2-D Wok on S. Virginia Street and Orchard Plaza, tucked away in a strip mall, is serving some of the best Taiwanese food Reno has to offer.
The Lin family, originally from Taipei, capital city of Taiwan, shared some typical flavors and ingredients found in Taiwanese cuisine. Alvina Lin, daughter of Shawn and Teresa, the restaurant’s owners, said that their restaurant uses a salt, pepper, and proprietary spice blend in many dishes. Other prominent ingredients include soy sauce, chili oil, sesame paste, mustard greens, plum salt, peanuts, green onion, pork belly, chicken, seafood, eggs, ginger, various vegetables, rice, noodles, beef shank, and beef bones.
I asked Alvina about the influence of other cultures on Taiwanese cuisine. She identified China and Japan as the dominant outside influences. “Taiwanese put their own spin on different dishes from these other countries that influenced Taiwanese food,” she said.
Taiwan is known for its night markets and the street food served at those markets. Popcorn chicken, sweet potato fries with plum salt, and pork bao are favorites served at the markets as well as at 2-D Wok.
Also commonly found at the street markets and at Taiwanese businesses is the religious and cultural figure phonetically pronounced in English as “2-D.” Shawn explained that his restaurant derives its name from this deity. On the first and fifteenth of every month, Taiwanese businesses will pay homage to 2-D with rice and wine.
Given my love for street food, I opted for some of the classics and a couple other dishes that piqued my interest.
- Taiwanese Pork Bao ($4): The open-faced steamed bun was soft and airy. It was topped with stewed pork belly, crushed peanuts, cilantro, and pickled mustard greens. The pork belly was tender with a dominant soy sauce flavor. The garnishes added a variety of textures and a bit of zip.
- Sweet Potato Fries ($7): The fresh cut fries were crisp and tossed in plum salt. Plum salt is a salty, sour, sweet, and granular seasoning somewhat akin to Fun Dip in terms of mouthfeel. The Lins import the distinct and delicious seasoning to ensure its quality.
- Crunch & Munch Chicken ($7): The Crunch & Munch Chicken, aka Popcorn Chicken, was made exceptionally well. The breaded nuggets were served with the signature salt, pepper, and proprietary spice blend. The Lin’s ability to adhere the breading so tightly to the chicken while maintaining the chicken’s juice and tenderness was masterclass. A bit of basil atop the freshly fried chicken was delicious.
- Spicy Wontons ($6): The handmade steamed dumplings were filled with pork and rested atop a mixture of sesame paste and house-made chili oil. Crushed peanuts and green onions served as garnishes. I loved the deep chili flavor in the oil. The heat from the chilis was present, but not overwhelming.
- Takuan Omelette ($5): Though the ingredients in this dish are few – egg, pickled daikon radish, and green onion – the execution creates something beautiful. The radish and onion helped to add some texture to the dish. The omelette was thin and had the strong umami flavor that well-fried eggs produce. Shawn advised that this dish is often eaten with rice in Taiwan for breakfast.
If you don’t dive deep into a food coma as I did with my meal, Alvina suggests shaved ice for dessert. “There is actually a huge variety of desserts, shaved ice being the most famous. There can be all kinds of toppings like fruit, red bean, mung bean, or mochi,” said Alvina. I’ve long wanted to try shaved ice with red beans. I imagine it like the Ghost of Ice Cream Past. My next visit will definitely include the cold treat.
Businesses don’t need to be family-run to achieve success, but restaurants in particular really seem to benefit from this dynamic. Alvina, Shawn, and Teresa made me feel very welcome in their restaurant. The conversations I had with them inspired a genuine curiosity in me to learn more about Taiwan’s people, culture, and food.
Visit the Lin family at #5, 2303 S. Virginia St. Their menu is available online at 2dwokreno.files.wordpress.com/2017/07/2dwokmenu.pdf. Their recently updated operating hours are noon to 8 p.m. Wednesday through Monday and closed on Tuesdays.