First Look

Rice to the Occasion with Tao Rice Rolls in Plano

From left to right: bacon, tao in purple rice, traditional, Taiwan in purple rice, sweet
From left to right: bacon, tao in purple rice, traditional, Taiwan in purple rice, sweet Didi Paterno
Call it by its name. It is not Taiwanese sushi, nor is it Taiwanese kimbap. More so, it is not remotely a Taiwanese burrito. As we close 2021 and open the new year, it is time to call dishes by their actual names.

Let us introduce you to fan tuan [fun-twan], Taiwanese breakfast rice rolls.

Yes, they may share similar ingredients — rice, dried seaweed sheets, protein such as eel, egg, shrimp, fish, even kimchi — but the fan tuan is a fan tuan. And what better way to get to know this delicacy better through Tao Rice Roll in the other DFW Chinatown in central Plano.
click to enlarge This is only the second location outside of Queens, NYC. - DIDI PATERNO
This is only the second location outside of Queens, NYC.
Didi Paterno
Originally from Queens, New York City, Tao Rice Roll moved further west and set up shop in two Texas locations, including the one in Plano (the other is in Houston). They serve a wide range of traditional Taiwanese breakfast items with fan tuan front and center.

Fan tuan is no one-trick pony. While all are wrapped with a layer of compacted sticky rice filled with pork floss, sweet and savory tufts of fine threads of dried pork, there are 14 combinations to choose from.

We tried a few.

If you prefer the traditional option from their menu, imagine sticky rice filled with pork floss, youtiao bits (deep-fried hollow dough sticks) and cubed pickled radish. Another favorite is the Taiwan, a mix of sweet, fatty lap Cheong (Chinese sausage), pork floss, youtiao and pickled radish. Their signature Tao roll is ground pork and shiitake mushroom mixture, braised egg, pork floss, sliced lettuce and mayonnaise.

Blending and adapting into the American food landscape, they also have a bacon rice roll with, of course, bacon, braised boiled egg, lettuce, youtiao bits and more pork floss. The sticky rice is the perfect sponge for the bacon grease.

Make no mistake thinking that the sweet fan tuan is a dessert-fan tuan. Rather, it is a sweet and savory rice roll with marinated egg, pork floss, crispy youtiao bits and a generous sprinkle of black sesame sugar. It is a traditional combination loved by many.

Notice the flavor pattern here? Chewy, crispy, sweet and savory with a kiss of sourness to balance it all out.
You also have the option to choose between white or upgrade to purple rice for an additional fifty cents for any of your selected fan tauns. Purple rice is a combination of white sticky rice and black sticky rice, the latter which lends and evens out its majestic color to all the white rice grains.

Pair your choice of fan tuan with the traditional drink, a glass of in-store made soy milk. This is soy unlike the ones from the cartons in the supermarkets; it's not muted nor masked by vanilla or other flavors, the taste of the soy shines.
click to enlarge Salted soy milk with youtiao, seaweed and scallion. - DIDI PATERNO
Salted soy milk with youtiao, seaweed and scallion.
Didi Paterno
On a cold day, get a cup of hot and sweet soy milk. Or if you're feeling curious, try the salted option, which is more a soup than a drink, a dairy-free, creamy savory soup accentuated by the texture of crispy youtiao, chewy seaweed and scallion. It's best eaten hot and fresh for contrast in textures. You can get an iced soy milk as well.

Fan tuan is both affordable — with each roll priced between $4.75 and $5.95 — and jam-packed with flavor and texture. Don’t be fooled by their 5-inch size; they will fill you up. Conveniently packaged, you are supposed to hold it in your hand and eat. Then you can rewrap if it is unfinished and continue eating later.

They are best eaten fresh on the same day. But if push comes to shove, wrap tightly, store in the fridge and steam to give it a second life.

Be proud that you now have added to your gastronomic knowledge range. Remember, fan tuan, the Taiwanese breakfast rice roll. Now go eat some.

Tao Rice Roll, 2001 Coit Road, #166, Plano, Monday-Friday 7:30 a.m. - 3 p.m.; Saturday 7:30 a.m. - 6:30 p.m.; Sunday Closed
KEEP THE DALLAS OBSERVER FREE... Since we started the Dallas Observer, it has been defined as the free, independent voice of Dallas, and we'd like to keep it that way. With local media under siege, it's more important than ever for us to rally support behind funding our local journalism. You can help by participating in our "I Support" program, allowing us to keep offering readers access to our incisive coverage of local news, food and culture with no paywalls.