Gung-Ho About Taiwanese Breakfast? Try Kung-Ho, Near Seattle
If you didn't know to ask, chances are you'd never see the breakfast menu at Kung-Ho, in Bellevue, WA. (Unless, of course, you happen to be Chinese and/or a regular.) It's a menu worth requesting, though once you have it, you'll have to hope the server has the time and patience to tell you what's on it, since there's no English translation on-hand. Then again, given the reasonably low prices, more intrepid diners can always just randomly select a number of items and have a good chance of enjoying most everything. But let me steer you to a few of my personal favorites (and where to point should you decide to give them a try).
Though Kung-Ho serves up the ever-popular sweet soymilk soup, I recommend going for the Savory Soymilk Soup ($2; top left) instead. It's served warm, topped with sliced scallions and some pleasantly crispy chunks of Chinese doughnut. The server wouldn't tell me what was else is in the soup, but I detected soy sauce, perhaps some vinegar, and sesame oil. But no matter the ingredients, I find the dish soothing and comforting, especially on cooler days.
For more doughnut options, look a bit farther down the lefthand column for the rice rolls. The sixth item is Kung-Ho's sweet version, but I again recommend going savory with the Salty Fan Tuan ($2.75; 7th down). Cut in half, the roll (which comes in plastic wrap) reveals the crunchy doughnut that runs its length, along with dried, shredded pork known as rousong, or pork floss, which adds salty, meaty flavor. Typically, they're quite fresh, but the roll on this particular day was on the dry side, leaving me to wonder whether it had sat overnight.
Turn next to the righthand column of the menu, where you'll find the Wa Gui ($1.99; 3rd down), a steamed rice cake that comes out in a small bowl. Puncture the hoisin sauce-sweetened sticky rice to unearth bits of pork. Eating wa gui is an enjoyably chewy experience that's deceptively filling but delicious—consistently one of my favorite dishes at Kungo-Ho.
And if offal doesn't bother you, I'd strongly recommend an order of the Oyster Noodle Soup ($4.25; 7th down). Just don't expect a classic noodle dish—the thin wheat noodles are extremely soft and barely even need to be chewed. It's the texture of the soup that's most interesting, a starchy affair that's filled with thin bamboo strips, shiitake mushrooms, some oysters, and intestines (a welcome surprise in my book, at least). With a dash of black vinegar for some acidic kick, it's a satisfying rendition that's reminiscent of those I've heartily enjoyed at night markets in Taiwan.
Though the menu is also studded with dishes more familiar to American palates, like scallion or oyster pancakes, Kung-Ho's strengths lie elsewhere. It's the sort of restaurant where you're best off exploring new territory, and perhaps even discovering a few exciting dishes to add to your roster.
About the author: Jay Friedman is a Seattle-based freelance food writer who happens to travel extensively as a sex educator. An avid fan of noodles (some call him "The Mein Man"), he sees sensuality in all foods, and blogs about it at his Gastrolust website. You can follow him on Twitter @jayfriedman.