Salted cheese lemon tea

IMG_7098

I like cheese. I like lemon tea. A combination of the two? That sounded a bit wild to me. There are many iced tea shops and bubble tea shops around here hailing from Taiwan and Hong Kong. The newest craze is iced lemon tea topped with a layer of salty cheese. I had imagined some parmesan crusted monstrosity of a drink, but it turned out it was more like a frothy creamed cheese.

If you spooned some of the top layer off and had it on its own, it was a little like eating meringue. It was thicker than whipped cream, and would hold it’s shape. It didn’t taste like cheese either, and it wasn’t all that salty. When drank along with the iced tea, it gave the tea a creamy texture and taste as you would when adding milk to it. In essence you had a cup of milk tea presented in the form of a cappuccino.

Fear Factor – 2 / Taste Test – 9

Advertisements

Haw flakes

IMG_7075

Haw flakes is a candy from China that is made from the hawthorn fruit known as haw. Hawthorne is a small tree that grows around Europe, Africa and Asia. The Chinese hawthorn bears a fruit that resembles a red berry. These berries can be eaten raw, but are often made into a sweet dish, such as  these haw flakes.

The berries are treated and compressed into small discs the size of a quarter. Stacks of these discs are sold in supermarkets resembling a fire cracker. I tried some recently and found them to be very sweet indeed. It wasn’t exactly too sweet though, and you could still taste some sourness from the fruit as well. The interesting part was the texture. It was a little like eating old Play dough, soft yet crumbly.

Fear Factor – 0 / Taste Test – 7

Wood ear mushroom jelly

IMG_7162

A popular snack in China is a jelly cup. They have them in all kinds and flavors. Mostly fruity, but also coffee for instance. It’s a fairly healthy snack as it’s mostly water. At a local supermarket I noticed a cup of wood ear mushroom jelly. That must have been one of the weirded snacks I have set my eyes upon here in China. I just never pictured a jelly made from mushrooms.

Wood ear mushroom, also known as Jew’s ear mushroom, is a very thin, black and curly fungus that is used in China in many soups and vegetable dishes. It has a chewy texture that often balances out a dish.  This jelly cup was brown and see through, but with loads of pieces of the mushroom through it. Although the taste was slightly savory, I actually found it had similar taste to raisins or even sherry. I was a bit weirded out though by the bits of mushroom in it. That was just one step too far for me.

Fear Factor – 3 / Taste Test 6

Blue Pepsi

IMG_7092

Just to be perfectly clear: I’m a Coke guy all the way. I generally dislike Pepsi because I find it way too sweet. I don’t mind Pepsi Max as much, but regular Pepsi….pass. However, Pepsi recently released Pepsi Blue on the Chinese market. Pepsi Blue had been on sale in countries around the world years ago, but has been since shut down. A blue colored cola is unusual to say the least.

I was half expecting it to taste sugary, fruity or chemically, but I found the taste to be quite flat. For a second I thought I picked up a hint of sour candy, but that quickly went away. Perhaps that was just my mind playing tricks on me. In the end, it was a perfectly normal Pepsi. One that I won’t be drinking again soon. I’ll stick to Coke for now. It was cool to see my spit turn blue though. That brought back the inner child in me.

Fear Factor – 1 / Taste Test 6

Duck blood soup

IMG_7068

Having eaten blood sausage before, I’m not afraid of any dish that contains blood. On a recent trip to Shanghai I took my friends for breakfast to one of the best soup dumpling restaurants in the country. On the menu was also a duck blood soup for a less than a dollar. That was a financial risk I was willing to take.

I had imagined to be confronted with a blood red soup, but instead I was served a clear broth with chunks of blood cake in it much like the pig’s blood cake I had tried earlier. At that time I had not liked the texture of that, so I was starting to grow weary. The broth itself was wonderful though, with a strong dosage of ginger. Hey, at least I could drink the broth. It turns out that the duck’s blood cake wasn’t that bad either. Sure, it had a texture like jello, but not the overset jello texture I got from the pig’s blood. This was very much doable, if not even a little tasty.

Fear Factor – 3 / Taste Test – 8

Green tea cocktail

IMG_7111

At Cobra Lily in Shanghai, where I had the Chinese cheese starter, I also went for a slightly unusual cocktail. It was happy hour after all. This cocktail was a Japanese inspired affair with green tea syrup, midori – a Japanese melon liquor, and lots of gin. The cocktail was beautifully presented in an ice-cold cup along with a traditional bamboo green tea whisk.

The drink was covered by a thick layer of beaten egg white, very much like an Italian meringue. When eaten on its own it was just like eating meringue, but when mixed in with the rest it simply gave the drink a creamy texture. The taste wasn’t actually overly bitter from the green tea, neither did I taste much melon. It could really have been any gin based drink in there. I did love the presentation though.

Fear Factor – 1 / Taste Test 8

Chinese cheese

IMG_7112

It is a common myth that there is no such thing as Chinese cheese. Now, it’s definitely true that the Chinese don’t traditionally eat cheese. Even nowadays with the influx of western culture, they hardly touch this tasty substance. It actually makes sense if you think about it. People by nature are lactose intolerant. We only started eating cheese in Europe due to a lack of protein.

It is not true, however, that there is absolutely no cheese whatsoever. Some nomadic people on the outskirts of the country have so little produce that they need to maximize every food source they can. Some tribes in Inner Mongolia make a kind of rock hard candy out of milk that is dubbed as cheese, but there is one tribe in the southern province of Yunnan makes a “real” cheese out of goat’s milk called “rubing”.

It is a little like feta in the sense that is soft, yet doesn’t melt. It has a mild milky flavor just like mozzarella. I visited Yunnan before, and had it served almost like a caprese salad, along with some fresh tomato. On a recent trip to Shanghai I visited restaurant Cobra Lily where I had a starter of grilled rubing, served with a salad of mint and pomegranate. It was a great combination, that somehow reminded me of a Thai dish called “larb”.

Fear Factor – 0 / Taste Test – 9

Red bean scone

IMG_7101

Since starting this blog I have eaten a handful of red bean desserts here in China. At first I was grossed out by the idea of having sweet beans, but I have gotten over my initial shock. Now I think if I don’t have that waxy texture that beans have, I will be fine. So it happened that I picked up a red bean scone at Starbucks for a late breakfast.

Through the middle of the scone, there was a layer of red bean puree. This made sure that you had the sweet flavor, but not the off-putting texture of the beans. I thought the scone tasted perfectly normal to me. If anything, it was a bit dry. On top there was a handful of red beans that were left whole. To my surprise though, they also didn’t offer a waxy texture. They did look a bit shriveled. Perhaps they were dried like raisins.

Fear Factor – 2 / Taste Test – 7

Crème brulee chocolate

IMG_6584

E. Wedel is one of the best chocolatiers in Poland. I had previously eaten breakfast at their restaurant, and decided to pick up a few bars. The panna cotta chocolate wasn’t that good unfortunately, but their crème brulee chocolate was a lot better.

The bar consisted of a thick chocolate shell with a crème brulee filling. The filling was actually a double layered affair with a bottom layer of a hardened pudding and a top layer of runny caramel. Caramel and chocolate have always worked for me, and the set pudding added some creaminess. All in all a very enjoyable bar of chocolate and much better than the panna cotta one.

Fear Factor – 0 / Taste Test – 8

Cape Gooseberry

IMG_7044

The cape gooseberry is one of the fanciest looking fruits, at least in my humble opinion. A little round yellow fruit is covered by a paper skin, giving it the appearance of a lantern. For this reason it’s often found as a garnish on desserts. Here in China, however, the fruit is eaten as any other fruit. They were recently back in season, and I couldn’t resist buying a box of these pretty berries.

Although this berry has many similar looking fruits in the physalis family, not all are edible. The cape gooseberry, that’s originally from Peru, is one of the edible varieties. The small round berry is yellow in color and resembles a small tomato, with many seeds throughout the fruit. When eaten whole, the berry pops like a grape releasing its sweet juices. I found they not only look like tomatoes, but they also taste like them. Therefore I wouldn’t recommend having them with your morning bowl of yogurt and muesli like I did.

Fear Factor – 0 / Taste Teste 6