1024 E. Valley Blvd.
Sometimes I not only get tips from my friends about very good places to eat but I also get samples, and this was the case with Little Swan Bakery. In this case the samples were sent by Priority Mail in a larger package of other items, and were sent this way because the bakery items do have a limited shelf life. Fortunately they last several days before they have a noticeable deterioration of quality.
Little Swan Bakery Cafe has two locations–one in Alhambra, California (in the Los Angeles area) and one in the San Francisco area. They do not serve meals in the store, but apparently have water or coffee to go with your pastries if you want to eat on site. The bakery is Chinese style, and I assume that it is Cantonese. They serve a wide variety of pastries including crepes, buns, bread, croissants, etc. Egg tarts are a popular item.
I know from my samples and from other experiences that Chinese pastries are not as sweet as American ones, and I am told by some this is done on purpose “so you can eat more” (they like to have desserts more often rather than having less frequent treats that are over the top in sweetness). From the flavor of the samples I tried I would say you are not missing out on anything by having the less sweet Chinese pastries. In fact, I think they have a great flavor and are special treats when I have had them.
I should mention that there is a plethora of Chinese bakeries in the Los Angeles area, and my friends mentioned that this was one of their favorites (worthy of sending a “care package” to those who do not have regular access to the authentic Chinese baked goods).
The Wife Cake is one of the best sellers at the bakery, and I think Little Swan is known as one of the best places to buy them. These have a flaky crust, a sweet filling, and are topped with white sesame seeds. The filling is winter melon, and it has a slightly crunchy texture as well as a moderately sweet flavor.
A dozen come in a box, and I would say the size of each “cake” is similar to many of the Mexican style pan dulce items. The terms “bread” and “cake” do not mean the same at Chinese bakeries as they mean in English–the bread is usually more sweet than is normal for Americans while the cake varies from a barely perceptible sweetness to one that I would consider as about medium (I would say the wife cake is the latter).
A single wife cake makes a satisfying dessert, but you could eat more and not go over the safe sugar intake level.
The second item I tried is considered a snack rather than a dessert. It was just barely sweet, but enough so that it would be equivalent to the American “sweet” snacks rather than the “salty” ones.
I was told that the actual Chinese name for this is “Chicken And,” which I would probably say should be something like “Chicken Plus.” In other words, it has chicken plus whatever makes it sweet. Like the wife cake, it also had sesame seeds on top.
My friend thinks it may actually be pork rather than chicken, but I could not tell. All I know is that it makes a good snack, and is apparently devoid of the products that American manufacturers love to include that you cannot pronounce and which have little to no nutritional value.
If you go to the bakery there are many more items that are fairly perishable, but these are two that are able to be shipped and maintain their freshness for a while.