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Jun 28, 2004 01:34 AM

Best Taiwanese / Chinese bakery in Bay Area

  • k

I just spent a few weeks in the Fremont area and was really impressed with SOGO Bakery in the Chinese Plaza at the corner of Mission and Warm Springs (Warren Ave exit off 880).

I especially liked their flakey taro pastries filled with taro paste. Subtle in taste and the lovely pastel purple and white exterier is very attractive. There is almost a raw dough taste to them, so if you like uncooked cookie dough, you will like these.

They also make a delicious mango pudding with slices of mango sitting on top of a white gelatin-like pudding.

They have clever little cookies wrapped beautifully like gifts.

They have good white breads like the coconut bread.Although I am not a fan of walnut breads because the walnuts are bitter, I loved the walnut bread at SOGO.

There are some beautiful cakes. I tried the Japanese cheese cake which is lite in texture and slightly dry, similar to a Polish Cheese cake.

There were quite a few good Taiwanese bakeries in the Fremont area, but I thought SOGO excelled. They have a number of locations. Shee Kee was ok, but not worth going out of my way for when I'm in the area. Is there anyplace better in the South Bay?

Is there anything similar in SF? The bakeries in the city seem more oriented to sponge cake and cookies with some dim sum items as well. I don't recall any SF Chinese bakeries that made bread.


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  1. Quite a number of Chinatown bakeries make bread and stuffed breads and croissant-like pastries. I haven't made any comparisons myself, since it's not something I go for, but it'll make a good decompression project for you, should you choose to accept the mission.

    1 Reply
    1. re: Gary Soup

      I totally agree here. The bakeries in Chinatown (there's one in particular where there are lines way out the door) blow away anything in the South Bay. You haven't even seen decent or good until you try it. I forgot the name, but it's hard to miss since you'll see crowds around it.

      Of course, the best bakeries are in Jong King and Vancouver. Had the best Chicken Pie/Pastry in my life at a place in Vancouver. You'll never want to eat any of the subpar stuff around here after that. :)

    2. The bakeries in SF Chinatown don't make the finer pastries and breads that Sogo and sometimes Sheng Kee can turn out, although I'd love to be proved wrong. I agree with you that Sogo is generally better. However, there is a Sheng Kee on Irving St. in SF to tide you over. The bakery that I was really impressed with in the South Bay, better than either of them was Kee Wah, 386 Barber Lane, Milpitas, 408-383-9288 when I tried it two years ago. Maybe one of the South Bay hounds can confirm that it's still there and rocking.

      Welcome back!

      10 Replies
      1. re: Melanie Wong

        Here's the website with locations. Hardly seems fair that there are TWO in Milpitas. I couldn't find photos the western style cakes on a quick look at the site, but the sponge cake is very light and the fruit mousse fillings equally delicate.



        1. re: Melanie Wong

          I was so near Milpitas and I missed this one.

          Gary mentioned the piroshkis and it seems that what ever type of regional Chinese food I was eating down in Fremont was Polish inspired. Somewhere either Poland invaded China or visa versa.

          There was a food court next to SOGO on Warm Springs. Some of the food was almost Polish. The egg pancakes had a wrapping that reminded me of pierogi. There was one big pancake that had nothing in it just a big pierogi wrapper.

          There were these round fish that tasted like smoked fish.

          The food court had the best sesame balls ever, even better than, uh, the upscale dim sum place in Rincon Center (I have been gone too long). The sesame exterior was crispy and sometimes totally independant of the rice flour and bean interior. Wow, I have a craving now.

          Good deal at lunch where you could get three items with either rice or noodles for $4.95. I loved the chow fun noodes which were chewy and not too greasy.

          Wonderful, wonderful meatballs which were a course grind. There was always a pig hanging among the ducks and ribs. I highly recommend the pig which had a crackly skin and succulent meat. One morning I arrived early to see pink pig carcasses being unloaded.

          I had my first jellyfish here ... I trusted the place that much. It was shredded with cucumbers and vinegar and was very refreshing. I think I may have had my first tripe ... the cat finished that. She was happy.

          They had all sorts of exotic (to me) items you could order like cow uterus (I always wondered, but never got that adventurous. There was also a mystery section to the left of the hot foods. Lots of colder looking items. A few scary looking items like the soup that looked like eyeballs, but I finally figured out was eggs.

          No one really spoke English, so questions were limited. The whole mall at the corner of Warm Springs is a kick. There are about 7 Chinese restaurants. There is a tea house - Tea Plantation 101. Sorry to say, I was occupied so the only exploring I did was at the food court. If you are in the area, I highly recommend this mall. Lion grocery is there as well. Be forwarned ... all the signs are in Chinese. There's also a deluxe Safeway across the way with a pretty decent cheese section. They cut fresh from the cheese wheels and encourage tasting.

          1. re: Krys Stanley

            Ah, yes, the food court attached to Lion on Warm Springs. It's a very unique place. Unlike the Cantonese take-out counters in SF, this one is dominated by Taiwanese and Shanghai style small snacks. There are some Cantonese things offered, but we've found them inferior. The soup with "eyeballs" might be eggs but could also be bobbing with whitish balls formed of pulverized fish.

            My sister and I often stop there on our way down to see our parents in Salinas when we leave from Oakland. The deep-fried sesame balls are about the best we've found. We buy a dozen for our mother who loves them. You can keep them for a day or two and refresh them in the toaster oven. They puff up again and expel a lot of their oil that you can dab off with a paper towel. We like the jellyfish and the soy marinated shredded pig ears. The roast duck was disappointing (again, stay away from the Cantonese stuff).


            1. re: Melanie Wong

              I noticed you've been to 369 which is my favorite for their Yang Chow fried rice. Somehow, it's got that elusive deliciousness flavor of fried rice that is unique. It was always consistent in its delivery. Lots of good sized shrimps and eggs. But that is about the only thing I really like there unless somebody else discovered other things. I tried 7-10 different items there and found other decent things like the smoked fish, etc.

              I tried and tried to duplicate the fried rice at home but it's not even close !

              1. re: Han Lukito

                But have you tried the meatballs and the sesame balls?

                Could someone who has been there tell me what the section to the right of the hot foods is all about ... the place with the "eyeball" soup. What are all those items? How do you order/eat them?

                1. re: krys stanley

                  Han is talking about a restaurant called "369" which is in the same strip mall as Sogo and Lion on Warm Springs road. This is separate from the food court we were discussing. You might want to start a new thread to answer your question since it's diverging from the bakery topic.


            2. re: Krys Stanley

              There are TWO Lions market complexes off of Warm Springs blvd. I believe you're talking about the one on Mission, which is different than then one in Dixon Landings. And the Kee Wah is located in the Dixon Landing one.

              Anyways, the Taiwanese food court next to SOGO has some good Taiwanese street foods (xiao chi). The oyster pancake was decent was good sized oysters (not too big). They also have Tainan Dan Zai Mian (Taiwan Peddler's Noodle, Han...) Although prices seem a tad high for street foods.

              They also make a very good northern steamed pork bun: BaoZi. One of the chef is from northern China and the BaoZi they make has good juicy filling without being too greasy. I haven't tried too many Baozi in the bay area, but this one is very good, especially when they first come out of the steamer.


          2. re: Melanie Wong

            You may be right, but I wouldn't automatically write Chinatown off. There's one bakery on the west side of Stockton (forgot the name) which seems to constantly have a large demand for pain de sel and western-style refined breads. It may also be that Chinatown isn't diverse enough; apparently Sheng Kee and Sogo make a lot of Mexican and Filipino specialties, too (not to mention Sheng Kee's piroshki's!) But can any of them top the Philadelphia chinatown bakery that makes a Philly cheese steak bun?


            1. re: Gary Soup

              You might be thinking of Napolean bakery.

              Krys might also want to check out Grain d'Or bakeries from Japan. Some of their offerings, Japanese-style interpretations of western pastries and breads, are closer to the Taiwanese-style of Sogo and Sheng Kee.

              1. re: Melanie Wong

                a. k. a. Andersen Bakeries, to be sure. The one on 1st Street seems to not know whether it's a Grain d'Or or an Andersen these days.


          3. the bakeries in sf are mostly run by cantonese owners(correct me if i'm mistaken) and the texture of the pastries and bread are quite different from what sogo and other southbay bakeries(i.e., Lepi D'Or Bakery in Cupertino) sell. I am sure there are people who prefer the style prevalent in the city, it's what I've found at bakeries in Chinatowns in Chicago and Los Angeles as well, but the texture is too dry and the falvors too eggy in comparison to what Sogo has so, in short, I would love to hear about places in the city too!

            1. I also frequented SOGO but the Newark branch.

              I really liked their portuguese egg tarts which is different style from Golden Gate but I still think it's probably better to some people.

              I think I know the taro cake you mentioned. The store has samples last time and the color is pastel purple and white. Quite good.

              Also, their tiramisu is quite good.

              1 Reply
              1. There are a few bakery in Chinatown that bake breads. But the bakeries in San Francisco Chinatown are Hong Kong style bakeries that are based on English baking. Taiwainese bakeries are based on the Japanese style. Which you have tried two already. I have found the Japanese style a little sweeter in taste.
                But in the South Bay there is another style of baked goods style after the Vietnamese/Chinese/French. I will post the name a two later. I know where they are but the names and address I have to check business cards or when I go there again. The good from these bakeries use alot more butter are are closer to the French.
                Hope have the time and the room to try a few more.

                1 Reply
                1. re: yimster

                  This is a good example of Vietnamese/Chinese/French bakery.
                  Yuen Yang Bakery
                  39 South Park Victoria
                  Milpitas, CA
                  408 942 8088

                  They have a really good custard tart. Not as good as Golden Gate but another close second. Lots of breads of all style. Pandan, Coconut, Chicken trunover, Curry Beef trunover and French breads.

                  Also has steam table Vietnamese and Chinese food, along with a sandwich bar made to order. The fresh bread for ths sandwiches are real good.

                  This place has the ChowFun seal of approval.