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Sep 28, 2009 03:20 PM

"Earwax" rice cake dessert at Dean Sin World / Tastio, Monterey Park.

Last night, Tastio introduced a much loved Tianjin snack: Pan fried “Ear” flat rice cake. (天津 耳朵 炸餅 per DSW staff, official Wiki name: 耳朵眼炸糕) and I happened to be there for the serendipitous first tasting. After googling various combinations to death, I finally found a Chinese wiki of said snack: . Pan fried “Earwax” flat cake was invented by Tianjin's Mr. 刘万春 (Liu Wan Chun) in 1892, when he dished out about 30 lbs of these glutinous rice cakes on a daily basis. As business grew and his sons joined the store, they sold upwards of 200 lbs of fried rice cakes a day and quadrupled during holidays. The shop abutted an extremely narrow (1 meter wide) alley, colloquially known as an “alley the width of earwax”, hence the cake became well known as “earwax fried cake”.

Here, in the US, for the sake of not grossing out the readers and eaters, Dean Sin World will serve up the chewy golden goodness as long as you point to your ear, and not pick your earwax.

“Earwax” rice cake is now known as part of the 3 specialty foods of Tiajin, and was voted by the Chinese government as a National Treasure Snack in 1997. These cakes are known for 4 qualities: yellowness, softness, stretchiness, pungency. Yellowness translated to the outer crisp, which is not quite crunchy, softness equates to not over pan frying the glutinous rice, stretchiness is another obvious feature of all things glutinous and pungency is the aroma released from frying carbohydrates. Each ear flat cake weighs on the average 60-80grams (2-3 ounces) and may contain various stuffings: chocolate, Osmanthus flower, jujube, and the more traditional red bean paste.

At Tastio, the “earwax” flat cakes were inspired by Mrs. He, a Tianjin native, who works along Mrs. Lu. They’re flat yet plump, with a thin layer of red bean paste. Koreans will say this resembles “ho dduk”, but the texture and shape is much more uniform, and fried with very little oil, at a lower temperature. Overall, it’s a more delicate product sporting less sweetness, and a balanced crisp, chewy texture.

Bottom line: think hot fried mochi, cheap, with red bean paste center.

For complete DSW write up, peep:

Nota bene: not affil'd with DSW in any way.

Dean Sin World
306 N Garfield Ave # 2, Monterey Park, CA

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  1. Lovely. By the way, I've always understood that these cakes were deep-fried (not pan-fried)??

    Any idea if they make Shuligao (熟梨糕) or Tianjin Churros (麻花)?

    10 Replies
    1. re: ipsedixit

      How are the 耳朵眼炸糕 different than 年糕 (nien gao, which are Chinese New Year cakes)?

      1. re: J.L.

        The former have fillings (e.g. red beans, etc.), the latter do not. Any additions to the nian-gao dough is mixed, or incorporated directly into the dough.

        Also, nian-gao are paste-like (when uncooked) and can be prepared either steamed or pan-fried. The Ear wax (I prefer the term "ear hole") cake are more pastry-like, sort of like a crepe made from glutinous rice flour.

          1. re: J.L.

            BTW, strictly semantics...

            Ear wax is 耳垢 in Chinese. The dish containing the characters 耳朵眼 is more accurately translated as "the eye of the ear" (AKA ear hole or ear orifice).

            The fact that any dish containing the word "orifice" in its name alone would probably bring the "fear factor" up a few notches.

            1. re: J.L.

              That's why on my post above I noted that I preferred the term "ear hole" as opposed to "ear wax" ...

              1. re: ipsedixit

                Yeah I indeed saw that before I posted. I just wanted to write earwax in Chinese on a food board and get away with it.... :P

                1. re: J.L.

                  Points all well made. Ear wax is also 耳屎, but I didn't want to go down that path. Mrs. He translated roughly (by simulating ear picking), and I took creative liberty. However, Googling did also yield Earwax cake when researching 耳朵眼炸糕.

                  Nonetheless, the original name of 耳朵眼, ear hole, makes much more translational sense when speaking of adjoining alley.

                  All of my mis-transliteration aside, it's good stuff.

                  1. re: TonyC

                    I just worry that your descriptive title of this snack will turn people off.

                    Can you imagine a post about "eye wax cookies"? Or how about "bellybutton crud cakes"? Maybe "toejam pastries ..."?

      2. re: ipsedixit

        I triple checked, looked at the pan, etc. Definitely pan fried. My understanding was that it was commonly deep fried but hey, she wants to be "healthy". The pan fried version suits my tongue quite a bit.

      3. That sounds a lot like the cake they gave me as a free appetizer last time I was at DSW. It definitely had the red bean paste center.

        Also, they now have a a big banner saying Dean Sin World out front.