Holdaak: Friday May 28: 1948 N Tustin St, Orange, CA
So this was unexpected! We ended up caught deep behind the Orange Curtain on Friday, not really on a sandwich expedition so much as spending an afternoon with friends. But, you know, hunger strikes, and when hunger strikes, we eat sandwiches. Holdaak, which means “madly in love” in Korean, apparently, and is probably what every single write-up on Holdaak leads with because it’s weird, is a relatively new venture that was on our list of places to try this summer. How did it get on our list? I actually have no idea, but it did, and it was near our friends, so we picked up a couple of their chicken sandwiches: one original ($7.50) and one spicy ($8.50).
Both sandwiches come on nicely grilled buns, and both featured well-battered chicken breasts (substantial but smaller than Popeye’s—that’s not a gripe, just a frame of reference), and a nice portion of pickled slaw with daikon, jalapeños, and onion. Each had a different sauce—the spicy was thicker, tangy, sweet, and had a nice round heat to it. The original was a little runnier and much sweeter—it lacked the complexity of the spicy and didn’t pair quite as well with the slaw. But the spicy really was great: this is not Nashville-style extreme head madness. It’s just: good.
Were the sandwiches twice as good as Popeye’s? Maybe the spicy. Do chicken sandwiches even count as sandwiches? Maybe? Does it matter? No!
- Overall Balance/Taste: +2 points
- Quality of Ingredients: +2
- Bread: 0
- Integrity: -1
- X-factor: not really any: 0
- +3 points, or a perfectly tasty Pat’s Philly Cheesesteak (wit)
Huge Pastry Tree: Sunday May 30: 423 N Atlantic Blvd, Monterey Park, CA
Then two days later came our anniversary! 17 years! Which means we’re supposed to give each other furniture! Instead of that we followed advice from the LA Times and did one of their ‘perfect sandwiches for perfect hikes,’ making our way first to Monterey Park to pick up sustenance at Huge Pastry Tree and then onto Pasadena for a hike around the Rose Bowl, which is really a flat and fairly dull stroll around Brookside Golf Club. (Note: we almost went to Devil’s Gate Reservoir to try to, I don’t know, summon an anniversary moonchild or something. But that’s the nineteen-year anniversary.)
Huge Pastry Tree is a Chinese restaurant known for its Taiwan-style breakfast foods, and along with the ‘perfect sandwich’ (more in a moment), we ordered a pork bun, a curry chicken pastry, and the radish cake (with egg, per the suggestion from the counter worker). None of that is a sandwich. Holy crap, though. Everyone: eat more radish cakes. Go. Now.
The visual star, though, is the salty fan tuan; fried egg, youtiao (thin narrow fried dough), rousang (or “pork floss,” aka dried light and fluffy pork, or the closest thing I’ve ever seen to Sonoran-style carne seca), pickled greens … all of which is rolled in purple rice (?!) and wrapped tightly in plastic. The combination of flavors—the salty-savory egg and pork, the fried fatty sweetness from the youtiao, the earthiness of the rice, and the crucial sour tang of the pickles—all gathers into a bizarrely fulfilling complexity.
Is a fan tuan a sandwich? I mean…maybe? It held together better than most of the other sandwiches we’ve eaten…but then again, they weren’t wrapped in plastic, so maybe not? Because if a fan tuan is a sandwich, then a California roll is a sandwich, right? And: how can a California roll be a sandwich? Or can it just be one? Is that okay? I DON’T KNOW THIS IS A QUESTION THAT IS HURTING MY HEAD I’M GOING TO JUST EAT AND NOT PONDER.
- Overall Balance/Taste: +1 point
- Quality of Ingredients: +1
- Bread: -1
- Integrity: 0
- X-factor: crazy name! crazy color! +1
+2 points, or a perfectly tasty Pat’s Philly Cheesesteak (wit)