D Magazine intern Carol Shih prowls Dallas in search of the best Asian cuisine. Today she reveals her favorite Asian bakery and must….refrain… from trying to keep it a secret since she knows now all of you will go and plug up the store.
Whenever I go grocery shopping in 99 Ranch Market with my mom, I consider buying one of those ridiculous child safety harnesses that some parents use to rein in their little ones. Except mine would be a reverse leash: daughter prevents mother from her crazy tendencies to buy enough pastries from a small Taiwanese bakery inside 99 Ranch Market to feed all the children in Africa.
But who can blame her? Even I can’t help swooning once I’m standing inside Désir Bakery, surrounded by the aroma of sweet and salty breads.
A young pastry chef named Jessica told me that people come again and again because “it reminds them of the bakeries in Taiwan” and they always fall in love with the generous portions for a small amount of change. How much can five dollars buy you at La Madeleine’s bakery? A barely-breakfast of drip coffee and one mini tart. At Désir, those greens can land you a paprika hot dog ($1.19), giant “cup cake” ($1.09 for a cup cake not in the traditional American sense), a Taiwanese pineapple cake ($1.49), and a cup of house coffee ($0.99). That’s what I call a breakfast of champions.
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When 99 Ranch Market, a transplant chain from the Golden State, first opened its Plano doors during the summer heat of 2010, my mother called me in D.C. to announce the big news and has since made it a ritual to go every three weekends. We routinely stop at the bakery section first where we lay low like stealthy predators, waiting for one of the pastry chefs to hold a tray of popular, right-out-of-the-oven cup cakes and yell, “FRESH BREAD!!!!” so we can quickly grab a couple before swarms of Asian ladies steal these hot goodies.
At first glance, this cup cake is nothing special. It’s really just a starch and flour mixture that looks even uglier than those giant plush microbes some geeks like to give as gifts. Heck, most sugar-overdosed folks will wonder why something so bland is the best seller at Désir. But to Asians who prefer the hint of sweetness rather than the overwhelming taste of sugar, it’s perfect for the palates of Taiwanese immigrants like my mother who hug this warm bread and remember what it’s like to live on the other side of the Pacific Ocean.
Jennifer Tsao, Marketing Director of 99 Ranch Market, claims that Désir’s pastries are made with “unbleached flour and real butter with no artificial colors, flavors, or preservatives” – a statement I seriously question since the taro plants I’ve seen in pictures aren’t the same bright purple color I found inside their cheese puff taro bun ($1.19). Still, it’s hard to hold it against Désir when this flaky pastry (comes with cheese and pork sung filling too) sings joyful songs inside my satisfied belly before I even make it back home. Some customers like to finish their treats while they’re in the check out line. Others—exercising slightly more self-control—wait until they’re safely in the car to drive with one hand and use the other to stuff their faces with bread. My mother and I tend to fall in the latter camp.
If your taste buds aren’t shy, try the teriyaki bun for $1.19 even if it doesn’t taste anything like teriyaki; each bun has a surprise fish ball inside with a salty-sweet combo covering the top. For the sweet-toothed, go for the Portuguese egg tarts ($1.25) that have a crème brûlée-like consistency and custard filling. Individually-wrapped green tea red bean mochi cakes ($2.49 each) and pineapple cakes ($1.49 each) make the best gifts and stocking stuffers, in case you’re inclined to think ahead.
Plan to visit during the weekend when hot bread is constantly pulled from the oven and Asians practice their Speedy Gonzales moves. Before you know it, ten pairs of hands will snatch up an entire batch and you will be gazing into the depths of a very empty tray, my friend. I share all these secrets because I want you guys to eat well, but I must warn you: if you would like to remain (or become) friends with this intern, don’t you dare hog the bread and crowd up my bakery. I will hunt you down.
131 W Spring Creek Pkwy Plano, TX 75023