Does this sound familiar? You’re wrapping up a great meal at some fantastic restaurant – stuffed, maybe even overstuffed. Feeling the food coma creep in, you sense your brain struggling to maintain consciousness as your body desperately attempts digestion. Seeing you slump slightly in your chair, the waiter walks by with the dessert menu but passes you by, assuming you’re down for the count.
“Take the Hong Kong egg tart, for example…Best when freshly baked and still a tad warm, these little tarts are like a sweet hug for your stomach.”
Mere moments before he’s out of reach, you eagerly snatch the menu from his confused fingers. There’s ALWAYS room (and energy) for dessert! As my friends (and dentist) can attest, my sweet tooth is relentless.
“Maybe it’s bold for me to say, but I do believe they can melt even the staunchest Asian dessert cynic.”
You know how cows have 4-chamber stomachs? I must have bovine tendencies, since no matter how full I may be, I appear to magically grow a separate stomach chamber just in time for dessert! Are you with me?
Much to my surprise, Hong Kong is brimming with bakeries, pâtisseries, cafés, and cha chaan tengs (Chinese tea restaurants). Sometimes, these are more local shops, serving local desserts. Despite the somewhat negative stereotype that clouds western perceptions about Asian desserts, some of the local sweets here really do hold their own. And there is a fun element of novelty, at least to Chinese-dessert-virgins (you get what I mean).
Take the Hong Kong egg tart, for example – all creamy, custardy, buttery/flaky crust goodness. Best when freshly baked and still a tad warm, these little tarts are like a sweet hug for your stomach. Maybe it’s bold for me to say, but I do believe they can melt even the staunchest Asian dessert cynic.
Hong Kong residents are hard-core egg lovers – as proven by yet another famous egg-y sweet, the egg waffle. Humble in appearance, when prepared properly, they are slightly crispy on the outside, tender and airy on the inside – sort of the ‘bubble wrap’ of desserts, with the flavor of vanilla cake. The fun, bulbous shapes make tearing off a golden sphere (or 5, or 10) almost impossible to resist!
Another iconic HK treat is the slyly named ‘pineapple bun’, containing no pineapple (false advertising alert!) but reflecting just the pineapple-like appearance of that extra-golden, puckered, crunchy top that never fails to crumble into a delightful mess. In case you seek a cholesterol boost (beyond the lard that is part of the crunchy top – good luck wiping that from your memory!), most cha chaan tengs serving these local treats can’t leave well enough alone – but instead insert a slab (not a sliver) of butter to melt inside. Try this WAY before your next visit to the cardiologist! Read the rest of this entry »