I unabashedly love Taiwanese food, a food category that is surprisingly difficult to find in New York City, let alone at a high quality. After trekking across boroughs to the end of the 7 Line, I've finally found a favorite destination for this elusive cuisine. Ok Ryan shines in signature Taiwanese dishes, such as oyster omelettes and stinky tofu along with traditional breakfasts.
Before I go into a food drunk recommendation of the dishes I love, I should back up first and describe what makes Taiwanese food distinctive in my perspective. Much Chinese-style food found outside Asia tends to be dominated by derivatives of Cantonese style cooking, think about your typical chow mein dishes, beef with broccoli, and generally items with brown sauce.
Taiwanese food instead features strong influences from Fujian province, where most Taiwanese can trace ancestry, flavors from its indigenous people, and cuisines from all over China remixed with regional touches. Taiwan is a subtropical island, so many of the ingredients have a strong emphasis on aromatics and seafood. Taiwanese cooking enhances the natural flavor of ingredients coming through rather than heavy use of sauces. Garlic, green onion, basil, chili, cilantro, and sesame oil are all bases in many different dishes that bring out the freshness of vegetables or the umami flavor of proteins, which Ok Ryan does very well.
Where Ok Ryan shines is that it is a rare restaurant that prepares a large variety of authentic dishes very well. They do serve the typical orange chicken, braised pork belly and soft shell crab dishes that appease the masses, perfect if your dining buddies aren't ready to go all-in on less familiar dishes. For the more adventurous, authentic dishes such as stinky tofu - a fried fermented tofu with a strong odor - or intestine (think chitlins) with pickled vegetables are also available and delicious.
I recommend going for breakfast as well as lunch, and dinner too. Breakfast items of choice include egg baked cake, a comparable riff to a breakfast burrito with fluffy eggs wrapped in a green onion and flour wrap. Also delicious are pretty much any item with beef and of course, crullers, often referred to as Chinese donuts. Wash it all down with fresh soy milk.
Lunch and dinner recommendations include the aforementioned oyster omelette, made with fresh oysters, a starchy egg batter, veggies, and a sweet chili sauce to top it off. Get some braised pork rice, beef noodle soup, and three cup chicken to get a well-rounded culinary journey of popular Taiwanese dishes. You really can’t go wrong with any item on the menu that has basil in it to get true feel for Taiwanese flavor. For well under $40 you can order four dishes and get away with a solid dinner for three.
Admittedly, OK Ryan is quite the hike for many New Yorkers outside of Queens, but for the adventurous lovers of Asian food or those deprived of Taiwanese food like me, it is well worth multiple trips to sample many different authentic dishes.
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