Lao Tao is not just another race-to-the-bottom Chinese restaurant in Chinatown. In fact, it doesn’t even serve Cantonese food or ethnic Vietnamese-Chinese food, the two staples of Chinatown. Lao Tao is different. Lao Tao focuses on experimental, low-priced but quality Taiwanese street food. In Taiwanese “Lao Tao” translates to “foodies” which coincidentally is the name of this eponymous blog which is kind of cool.
Surprisingly the owner and chef, David Wang, is not Taiwanese. He’s from Southern China but grew up with Taiwanese classmates. In designing the menu for Lao Tao, Wang extensively researched Taiwanese street food in Taiwan and experimented greatly with recipes in his kitchen. I was told that he tried over 30 variations in fine-tuning some menu items. You can tell immediately from talking to him about his passion for Taiwan, street food, and cooking. Lao Tao’s food is surprisingly authentic and delicious. It nostalgically reminds me of my own foodie adventures in Taiwan.
The first dish I sampled was beef ban mian which is flat noodles topped with beef flank, pickled vegetables, fresh cut tomatoes, and green scallions. The beef was stewed over 8 hours and tender to the touch. Unlike traditional beef ban mian, Wang does not add tomatoes to the beef stew broth. He made this variation because he felt that tomatoes are too prevalent in Western soups, overpowers the beef broth taste, and make his beef ban mien less unique. Instead he adds fresh cut tomatoes as a topping to the finished dish which changes the consistency of the dish making it fleshier and retaining more of the umami.
The next dish I sampled was the Rub a Belly dish. It contains braised pork belly with rice, shiitake mushrooms, a soy-sauce marinated egg, pickled cucumbers, scallions, and rice. The pickle cucumbers taste homemade just like my grandmother used to make them.
And finally an egg rice bowl with corn and pickled vegetables, and scallions.
If you’re looking for a new twist in Chinatown, check out Lao Tao. You don’t need to trek to San Gabriel Valley for great Taiwanese Street Food any longer.
727 N Broadway
Los Angeles, CA 90012
11AM – 3 PM
5:30 PM – 9 PM
11AM – 9PM