It’s a(bao)t to get Bao-werful

It’s a(bao)t to get Bao-werful

If you’ve been to Hualien, you’ve probably heard of the famous 公正包子 (Gong Zheng Bao Zi). It’s so popular that it has a whopping 14,000 reviews on Google alone! I’ve tried out the buns on multiple occasions, and I had to try it again on a recent trip to Hualien. 

Unlike the Xiao Long Bao (小籠包) in Singapore refers to the hot soupy pork dumpling, Xiao Long Bao in Taiwan is just a pork bun. The hot soupy pork dumpling is called 小籠湯包 or Xiao Long Tang Bao in Taiwan. So imagine my horror when I first ordered the bun six years ago and got an entire tray of pork buns. 

But back to the Xiao Long Bao from 公正包子. The meat is rich and juicy, and each bun is served piping hot from the steamer. The skin is on the thicker side (see the top of the bun) but has a pleasant taste to it. It complements exceptionally well with the pork filling, which is a very well-compressed meatball. The sweet juices from the pork also make the filling moist and make the whole bun very tasty. 

Apart from the Xiao Long Bao, this shop also sells dumplings. Each dumpling’s filling is similar to the bun’s fillings but in a much smaller amount. The skin was also on the thicker side but was still really good. The garlic soy sauce is also a must-add when eating this! 

Interestingly, 公正包子 is next to a 周家蒸餃 (Zhou Jia Zheng Jiao), a shop that has almost an identical menu – same items, same price. 

I preferred the skin of the Xiao Long Bao from 周家蒸餃 as it was slightly thinner than the ones from 公正包子. However, in terms of taste, it was highly similar. The filling from 周家蒸餃 was also a little less compressed than the ones from 公正包子 and seemed to have a higher fat content – it was, therefore, a lot juicier. It also had more chives which gave it a sweet hint. The dumplings tasted the same to me – and the sauce was almost the same too! 

I know most people recommend 公正包子because it seems to be the longer-standing one, but I prefer 周家蒸餃because the buns are sweeter. The queue for the former is longer, so honestly choosing 周家增加also makes sense for me – the buns are nicer, and the queue’s shorter! 

Both shops are good so why not try them if you’re around this (Bao)werful area!  Each bun costs 5 NTD (SGD 0.24), and each tray of dumplings (10 pieces) costs 30 NTD (SGD 1.46) at both 公正包子 and 周家蒸餃。

Address

公正包子
No. 199-2, Zhongshan Rd, Hualien City, Hualien County, 970
Tel: 038342933
Hours: 08:00–20:00

周家蒸餃
No. 4-20 Gongzheng Street , Hualien City, Hualien County, 970
Tel: 03 835 0006
Hours: 00:00 – 23:59

Amorecookies – A Chewy Affair

Amorecookies – A Chewy Affair

Instagram ads can be somewhat bothersome sometimes, but the fact is we can see these ads because we fit their target group. Let’s just say that the ads worked for these cookies I’m talking about today.

Amorecookies is a Singapore-based shop that begun during the Circuit Breaker season last year. What started of as a way to bless her friends, these baked goods were eventually sold to us, the masses.

Each box came with six cookies ($19.90) and a card that had the name of cookies stamped on it. For this box of cookies, it contained the Nutella Lava, Fudgy Double Chocolate, Cranberry Oatmeal and Chocolate Chip Walnut cookies.

So now for the flavour of the cookies:

  • Nutella Lava – chewy chocolate texture and not overly sweet. Realized that I should have really heated it up before eating it as the Nutella wasn’t in a ‘lava’ form. It was better once we heated it up!
  • Fudgy Double Chocolate – on a slightly sweeter side and was on the chewy side as well. I’d choose the Nutella Lava version over this but that’s because I love Nutella!
  • Chocolate Chip Walnut – it didn’t have a lot of walnuts, but the contrasting taste between the chocolate chips and walnut was nice. The different textures also made the cookie stand out.
  • Cranberry Oatmeal – this is a good cookie if you’re not a fan of chocolate! Oatmeal cookies sometimes taste a bit too healthy, but this was actually pretty good!

We made a mistake when initially heating the cookies and ended up burning the chocolate in the microwave oven. The cookies were burnt and nearly inedible. So, follow the instructions on the card, but choose the air fryer option instead!

If you are a fan of chewy cookies, you can check this place out! They offer free delivery for orders above $55 too! As I’m writing this, I can’t help but think of the DrKitchen’s SBB Brownies – go check that out too if you haven’t!

TAIPEI FINDS: Mi Yue Mochi Tang (米玥麻糬堂)

TAIPEI FINDS: Mi Yue Mochi Tang (米玥麻糬堂)

Mochi comes in many forms – some classify mochi as muah-chee (where it’s a flour ball coated with stuff), or there’s mochi that has filling inside. Hailing from Taichung, Mi Yue Mochi Tang opened a store in Taipei City earlier this year. It usually draws a queue in Taichung, so I was pleased to find it on UberEats in Taipei.

In my order, I decided to try three flavours of mochi – the classic peanut mochi (23NTD; $1.10 SGD), milk tea (tie guan yin) mochi (35NTD; $1.70 SGD), and a taro salted egg mochi (35NTD; $1.70 SGD). Do note that these prices are UberEats prices – it’s around 5NTD cheaper per mochi if you buy it from the store directly!

Before I comment on the taste of the mochi, I’d like to compliment the excellent packaging this shop has. Customers can choose between white rabbit packaging or a ‘medicine pack’ packaging if they purchase at least four mochis – and that’s what I did – to get the cute packaging. I chose the ‘medicine pack’ packaging, which was well-packed in a small bundle. When I got my delivery, I was so tickled that it looked like an actual Chinese medicine pack:

The skin of the mochi isn’t flavoured (slightly sweet) and was consistent across all mochis. What I like was that the mochi was chewy yet thin enough. I’ve eaten many mochis where the skin was so thick that it tasted rubbery. This mochi skin is light, soft and chewy – and it doesn’t break easily. It complemented the fillings well.

The classic peanut mochi – the peanut with sugar gave the mochi a good crunch; the different sizes of crushed peanuts gave the mochi a good texture. It was not too sweet and was very satisfying. The mochi was stuffed with peanuts – it was so good.

The milk tea (tie guan yin) mochi – the paste inside consists of ‘tie guan yin’, bean and milk paste. It wasn’t blended and instead was layered within the mochi. If you like the filling of typical mooncakes, you’d like this. I felt that the taste of the filling was a tad too strong. Unlike the peanut mochi that had different textures, eating this mochi felt like eating a snow-skin mooncake. It was good, but perhaps I’d instead share it with a friend next time – one is too much for a single sitting.

The taro salted egg mochi – the taro paste was slightly sweet, and the ‘powdered’ salted egg yolk filling was nicely salted that wasn’t too salty. The contrast in flavour is good, and the different textures with the soft mochi skin made it a nice snack.

If you’re around Taichung or Taipei City, I’d recommend you to try it out. From the excellent variety in flavours to how good it tasted, it’s a worthwhile snack.

Verdict

Classic Peanut Mochi – 👍👍👍👍👍

Tie Guan Yin Mochi – 👍👍

Taro Salted Egg Mochi – 👍👍👍👍

Dr.Kitchen’s SBB – the blackest brownies ever

Dr.Kitchen’s SBB – the blackest brownies ever

We previously covered a review of some really delicious brownies, and as we go on to the another brownie review, here’s a local gem that we’ve uncovered.

Dr.Kitchen, a home bakery, offers a variety of desserts such as brownies, fruit cakes, sable cookies, and durian puffs. It has amassed more than 8,000 Instagram followers and regularly shows behind-the-scenes of the kitchen.

They take pride in utilising only the highest quality chocolate in their famous brownies. The So Black Brownies (SBB) brownies are the darkest brownies I’ve ever seen – and boy, do they taste amazing.

There are several variations to the brownies, including hazelnut Nutella, malden sea salt, and lotus speculoos. Their brownies menu is as seen below.

Dr.Kitchen SBB Menu as of Aug 2021

I’ve tried the three mentioned above and each brownie stood out differently.

Hazelnut Nutella – soft fudgey inside with molten Nutella (when eaten warm). It is not overly sweet and the richness of the dark chocolate complements the sweet Nutella filling. The hazelnuts sprinkled on the top are also generously distributed, making each bite wonderful.

Malden Sea Salt – a must if you are a fan of sea salt chocolate. The contrast of the saltiness and sweetness of the brownie is good. The saltiness is a little overpowering for me, but it is overall a great brownie to eat too!

Lotus speculoos – the gooiness of the chocolate and speculoos was smooth and it similarly had a good contrasting taste to the brownie itself. The biscuit crumbs (and half a biscuit at the top) added a nice crunch to it but I personally found it a little sweet (others loved it though!).

My family and I also tried their fruit cake, but I found it a little too dense for my taste (it’s great for people who prefer rich and dense fruit cakes, though!).

For additional information, see Dr.Kitchen’s Instagram feed. This bakery also provided wedding favors at a recent wedding I attended, and all of the attendees (including myself) raved about it.

Best wedding favours ever!

The SBB from Dr.Kitchen is by far the finest I’ve had in recent years, and I’d recommend it to friends at any time. It also makes an excellent gift!

Verdict: 👍👍👍👍👍

Mini Nasi Lemak from Ah Miao’s Kitchen

Mini Nasi Lemak from Ah Miao’s Kitchen

I recently stumbled upon an article about Ah Miao’s Kitchen, a home-based nasi lemak business, and decided to give it a shot. $1 mini nasi lemak isn’t typical in Singapore, and the photos in the article and on their Facebook page looked delicious. Interestingly, their page was only launched on July 16, 2021, and I was pleased to support this small business near my hood. 

The Malaysian-style nasi lemak is served with coconut rice, a slice of hard-boiled egg, Ikan Bilis, and a choice of sambal shrimps, sambal sotong or sambal Ikan Bilis. 

When I tried placing my order via WhatsApp late at night, I initially didn’t get a response and decided to give them a call to place my order. They were accommodating and allowed us to put our order three days before collection. Collection of the nasi lemak was at the driveway of Block 527A Pasir Ris Street 51, and although we ordered five packets of each of the choices, they were sadly unable to provide us with the sambal sotong version. We ended up collecting ten packets of sambal shrimp nasi lemak and five packets of sambal Ikan Bilis nasi lemak. 

Each packet is palm-sized and is pretty packed with coconut rice and a decent portion of ingredients (by decent, I mean decent for the price). When we called to ask, we were told that an average adult portion is around three packets of nasi lemak. 

The coconut rice was cooked using short-grain rice and was very fragrant. The coconut smell was stronger than the taste on the rice (still lovely, though!). The sambal shrimp was good – there was a good number of small shrimps, with one bigger shrimp there (bottom left image) The taste of the sambal was not too spicy and had a rich, strong flavour. I’d prefer it they gave slightly more sambal to go with the rice, though! The Ikan Bilis was also good, and the contrast of taste of the sambal and Ikan Bilis complemented the coconut rice well (bottom right image).

Mini nasi lemak is such a novel idea because it allows us to try many different flavours at a low cost. It makes an excellent treat for a party (when the COVID-restrictions are eased). I believe in supporting small businesses, and if you stay nearby, why not support Ah Miao’s Kitchen! The food’s good and their service is good too! You may want to check their Facebook page out on the ordering process, as it seems that they are pretty much booked out now. 

Verdict

Value: 4/5; Taste: 4/5

Are you nuts over nuts? [Three Squirrels Box of Nuts]

Are you nuts over nuts? [Three Squirrels Box of Nuts]

If you enjoy nuts, you’ve probably heard of Three Squirrels (三只松鼠), a Chinese company that sells exceptionally fresh tasting nuts. An ex-colleague introduced me to this brand after she brought it back from a business trip to China, and I haven’t looked back since. So, when my family and I traveled to China in 2018, we made a point of visiting their store just to purchase the nuts as gifts for relatives and friends back home. Fast forward to 2021, when many of us are still working from home and the need to munch has risen.

My dad found the Three Squirrels box of nuts (每日坚果) that comes with 30 individual packets. These snacks have been highly appreciated at home, with all of us going back for more each time.

Each packet has 6 different kinds of nuts (almonds, pistachios, hazelnuts, macadamia nuts, walnuts and cashew nuts) as well as 3 kinds of dried fruits (blueberries, raisins and cranberries). The six types of high-energy nuts take up at least 65% of the packet.

Another box variant comes with 4 different kinds of nuts and 4 kinds of dried fruits. We prefer the former but will go for the latter if we want more dried fruits.

Here’s why we keep going back for more:

It’s healthy

Compared to other snacks, these nuts and fruits are definitely healthier options. As it’s not fried, and unsalted, these make great healthy snacks.

It’s individually portioned

It’s easy to control the quantity as well because it’s well-packed individually.

The nuts and fruits are fresh and excellent

The nuts and fruits are fresh and excellent. The nuts and fruits are packed in two compartments in each packet, keeping them fresher and less sticky. Before eating, just tear down the centre and shake the pack of nuts to ensure a proper mix.

Conclusion

If you like variety and are looking for nutritious snacks, this package of 30 packets of nuts may be precisely what you need. Each box is supposed to last one month (30 days), but if you’re anything like us, you could find up nibbling on two packets a day instead.

Coffee packaging – it just gets better.

Coffee packaging – it just gets better.

If you’re a fan of coffee, you should know the many types of coffee that are out there – and it’s not just the type of coffee beans – there are many ways of making coffee as well.

We recently received a packet of coffee which served two. When told, I found it pretty strange as coffee packets usually come in single servings (I hadn’t seen the packaging yet). But then I looked over, and I realized why it served two. The packaging was unique and different from the usual coffee packs bought in the market.

The Coffee Brewer Coffee Bag

This coffee bag from The Coffee Brewer resembled a snack bag and had a small sprout. Upon reading the instructions, I realized that I had to add hot water from the top of the bag (not the sprout) to an indicated level which can be seen on the back of the package.

Essentially, there is a built-in filter bag (filled with ground coffee) within this packaging. The water poured from the top of the bag flows into the filter bag, and the filtered coffee eventually rests on the bottom of the bag. The bag’s design allows the filtered coffee to be easily poured out once you crack open the mouth of the sprout.

The idea is fascinating, makes coffee brewing easy, and honestly speaking, you can technically drink out of the bag!

As for the coffee, although I added water only to the “strong” indicator line, the coffee tasted a bit too diluted for my liking. It was also perhaps the fact that this was considered a ‘strong’ coffee that made it slightly disappointing as well. The slight tangy aftertaste was pleasant, though! It would be nice to test out their other variants, but I’ll be sure to add less water the next time I brew it.

I’ll give the innovation a 5/5 and a 3.5/5 for the coffee itself.

126 big pao price up, ingredients down

126 big pao price up, ingredients down

When it comes to baos (dumplings), Singapore is so blessed to have many brand names offering these treats — Ho Kee Pau, Tanjong Rhu Pau and Confectionary, Teck Kee Tanglin Pau, and Tiong Bahru to name a few.

Baos are great for all occasions — from proper meals to coffee break treat. They can be eaten to fill the stomach or just please the palette.

With increasing prices of raw materials, bao prices have been escalating. This is understandably so as the outlets need to remain profitable.

However, one price hike got us a little concerned. 126 Dim Sum 揾到食 has raised the price of its popular big pao to S$2, a price point unheard of at non-restaurant level. Plus, the outlet charges GST so the real price is S$2.14.

What we noticed also was that on top of the increase and GST, the slice of Chinese sausage and mushroom were missing. For some, it’s the lup cheong that makes the difference, letting this iteration stand out for the competition. It’s what makes one drive all the way to Geylang and risk getting a traffic ticket to buy the bao.

We couldn’t let this go without asking why. When queried over the phone, a staff said, “$2 is cheap already. Others are charging $2.20.”

About the missing ingredients, she said, “Some customers told us that the lup cheong is smelly so we decided to remove it,”

Dah? That slice of lup cheong has been an essential part of the setup for many years. So why now?

Truth be told, I was so disappointed by the price hike and the missing ingredient that I refused to take a photo of the bao.

Like I said at the start, Singapore has lots of great bao outlets. Time to pick another one.

Photo: Gabby K from Pexels

Exploring Taichung: Taichung Second Market

Exploring Taichung: Taichung Second Market

Did you know? Taichung has an interesting way of naming their markets – First, Second, Third, Fourth, Fifth, and Sixth Markets. This naming convention apparently came out in the past based on the order they were founded – very different from the naming conventions we are used to, but very practical. Only the second, third, fifth and sixth markets seem to be in operation at the moment. 

Over the weekend, I visited the Taichung Second Market, which had an abundance of food options. A popular tourist attraction, the market had some signs which made it easier to move around – note, easier, not easy. The market felt like a maze, but it was fun to ‘get lost’ inside as it allowed us to explore the various shops. 

Of the many food stores in the market, I ate at five of them (over two days). Here’s my quick review of the places:

Arashi Braised Minced Pork (嵐肉燥專賣店)

Unlike your usual braised minced pork rice bowl, the braised pork here comes in thin slices (think ramen chashu), topped up with minced braised pork – this is a pork-on-pork bowl. The meats were well-seasoned, and the sliced pork came with a nice chew. If you like fried shallots, you’ll love the braised minced pork sauce as it had a robust aroma of shallots. At 65 NTD (~$3.10), I’d give it a 5/5 for this affordable bowl of rice – in fact, I’d buy it even if they raised the price. 

魚皮李滷肉飯

This store serves the more traditional version of braised pork rice. Instead of ordering the braised minced pork version, I ordered one with a thick slice of pork belly. This small bowl cost 55 NTD ($2.60) and was a pretty small portion, but when topped with a fried egg, the combination of runny egg yolk, pork belly and piping hot rice was delicious. I’d give it a 4/5 because of the cost (mainly because the portion was smaller than the bowl of rice from Arashi Braised Minced Pork. 

小庭找茶 

Situated on the market’s outer ring, this shop sells traditional desserts that come with a modern twist. Of the two desserts we consumer, the 相思粉粿 (60 NTD/$2.90) consisted of red beans and a blob of yellow slimy goo topped with almond milk. This dish was unique – the taste was good, but the texture was strange. I don’t hate it, but it is not something I’d want to order again. The other dessert, however, was good. 

The dessert, 餅冰淇淋 (55 NTD/$2.60), came presented very nicely – a biscuit made of brown sugar, which resembled a coconut husk, had a scoop of ice cream and boba in it. Considering that Taichung is known to where bubble milk tea originated, I loved how they incorporated boba into the dessert. 

2/5 for the 相思粉粿. Good to try, but only for trying

4/5 for the 餅冰淇淋.

王家菜头粿糯米肠 

Tip: Buy the tea from Like Tea Shop and have it with your snack here! (Image credit: Arlene)

This stall sells traditional snacks like radish cake, glutinous rice rolls, and soups. With a pretty extensive menu, this shop honestly sells mostly carbs, making every dish very filling. We had the radish cake with an egg. The fact that they served it fresh off the griddle made it appetizing. Still, the carb-overdose was real as it felt like I was eating a flour cake that had no strips of radish within the dish – I personally prefer the Hong Kong-style radish cakes. 

3/5 for the radish cake! 

Like Tea Shop (老賴茶棧)

This shop had such a queue when I went on Saturday, so I gave it a miss, but on Sunday, this shop only had two people in line, and I took it as a sign to try it. 

As someone who does not enjoy sweet black teas, I was surprised by how smooth this cup of iced tea was. It had a strong tea fragrance and had a pleasant refreshing aftertaste. I’d give this place a solid 5/5 as this cup of tea only cost 25 NTD ($1.20)! A definite must-drink if I’m in the area! 

Conclusion

I’d highly recommend that you visit this market if you’re in Taichung, preferably in the morning as there are more shops open. The food options are abundant so do go with an empty stomach!

Taichung Second Market

No. 87, Section 2, Sanmin Road, Central District, Taichung City, 400

Closed on Mondays (Most shops are closed by 2pm)

Dihua Street – a gem in Taipei

Dihua Street – a gem in Taipei

I love visiting old streets – the vibrancy and the old, low-rise buildings just give them a nice and welcoming vibe. Over the past weekend, I visited such a street in Taipei City – Dihua Street. While it is not considered an old street, it certainly gave a similar vibe!

Located near Dadaocheng, Dihua Street is easily accessible via the Taipei metro. This street is renowned to be THE PLACE to go and shop during the Chinese New Year season. Peppered with many shops selling dried goods from seafood to snacks and preserved food, this place is heaven for shopping regardless of age.

Dihua Street

Aside from dried produce, Dihua Street is also home to many other types of shops – shops that sell local-university products, shops that sell creative products from local artists, and even an Olympus shop selling cameras and accessories. There are various small exhibitions within some of these shops as well, which make them a great place to spend an afternoon.  

I went on a rainy weekend afternoon and it was quiet, but I do believe that it’s a lot busier on dry weekends – especially because there’s food readily available in the area.

One of the shops I stopped to eat at was 度小月 – a shop with origins in Tainan. I had a taste of the Dan Zai Noodles and Braised Meat Ball which cost 50 NTD (~$.240) and 15 NTD (~$0.75) respectively – very affordable! Can’t deny that the portion was a bit small but the minced pork sauce and prawn with the noodles, topped up with piping hot soup, was quite a treat on a cold rainy day! The interior of the shop was also very unique – it had a ‘cart’ set-up resembling how they used to sell these Dan Zai Noodles in the past.

Dihua street is an amazing place to spend an afternoon. I’ll definitely check the place out again when it’s not raining. Check out the 7-11 along Dihua Street too – it really is very pretty!