Why this ‘oil-fried devil’ is my favorite breakfast

Taiwanese purple rice roll, also known as fan tuan.
Taiwanese purple rice roll, also known as fan tuan, from Morning Summit in Monterey Park.
(Jenn Harris / Los Angeles Times)

This week’s recommendations include Taiwanese breakfast in the San Gabriel Valley and chicharrones and chile poblano croquetta in West Hollywood.


I’ve never been an American breakfast person. I’ve mentioned this before, in a column about cachapas, the Venezuelan pancakes that easily trump flapjacks. I didn’t grow up eating waffles or scrambled eggs. But a sweet rice roll with a doughnut in the middle that resembles a breakfast burrito? That’s something I’ll leap out of bed for.

Fan tuan and meat biscuits at Morning Summit

If you’ve never had fan tuan, this is your sign to try something new for breakfast. The sweet rice rolls can be found at a number of restaurants in the San Gabriel Valley. They typically involve a thick layer of sweet rice wrapped around youtaio, a long Chinese doughnut known as “oil-fried devil” when translated from the Cantonese name yàuhjagwái.

When I’m craving a savory fan tuan, filled with salty dried pork floss, preserved vegetables, youtaoi and egg, I head to Huge Tree Pastry in Monterey Park or Pine & Crane in downtown L.A. For a sugar rush, there’s Morning Summit.


Listed as “Taiwanese purple rice roll” on the menu, the dish involves youtaio and crunchy peanuts encased in about an inch and a half of purple rice. The entire thing is wrapped tightly in plastic wrap and sliced down the middle, presented like two halves of a burrito.

Peel back the plastic wrap as you go. The rice is sticky enough to hold together, but you don’t want it to fall apart. And though the rice grains are firmly locked together, they manage to feel separate and not mushy.

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That first bite is shockingly sweet, like a double-dipped glazed doughnut with sprinkles on top. The rice and sugar-dusted peanuts are sweet. And there’s a layer of what tastes like gooey sugar paste fusing the doughnut to the peanuts.

But even with all that sugar, the textures announce themselves one by one. Chewy, crunchy, sandy, soft and squishy.

It may seem counter-intuitive to stick a hot, crispy cruller into the middle of a log of rice, trapping the doughnut in a pocket of heat that will quickly dissipate any hopes for crunch. But it doesn’t matter that the dough is not crispy. It’s chewy and solid, and it’s satisfying to rip through.

A biscuit packed with pickled greens and beef.
Taiwanese sauerkraut and beef biscuit from Morning Summit restaurant in Monterey Park.
(Jenn Harris / Los Angeles Times)

Morning Summit has a large laminated menu full of pictures. And I was too curious about the “Taiwanese sauerkraut and beef biscuits” to not try one. What arrived at the table was a sizable sandwich with meat and greens spilling out of every side.

The biscuit tasted like a soft sesame seed bun, only smashed. Like someone squashed your burger bun under a monster truck. And there was a thin layer of hoisin sauce painted onto each side.

Though advertised as “sauerkraut” the greens are actually roughly chopped strips of pickled mustard greens, both tart and sweet.

The meat was a satisfying cross between brisket and roast beef, redolent with star anise and soy. The texture was completely foreign and satisfying, like shredded beef that had somehow been glued back together.

If I’m lucky, most of my future breakfast meetings will include rice-wrapped oil-fried devils and meat biscuits instead of waffles and avocado toast.

Chicharrones and chile poblano croquettas from Bombo

A bowl full of chicharrones at Bombo in West Hollywood.
Salt and vinegar chicharrones from Bombo in West Hollywood.
(Jenn Harris / Los Angeles Times)

At Bombo, the Mexican restaurant that recently took over the EP&LP restaurant space in West Hollywood, the chicharrones are made for giants. The immense cracklings appear fluffy and pale, curled tightly around the edges. A single piece may be large enough to last the duration of a drive across town.

They’re sturdy but not hard, crisp but dissolving into air once you take a bite. They’re dusted in salt and vinegar powder, and there’s no need to dunk them into guacamole, despite the snack duo dominating our Tiktok For You pages.

While chef Samantha Quintero spent most of her culinary career in Los Angeles cooking Thai food at Night + Market Sahm, the menu at Bombo is an homage to her Mexican immigrant parents and their pursuit of the American dream.

“I just remember growing up, no matter how much my parents worked, our family time would always revolve around food,” she said. “I remember at the park, my dad would grill the meat my mom marinated in beer, or my mom making tamales for Christmas every year. It’s memories like that that really inspired the menu.”

Quintero grew up eating pork rinds with lime, chile and salt. For Bombo, she boils the skins, trims the fat, dehydrates them overnight and then fries the chicharrones.

“I personally love salt and vinegar chips and thought, ‘Why can’t this be on a chicharron?’”

Chile poblano croquetta from Bombo in West Hollywood.
Chile poblano croquetta from Bombo in West Hollywood.
(Jenn Harris / Los Angeles Times)

She’s also taking a radical approach to the chile relleno, turning the roasted, stuffed and battered peppers into bite-size snacks.

Quintero makes a croquette base and folds in roasted poblano peppers, cumin, coriander, cayenne and paprika and then sets it with gelatin so it’s easy to scoop and mold. She fills the spheres with Monterey Jack, Oaxacan and Parmesan cheeses, then drops them into the fryer. They’re platted with a smear of vibrant green mojo sauce full of blanched cilantro, parsley and oregano.

The crisp golden balls collapse into melted cheese and peppers, more reminiscent of a gourmet jalapeño popper than chile relleno. Call them whatever you like, they’ll be gone in seconds.

Where to eat now

Morning Summit, 219 E. Garvey Ave., Monterey Park, (626) 766-1317

Bombo, 603 N. La Cienega Blvd., Level 2, Los Angeles, (310) 855-9955,