Diho Bakery - Irvine, CA (Review w/Photos)
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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 dumplings, 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.
* Raisin Bread - Football-shaped 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.
* 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.
* Four-in-One Bun - For those who like variety without extra calories. 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, 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.
* Cai Rou Bao (Pork & Vegetable Steamed Bun) - Diho's top selling bao, it 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.
* 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.
* 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!
* Su Cai Bao (Vegetable Steamed Bun) - 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.
14130 Culver Dr # J
Irvine, CA 92604