January 25, 2013

Pudding quest

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Lunar New Year is fast approaching, and once again I'm on a quest for traditional puddings for mom.  For the last few years she has increasingly been disinterested in the turnip puddings (蘿蔔糕) in favor of the water chestnut puddings (馬蹄糕), for the simple reason of their rarity in Taiwan.  The turnip puddings may not be that yummy in Taipei but at least they are widely available, whereas water chestnut puddings are near impossible to find.

So I started calling restaurants around town to inquire about the availability of puddings, and also asked for recommendations from friends on Facebook.  I then decided that I wanted to try out the puddings at Fook Lam Moon (福臨門) before placing an order, and once again asked on Facebook whether anyone would like to join me for lunch…  Thankfully there were volunteers…

For once I didn't order anything that I normally would… Decided to be a little adventurous and stay away from the usual suspects.  Good thing my friend KC was there to help.

These fancy-looking deep-fried prawn balls were really yummy.  A burst of juices and flavors greets you as the bouncy ball finally gives in to your teeth.  Something to consider the next time I'm back here.

Pan-fried cuttlefish patties with corn (金粟墨魚餅) isn't something I order often, but I'm a sucker for things made with cuttlefish paste.  Nice and a little chewy, with corn kernels for added crunch.

Pan-fried cured meat and radish cake (香煎蘿蔔糕) - gotta try some of this in advance of my pudding order.  This was very tasty and not skimpy on ingredients, but a little too soft in terms of texture.  Tough to pick up with your chopsticks without the patty falling apart.  Wonder if it's better for steaming…

Pan-fried water chestnut cake (香煎馬蹄糕) - the main reason I'm here today.  Pretty tasty with that water chestnut flavor and caramelized sugar.  The only pity is that there isn't more slices of water chestnut to add even more fragrance and crunch.

These steamed rolls with glutinous rice were OK, but a little bland for my taste.

These steamed dumplings with crab meat and coriander were pretty tasty, and a welcome change from prawns as stuffing.  Also love the fragrance from the coriander.

Steamed buns with lotus paste and salty egg yolk (蛋黃蓮蓉包) - they really do it well here… just about perfect for me.  Delicious lotus seed paste balancing with the egg yolk, inside a fluffy steamed bun.

Despite being skimpy on the water chestnuts, I ended up ordering a water chestnut pudding after lunch, anyway… along with some turnip pudding.

I was only 2 blocks away from my next stop - Kung Lee (公利真料竹蔗水).  I had pre-ordered one of their water chestnut pudding with sugar cane juice (蔗汁馬蹄糕), and went over to pick it up ahead my flight home this evening.  Of course I wouldn't miss a chance to grab a cup of sugar cane juice (竹蔗汁)

Hours later, after I arrived back in my comfy apartment in Taipei, mom decided to pan-fry some slices of the pudding from Kung Lee along with the mass-produced version from Lei Garden (利苑), another so-called Michelin-starred chain of restaurants.  Verdict?  The one from Lei Garden may look impressive with lots of water chestnuts, but it just didn't have the taste or leave a nice fragrance in your mouth.  The one from Kung Lee, on the other hand, tasted much more delicious as the cane sugar caramelized, and the softer texture also won out.

I look forward to coming back to Taipei in 2 weeks' time, when I pick up the puddings from 2 other Michelin-starred restaurants and do another taste test with mom.

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