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

Computex does it right

The card that means a lot to international visitors.

Throughout my career and in my voluntary work, I’ve had the opportunity to attend many events — including many mega ones — in Singapore and around the world.

Organisers often spend much effort in marketing their event so that they can draw more exhibitors and participants. That’s well and good because they are in it for the profit.

What happens after registration and turning up is another thing. Some events have let me down tremendously — from poor logistics planning to lack of interest in visitors. All they wanted was to meet their KPI of visitor numbers.

Of course, they’re not all bad. There have been events where I’ve come out smiling for the experience, whether it’s the welcoming feel, content, exhibits, or takeaways that I’ve gathered.

But there is one event where the organisation stands tall above all. It’s Computex Taipei.

I’ve had the privilege of attending this mega IT show in Taiwan since 2003 and its organisers, Taiwan External Trade Development Council (TAITRA) and Taipei Computer Association (TCA) certainly puts in lots of effort to draw the crowd and keep them happy.

Before the event starts, they send invitations to trade visitors and get this — offer sponsorship of accommodation to those who qualify.

International participants are provided with official letters for speedier clearance at airport immigration. Believe me, this is a major plus when you look at the queue.

Registration is made easy with counters at all the halls. The tags can also be delivered to the participants’ hotels. Wow!

Now, for the clincher. Every international participant is given a Taipei Metro card with unlimited travel on the subway from the start of the exhibition to the day after it ends. That’s a whopping value of NTD900 (about US$28.60) for five days of subway convenience. No other event that I’ve been to, including big ones in the United States, accord such a benefit to visitors.

It’s really convenient to get around in Taipei with their extensive subway network. And the key event venues at Taipei World Trade Center in the city and Nangang Exhibition Hall on the outskirts sit near a station.

On top of that, the thoughtful organisers also provided bus shuttles among the venues, as well as to many hotels.

Kudos, TAITRA and TCA! You’ve made going to Computex a joy and something that I look forward to every year.

Chia Te and Sugar & Spice in vending machine

Chai Te and Sugar & Spice goodies are available from this machine,

Each trip to Taipei usually involves a stop at Chia Te at Nanjing East Road to buy its mouth-watering pastries for the folks back home. And since a friend introduced me to Sugar & Spice, that’s another stop to make while in Taipei.

Imagine my joy when I took a walk at Level 2 of Taipei Main Station and came across this vending machine (above). The two labels caught my eyes and I quickly made a beeline to check out what’s available.

Chia Te’s pineapple tarts were available for TWD200 for a small box of six. The tarts are among the best I’ve tasted. A friend gave me a box a couple of weeks ago so the taste is still fresh on my tongue.

I tried looking for the Sugar & Spice offering but could not find it in the machine. The poster at the side did show the nougat, which is what I love from this brand. Perhaps, others like them too — that’s why they’re not there.

Anyway, I think it’s a brilliant idea by both brands to make their goodies available in the vending machine. Taipei Main Station is such a busy place with thousands of tourists passing through daily.

It will save many a trip down to the shops. Chia Te’s outlet at 88 Nanjing East Road Section 5 can be packed so this beats having to tussle with fellow consumers, or worst yet, not being able to get in at all (which happened to me once).

Incidentally, the same box of Chia Te pineapple pastry is sold at TWD260 at another shop on the ground floor of the railway station.

Now, my hope is that Yu Jan Shin’s butter pastry will also be loaded onto the vending machine. That would really make my day.

A SunnyHills pineapple cake convert

IMG_20190129_131059.jpgAlong with the upcoming Chinese New Year comes a slew of must-have goodies to celebrate the occasion. Having so many snacks can make decision making tough.

I used to face this dilemma until a few years ago when I decided to narrow down the goodies to just a few — mandarin orange, bak kwa (hopefully from Lim Chee Guan), kueh lapis (only from Bengawan Solo), and pineapple tarts.

Many know my fancy for pineapple tarts, giving me opportunities to try various brands over the years. One of my current favourites is the LE Pastry‘s golf ball-sized version. These tarts come with moist pineapple filling housed in a buttery crust.

IMG_20190129_131215.jpgAnother brand is what I’d like to talk about today. A business associate of mine gave me a box of SunnyHills pineapple cake from Taiwan. The box came with 10 individually-wrapped pieces. I’ve always been impressed with the pride Taiwanese companies devote to their packaging — they’re on par with the Japanese.

My first experience with SunnyHill years ago wasn’t memorable — the filling was a little too sour for my liking so I’ve never bothered looking for it when I’m there.

IMG_20190129_131324.jpgFilled with the apprehension from my initial encounter, I gently took a bite and was prepared to be hit by the sourness. But, the pineapple filling wasn’t sour at all. In fact, it was sour-sweet, the best kind of taste for a filling. Too sweet and it feels like jam. But not this. It was just what I like for my pineapple filling.

The pineapple was nicely shredded so it gives a good bite feel and is great for chewing.

Made with New Zealand grass-fed butter and fine Japanese flour, the crust is buttery and slightly crumbly, which makes it easy to bite and eat without crumbs dropping everywhere.

I’m sold. SunnyHills has redeemed itself. I may make an added stop in my next trip to Taiwan.

The truth is that you do not need to fly all the way to Taiwan to get your SunnyHill pineapple cake fix. You can get it in Singapore at 391 Orchard Road #B2-27A Takashimaya Shopping Centre, Ngee Ann City, Singapore 238872.

 

 

 

 

 

Yu Jan Shin’s butter puffs take the cake

Yu Jan Shin butter pastry

For years, the only proven pastry I’d buy from Taiwan are Chia Te’s lau puo ping (wives cake). I’ve tried many others, thanks to the generosity of family and friends, but nothing comes close — until my trip to Taipei last week.

My younger daughter and I were walking by pastry outlets at the Basement of Taipei 101 when one of the promoters offered us a piece of pastry each. I’m not one to accept such offers but somehow, something prompted me to take and try, which I did.

We walked a few steps away and took our first bites. Truth be told, it was very nice.

The butter pastry was flaky and light while the filling was buttery. Compared to Chia Te’s soft pastry lau puo ping, this pastry was crispy yet not hard. The bite feel is good and the mouth feel great.

We went back to the counter called Yu Jan Shin and ordered a box to sample in our accommodation. The pastry came in two sizes — normal and large, which can be cut into pieces to share.

We bought the large version which came in a box of three. Our intention was to try it once more before deciding if it’s worth buying more for the folks back home.

Further taste test in our room confirmed the results — the butter pastry scores top marks.

Both of us made a mental note to go by Taipei 101 to get some of these goodies later in the week.

The next night, we were enjoying a walk through Raohe Night Market, our favourite night market in Taipei, when we chanced upon a Yu Jan Shin shop at No. 189, Raohe Street, Songshan District, Taipei City, Taiwan 105.

As a shop, this was definitely bigger and had more products than the counter at Taipei 101. We sampled some other pastries but found the butter pastry to be the best.

Our family back home liked what we bought so next time I’m in Taipei, I’ve got an alternative place to buy great pastry.