakery. I'm sure she is.

This part was very enlightening to me:

"Since the human jaw exerts pressure from the top and supports from the bottom, baking at this ratio allows for the easiest consumption."

I never even thought of that! I've walked into Diho, and then walked right out. I don't know what prevented me from trying the stuff...perhaps it is because by the time I make it in there, I have spent loads of cash at Assal Pastry next door, and am guilt ridden that I ordered so much fatty dessert cakes.

What! You were fed at lan parties???? The only food we were got was pizza and lots of soda to stay up extra late . Or when we all put money into the pot and the winner of the tournament would get food.

Those innards pao shots are great! Now I'm in the mood for some. Mmmmm.

mmm. the 4 bun combo looks awesome.. i have yet to see that at a bakery here- maybe because there are plenty of 7-11s or street vendors that sell buns.

but i will definitely have to try the combo when i am in the OC. i love mushrooms!

i never thought of vegetable buns as egg roll filling inside a bun, but that is an excellent way of describing it!

Hi CP - I thought I posted a comment earlier....but don't know what happened to it! Anywho's nice post, those steamed buns are really great stuff

Wow, such elaborate reviews! I love it ... very helpful!

I've been there and it's very good! Everything is so beautiful and 'light'. Not the heavy sugary fare you'd normally expect from any 'American' bakery. I'm familiar with the Pho place on Barranca...next to Philly's best? they have a sister store on Jeffrey & Michelson near IHop...YUM!

the sacrifice was not enough. to make up for your error, you must invite all of us to the next braai. LOL!

i'm not sure if i've ever had the pickled mustard greens w/ ground beef combo, but i loooove pickled mustard greens. they're like crack to me.

now you got me itching for some bao!

Kathy,

Me too! Bakeries rock! Ahhh... Starchy goodness...

Pomai,

Imma cover some awesome manapua soon. Whichever one of you guys though of stuffing bao with kahlua pork was a freakin' genius.

As for my intro, if you haven't already noticed, there's a definite random aspect to some of my prose. I really can't help it sometimes. =)

Elmo,

Isn't that jaw thing interesting? I've read it in several different sources.

Diho is great. Assal is great. It's a tough choice, my friend. But, since I don't have as much of a sweet tooth as most people, bao trumps bamieh almost every time.

Nguyen,

It's what you get when the LAN parties are run by video game programmers. We're freakin' veterans, buddy. All the amenities included. I even bring an entire traditional futon set to make sure the few hours of shut eye I get are as restful as possible.

TFP,

Nothing like bao innards. Mmmm... Steamed buns...

Joan,

I think the 4-in-1 buns cropped up in SoCal around the same time as the mini-buns; during the low/no-carb craze. I'm glad it's stayed, though. Sometimes I like a little variety and I always have to watch my calories. I'd like to go from being a chubby panda to a slim one, not a corpulent one.

Kirk,

There's been something amiss Blogger's comment system lately. I've noticed similar issues with other blogs.

Gotta love those steamed buns.

KT,

Hey law lady! Thanks for stopping by! I'm glad you like my blog. Your's is great. I think your take on food blogging is quite unique. (I mean that in a good way.)

Hiya Deb,

Asian bakeries are particularly lovely for health conscious folks like yourself. A number of my cycling friends like to have breakfast at another Chinese bakery on Irvine Center Drive during the weekends because the food doesn't weight them down during the return trip.

Yup. Pho Bac near Las Fajitas and Philly's Best. Good stuff.

Daily Gluttony,

Hmmm... A SoCal food blogger braai. That would be something.

At the very least, I promist to take many pictures of my one. (^_^)

- Chubbypanda