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Where to find the best Chinese doughnuts in Los Angeles

The old adage “A rose by any other name would smell as sweet” can easily be applied to Chinese doughnuts. The savory pastry — two golden strips of lightly salted fried dough, attached at the hip — goes by many monikers: you tiao in Mandarin, pathongko in Thai and dầu cháo quẩy in Vietnamese.

With origins dating to the 12th century in China, this doughnut’s reach has grown to become a breakfast staple throughout East and Southeast Asia. In its simplest form, it’s ripped in two and eaten alone as a snack. But the cruller also can be a vehicle to sop up flavors of other dishes. In Vietnam, it’s dunked in sweetened coffee and savory rice porridge. At Taiwanese joints, the doughnut accompanies warm soy milk and serves as the centerpiece of the rice-coated fan tuan.

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As simple as the Chinese doughnut is, it requires skill to make it correctly. A high-quality you tiao should be crispy on the outside, with light and airy pockets inside. Timing is everything. Underproof the dough and there’s no fluff to the bread; if the oil isn’t hot enough, you get overly greasy crullers.

I grew up with the good fortune of having parents who are experts at making Chinese doughnuts and had the chance to eat hundreds of freshly fried sticks throughout my lifetime. As I explored 20 restaurants around Los Angeles County, I found that not all you tiao are alike — and some are much better than others.


I whittled my favorites to 10, with the focus of this list to be a starting point for others to enjoy different ways of consuming these doughnuts. Many of the best ones happen to be in the San Gabriel Valley and enjoyed with other dishes. It’s time to get your carbs on.

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A fan tuan donut from Pine and Crane.
A roll of sticky rice (the purple variety is a $1 add-on) wraps around a crunchy cruller with pork floss, soy-braised egg and preserved vegetables.
(Jean Trinh)

Pine & Crane

Downtown L.A. Taiwanese $$
In the early days of the pandemic, Pine & Crane chef-owner Vivian Ku launched a Taiwanese breakfast pop-up, Today Starts Here, in Chinatown. It was an exciting addition to the neighborhood, with some of her creations featuring you tiao as the star. The pop-up ended last summer, but Ku promised it wouldn’t be the last we’d see of these comfort dishes on her menus.

The wait is over. Ku opened a second Pine & Crane in downtown L.A. in June. It’s an airy, modern-industrial addition to her family of Taiwanese restaurants (the first is in Silver Lake, and she has a sister restaurant, Joy on York, in Highland Park), with an expansive patio surrounded by trees. It’s also her only location that offers breakfast, from 8 to 11 a.m.

One of the best grab-and-go dishes is Ku’s fan tuan. A roll of sticky rice (swap in the purple variety for an extra buck) wraps around a still-crunchy cruller that’s bundled with pork floss, soy-braised egg and preserved vegetables.

You tiao also steals the show in Pine & Crane’s savory soy milk. Slices of the crispy doughnut are showered over a bowl of soy milk punctuated by pork floss, preserved vegetables, vinegar and chile oil.
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Chinese doughnuts on a patterned plate with a bowl of condensed milk for dipping.
The crullers are made fresh every day, but they do sell out, so get there early.
(Jean Trinh)

Siam Sunset

East Hollywood Thai Chinese $
Siam Sunset has been a hidden gem on Sunset Boulevard for 30 years. Blink and you might miss it, since it practically blends into the blue-and-white hues of America’s Best Value Inn next door. It’s one of the only spots in the area to serve Thai breakfast starting at 6 a.m.

Here, the Chinese doughnut is served simply with a side of sweetened condensed milk. Instead of being a forearm’s length like its counterparts, Siam Sunset’s version is 2-inch pillows. Think of it as an appetizer to some of the restaurant’s other robust morning offerings, such as a variety of rice porridges and pork blood soup.

The crullers are made fresh daily, and although breakfast is served all day, you might want to get there early enough before the doughnuts sell out.
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Clams in a buttery black pepper sauce with scallions, Thai basil and Fresno chiles with a Chinese doughnut
Clams in a buttery black pepper sauce with scallions, Thai basil and Fresno chiles come with a Chinese doughnut meant to be dipped into the umami-laden broth.
(Jean Trinh)

Bone Kettle

Pasadena Southeast Asian $
Although Chinese doughnuts are considered more of a breakfast item, Bone Kettle offers a “clam and doughnuts” version at dinnertime. It’s an addictive dish that I return to repeatedly at the restaurant helmed by Indonesian chef-owner Erwin Tjahyadi.

A riff on Chinese stir-fried clams, Tjahyadi’s iteration swims in a buttery black pepper sauce with scallions and Thai basil, lit up by Fresno chiles. Its accompanying Chinese doughnut is meant to be dipped into the umami-laden broth. Think of it as the scarpetta of Southeast Asian food.
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A bowl of soup with vegetables and shrimp, with a side of you tiao
Order a side of you tiao at Kim Kee (even if you don’t see it on the menu). On your placemat, you might see an ad for attorney James Wang.
(Jean Trinh)

Kim Kee Noodle Cafe

Monterey Park Chinese $
Kim Kee Noodle Cafe is part of a trio of restaurants in the San Gabriel Valley that my family has been frequenting for decades. Its specialty is Chiu Chow cuisine, often taking the form of noodles that originated from the Guangdong province of southern China, and also found in Southeast Asian countries such as Vietnam and Cambodia.

It’s hard to make a choice with Kim Kee’s noodles because there are so many options, many with subtle variants. Choose rice or egg noodles to go in the restaurant’s flavorful broths simmering with a variety of meatballs (from beef to fish), shrimp and shredded chicken. Order a side of you tiao — even if you don’t see it on the menu — and trust that they have it. It comes out presliced, crispy and hot, perfect for dipping into the broth.

Part of the charm of Kim Kee is how busy this place gets, especially in the mornings when customers begin trickling in at 7 a.m. You won’t feel out of place dining solo because: Are you really alone if you’re eating over a placemat emblazoned with a picture of attorney James Wang?
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Crisp, sliced you tiao in a styrofoam container
The doughnuts at Delicious Food Corner come out light, airy and crispy. Order a Hong Kong-style milk tea (black tea with sweetened condensed milk) or rice porridge to go alongside.
(Jean Trinh)

Delicious Food Corner

Monterey Park Chinese $
Show up at Delicious Food Corner early on a weekday morning and you might just have to wait in line. In the unassuming Manor Plaza strip mall in Monterey Park (the chain has other locations in the San Gabriel Valley), the popular Hong Kong-style cafe is vibrant and bustling, filled with lively conversations in red booths and a coffee station that never seems to stop running.

For the you tiao aficionado, this place delivers: The doughnuts come out light, airy and crispy. Pair them with Hong Kong-style milk tea (black tea with sweetened condensed milk) or the cafe’s myriad congee rice porridges. The cafe also is known for its steamed flour rolls wrapped around still-crispy crullers and covered in a creamy sesame-and-soy sauce.
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A bowl of noodle soup sits beside a plate of vegetable additions and you tiao.
Dunk a doughnut into a cup of Vietnamese coffee or a massive bowl of bún riêu, a tomato-based noodle soup, at Vietnam Restaurant.
(Jean Trinh)

Vietnam Restaurant

San Gabriel Valley Vietnamese $
Vietnam Restaurant has been a mainstay on Las Tunas Boulevard for years, and rightfully so. Although its specialties lie in big-format dinners like bò 7 món (a.k.a. seven courses of beef) and cá nướng da giòn (baked catfish), the long-standing restaurant excels at other Vietnamese staples.

The Chinese doughnut is one of them: Crispy, light and chewy, it’s best dunked into a cup of Vietnamese coffee and a massive bowl of bún riêu. The cruller soaks in much of the flavorful, tomato-based noodle soup that’s fortified with ground shrimp and egg. The restaurant’s rice porridges, from chicken to blood pudding, automatically come with a cruller.
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Long Chinese doughnuts on an oval platter
The Asian Gourmet Kitchen food stall inside the San Gabriel location of 99 Ranch stacks Chinese doughnuts, kept warm inside a case.
(Jean Trinh)

99 Ranch (San Gabriel)

San Gabriel Valley Chinese
This Asian supermarket chain (with more than 50 locations throughout the United States) may seem an unlikely place to get fresh crullers. But it’s truly a one-stop shop for groceries and grab-and-go meals.

The Asian Gourmet Kitchen food stall is tucked in a corner of the San Gabriel market. It’s where you can find roast duck hanging behind a glass case, as well as pork buns and Taiwanese bento boxes. At the counter is a stack of Chinese doughnuts that are lightly golden and kept warm inside a case.
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A closeup of rice noodle rolls.
Lunasia’s rice noodle rolls stuffed with crisp Chinese doughnuts and shrimp paste.
(Jean Trinh)

Lunasia Dim Sum House

San Gabriel Valley Chinese $$
There are many reasons Lunasia (which has locations in Alhambra, Pasadena and Cerritos) is always a solid choice for dim sum. Its har gow and siu mai are enormous, and the dishes are consistently on point. And the restaurant is so well streamlined that it has its own app for pickup orders, which I use on a regular basis.

One of Lunasia’s star items is its rice noodle rolls stuffed with crisp Chinese doughnuts and shrimp paste, served alongside a sweet soy sauce.
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A bowl of rice porridge with a cruller on the side.
The lunchtime-only bowls of cháo, Vietnamese rice porridge, come with a flaky Chinese cruller at the downtown location of Little Sister.
(Jean Trinh)

Little Sister

Downtown L.A. Vietnamese
There’s an energetic scene at the downtown L.A. outpost of Little Sister, a modern Vietnamese restaurant with locations throughout the Southland. Hip-hop, from the likes of Yeezy to Real1, blasts on the speakers as folks talk over the music during lunchtime.

It’s also the only time (from 11 a.m. to 3 p.m.) you can get chef-owner Tin Vuong’s comforting bowls of cháo, Vietnamese rice porridge, which come with a flaky Chinese cruller. Here, you can dip the doughnuts into cháo options like poached chicken with mushroom and chive covered in cilantro and fried shallots. Save a little doughnut for dunking into the restaurant’s Vietnamese coffee.
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Two types of crullers on a plate with a bowl of soy milk for dipping.
Order Huge Tree Pastry’s fried doughnut with sweet or salty soy milk, or tofu topped with pork floss and scallions, or in the burrito-like fan tuan.
(Jean Trinh)

Huge Tree Pastry

San Gabriel Valley Chinese $
You tiao is the main attraction at this long-standing Taiwanese breakfast and lunch joint, which is currently serving only takeout during the pandemic. The fried doughnut makes a perfect partner to soy milk (with salty and sweet options), savory tofu topped with pork floss and scallions, and in the center of its burrito-like fan tuan (filled with scrambled eggs, pork floss and pickled vegetables, with a white or purple sticky rice blanket). Go wild with the carbs and even add a doughnut inside a shao bing (flaky sesame bread) sandwich stuffed with scallion scrambled eggs.
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