I do love a good pork chop rice. While it seems to be available at every other Chinese restaurant in New York City (there’s even a restaurant named for it), this Taiwanese classic is quite difficult to find in London (unless you make it at home as I have in the past). It was on the menu at Old Tree Bakery, though, a Taiwanese bakery-cafe in Golders Green, and I made my way there one Saturday for lunch. I had first discovered the existence of the bakery at one of the annual Taiwanese food festivals and I had been impressed by their biscuits.
It’s not very far from the tube station and it’s a bright and airy space with a case of colourful cream cakes and their buns all on display in the window. There’s something almost unworldly about their baked buns, all hyper glossy and looking fake, like plastic. But I wasn’t there for buns, I wanted pork chop rice.
It was still empty when I arrived but the cafe filled up quickly. The waitresses, all in identical uniforms, were lined up behind the counter and all looked extremely nervous. One left the safety of the pack to give me two menus, one’s the same as that online and the other is of even more Taiwanese specials) and I ordered a bubble pearl milk tea (£3.60) and their marinated pork chop with stewed egg and rice (£6.50). I got my order through easily but a couple near me had trouble with their order as their waitress spoke very little English. Don’t expect great service here.
The bubble pearl milk tea was quite milky but very nice. Cold and refreshing and a good chew on the tapioca pearls.
The pork chop rice came looking a treat. The chop was a thin lightly battered version (sometimes they’re grilled), dusted with a mixture with five spice powder. As is traditional in Taiwan, this was served with rice topped with a rich minced pork sauce and sweet-tart pickled mustard greens. The egg had been cooked with the pork mince sauce and had soaked up all that savoury flavour.
The meal even included a side of soup, a clear broth with seaweed and tofu. It certainly scratched that pork chop itch. If I had to nitpick, the pork chop could have been thicker.
A couple of buns came home with me for Blai. They’re perfectly fine though the roast duck bun I bought had scant filling for the price (£2.50); in general, their buns are more expensive than the bakeries in Chinatown.
I’ll be back for that chop though. Good things have also been said about their Taiwanese beef noodle soup and I want to try their homemade Taiwanese sausage.
Old Tree Bakery
105 Golders Green Road
London NW11 8HR