If you live in North Brooklyn, chances are you’ve already heard of Win Son Restaurant and Win Son Bakery, two establishments (located across the street from one another) that offer their founders’ spin on Taiwanese American cooking. And now, you can make their food at home thanks to their newly-released book, Win Son Presents a Taiwanese American Cookbook.
“Whatever you want to call it, the food we serve is what makes sense to us—a Taiwanese American guy raised in New York, and a white dude from Virginia who can cook lu rou fan better than your mom,” explains Win Son co-owner Josh Ku in the book’s opening pages. “Though we’re not trying to say our way is any better or worse than what you’d find in Taiwan, we do feel that it’s true to our experience, and it’s something that our community has, thankfully, also embraced.”
From Our Shop
I’m lucky enough to live just a short walk from the Win Son eateries—in fact, the bakery was one of the first places I tried when I moved into my apartment mere months into the pandemic. I joyfully ate my breakfast sandwich on the freezing sidewalk, straight out of the takeout container, and immediately knew I’d be back for more soon. In the many months since, I’ve seen firsthand how their inventive pastries, elevated breakfast items, and easygoing vibe are beloved by the community. “We wanted to kind of infuse Taiwanese breakfast culture with American breakfast culture, and sell soy milks next to coffees, next to donuts, next to breakfast sandwiches,” says Ku’s partner and Win Son’s chef, Trigg Brown, of the all-day café.
For the cookbook, the duo teamed up with acclaimed food writer (and past F52 contributor) Cathy Erway to bring together recipes from both restaurants. Think dishes like Black Sesame Noodles with Mushrooms, Pan-Griddled Pork Buns, Bolo Bao, and Mochi Donuts. To celebrate the publication of their new book, I—along with our social content creator Dominique Evans and video editor Isabel Montes—spent the day at Win Son Bakery with Ku, Brown, and the restaurant’s pastry chef Danielle Spencer. There, we chatted about the ins and outs of their restaurants, cookbook, and one of their most popular items: the bacon, egg, and cheese on a flaky, crispy scallion pancake. Here’s what we learned.
They Make A Lot of pancakes
Win Son Bakery has a small, dedicated team of five who are solely devoted to making scallion pancakes almost every day of the week. On a busy day, they’ll make 1,000 to 1,200 pancakes, and on the slowest day, the number only goes down to around 700 or 750.
It’s Hard to Improve Upon Perfection
“We knew if we had a bakery and…if we sold bacon, egg, and cheeses, if it wasn’t going to be $4.50 from the deli (which is the best way to eat a bacon, egg, and cheese in New York) we had to really bring the heat,” says Brown of the scallion pancake-based breakfast sandwich.
Community is Everything
Win Son Bakery was one of the first restaurants in the area to reopen during the pandemic—thanks, in part, to the labor required to make their scallion pancakes. “There were opportunities to reorganize our labor model and put people to work that wanted to work, even when we didn’t necessarily have hours,” says Brown. “It was an opportunity to employ people when people needed work, and we needed stuff to get done. It was really cool.”
Whatever You Do—Don’t Overwork the Dough
Using a rolling pin often overworks the dough, resulting in a tough, hard pancake. Instead, Brown picked up an alternative method—flattening the dough with one’s palms—from the restaurant’s employees. “The technique that these folks taught me from Puebla [for] how to not overwork the dough is by never using a rolling pin,” he says. “That was like a lightbulb moment for me.”
Want to try your hand at recreating Win Son’s scallion pancake breakfast sandwich at home? We got the recipe (you can thank us later).