Eat Here, Not There: Pork Rice At First Class Sandwich

Had I put this out as a Guess Where I Ate item, no one would ever get it. Not ever. It is from First Class Sandwich, a food court vendor in Irvine whose menu consists entirely of, well, sandwiches. That is, with the exception of two items scribbled on a whiteboard and offered by its Chinese owner as a point of pride.

I was in line at a competing stall with every intention of ordering my
usual pad see ew from Thai & Chinese Express; but the woman at First
Class Sandwich beckoned me over. With no one in line at her stall and a never-ending queue of people at the Thai vendor, she was doing her best to
poach customers from her competitor. “Try our pork rice, that line's too
long!” she pleaded with me. So I did.

This post is an “Eat Here,
Not There”, because that's exactly what the woman at First Class
Sandwich said to me.
And at around $6, her soy-sauce braised pork with rice is not just a
rarity at this food court, but in all of OC. I've not seen it in decades at any restaurant south of Interstate 60.

The proper name in the
Hokkien dialect is tau yew bak, a basic home style dish that
consists of pork belly simmered in soy with a hard-boiled egg and a
rectangular piece of tofu, all of it eaten over rice. It has many interpretations.
Even Indonesians have a variant. It could be argued that Filipino's do one version and call it pork
adobo, though that's a stretch.

First Class' is a decent rendition, not perfect. The pork could have been a little more tender, the tofu less leathery. But there were a handful of pickled Chinese mustard
greens, boiled cabbage, a tuft of cilantro for extra
color and the egg had been thoroughly imbued through and through with the flavors of the pot. Most important, the cooking liquid was ambrosia over the rice. If there's one thing to lament, the dish probably would've been better if there was more turnover on it. Despite the efforts of that enthusiastic woman, I was probably the only person to order the dish the entire afternoon. I would imagine the rest of the pot went on to being served as supper for her family at home.

First Class Sandwich, 2540 Main St., Irvine, CA 92614

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