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.
14130 Culver Dr # J
Irvine, CA 92604