Gold leaf matcha ice-cream

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A new matcha green tea dessert shop opened up the other week at a shopping mall in town and I made a visit to do some research for my blog, or actually I just wanted to eat ice-cream. I case you were unaware, I like ice-cream. Green tea, now that’s still a little unusual to me, but I’ve grown to like it. Actually the matcha ice-cream is not the reason I’m posting this. It’s the big leaf of edible gold that they put on top. I mean, who eats gold.

Eating gold is not something you see every day, but it does happen. Mostly in fine dining desserts, and sometimes in a drink. I’ve had some small pieces of gold before on a truffle ice-cream, but this was a much bigger piece. As I went in for a bit, and my lips touched the leaf of gold, I could actually feel the texture of it, which I didn’t feel before. There is not flavor to it though, it’s purely for decorative reasons. Or decadent reasons if you prefer. The ice-cream itself by the way was perfectly balanced between bitter and sweet. Definitely one of the better green tea desserts I’ve tried.

Fear Factor 0 – Taste Test – 7

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Hawthorn Fanta

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I’ve written before about hawthorn, a berry-like fruit that grows around the globe, but is mostly popular in Asia. In China this sweet fruit is often turned into candy. Recently Fanta developed a hawthorn flavored drink for the Chinese market that I was dying to try.

The drink looked different from regular Fanta in that it was colored red. Of course it also tasted different, otherwise what’s the point. This Fanta was a little sweeter and not as sour as regular Fanta can be. In fact I found it a bit sickly sweet, not sugary though, just naturally sweet. I’m not quite sure what would compare well. Perhaps if it was possible to juice a date you would come close. It wasn’t exactly bad tasting, I just didn’t enjoy it much either.

Fear Factor – 0 / Taste Test – 6

Seaweed chips

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I’ve tried dozens of different kinds of potato chips over the past few months, but luckily the guys at Lays keep on pumping out new flavors. This time around it’s that good old Asian staple, seaweed. Now, back in Holland I would only eat seaweed when it involved sushi, but here it’s often eaten on its own as a snack, or even as a chocolate bar and I’ve grown quite accustomed to the taste.

Usually my potato chips review go one of either two ways. Or I can’t taste the advertised flavor at all, or it’s only there in the first bite or so. These ones spun my review writing skills round and round, as the flavor only kicked in right at the end. It was nice to see flecks of seaweed scattered all over the chips, but I couldn’t really taste anything but plain chips until that last bite or so, when that familiar umami flavor popped up. Perhaps I should have shaken the bag before use.

Fear Factor – 1 / Taste Test – 7

Rose and grape juice

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We might not be all that accustomed to consuming rose petals in our daily western lives, but here in the region in China where I live it’s big business. I’ve tried it in ice-cream and cakes, and most recently mixed in with grape juice.

Rose has a flavor that many people would say tastes like perfume. Makes sense as smell is such an important factor for enjoying food. Those who don’t enjoy having a swig of the perfume bottle need not worry, this bottle of juice lacked just that flavor. You could taste rose, but only very mildly. Did that make it any better? Not really. I’d rather have something with a strong flavor that you might not like than something with no flavor at all. There were also some annoying bits of jelly in the drink that I never really enjoy.

Fear Factor – 0 / Taste Test – 6

Kung pao chicken chips

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I haven’t written much about potato chips lately, so I thought it was about time. The flavor of the months is “Kung Pao Chicken”. Kung pao chicken is one of the few Chinese dishes you can find in American Chinese restaurants that you can actually also have right here in the mother land. It is a Sichuan chicken dish made with lots of chilies and peanuts, and should be quite spicy.

The potato chips were, and this should come as no surprise, not spicy at all, nor did they taste like chicken. I found they were once again lacking in flavor, and were pretty much just a regular old potato chip. I have had a few really good potato chips over time though, so I’m quite determined to continue my quest.

Fear Factor – 0 / Taste Test 5

Lotus root

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Lotus root is one of my favorite vegetables in China. As the name implies, it is the root of the lotus plant. The lotus flower is perhaps the most famous of flowers from Asia. It grows in water, so you can imagine the roots are extremely difficult to harvest. They come out in long white tubes with distinct holes inside.

Before I came to China, I had only once eaten a fried lotus root crisp at a Japanese restaurant. In China it is used more liberally as a vegetable. It’s sometimes simply stir-fried, or eaten cold as a salad, but it can also be more adventurous stuffed with minced pork or shrimps. In its simplest form, as a salad, it provides a great texture. It’s crunchy yet soft. There isn’t much taste to it unfortunately, so it’s best to add some flavoring. Personally, I like it in hot pot with a nice spicy sauce.

Fear Factor – 0 / Taste Test – 8

Red bean cheesecake

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I feel the same way about red bean desserts as I do about green tea ones. I don’t always like the savory aspect of it, but when it’s done in moderation it can be quite good. Both of these Asian ingredients have really grown on me. When it comes to red beans, I simply don’t think the texture is pleasant.

I visited Xixi Bistro in Shanghai recently to try out their food during restaurant week. We were present with several options for starters and mains, but had no choice over dessert. Therefore I ended up with a slab of red bean cheesecake, along with some ice-cream. In this case the texture was not an issue at all, as the beans had been fully incorporated with the cheese. From the look and texture of it, it could have easily been a strawberry flavored cheesecake. Flavor wise I couldn’t exactly tell it was red bean either. There simply was a sweetness that you don’t find in a basic cheesecake that hasn’t got any additives.

Fear Factor – 2 / Taste Test – 8

Corn juice

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I know these days we make lots of veggie juices such as kale or beetroot, but corn juice that was a thing anew for me. In order to make corn juice, kernels of corn are cooked and then blended with hot water, so it’s technically speaking not a juice. I have seen it served hot at restaurants in China, but it’s not something you will find at every street corner.

As I don’t really like the idea of drinking a hot juice – wouldn’t that be soup? – I held out till I found a can of it. I can tell you it was weird. Not bad, just weird. Corn does have a natural sweetness, so it definitely worked as a juice, but it’s not fruity  so you’re still left with that savory sensation. There was also a hint of bitterness, almost as if it was burned, that I didn’t particularly care for.

Fear Factor – 3 / Taste Test – 6

Lily bulb

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There are horror stories in my country about people having to eat tulip bulbs during the hunger winter on 1945. In hindsight eating these tulip bulbs is not that strange a thought, as we eat many other flower bulbs such as onion and garlic. In China, and especially Lanzhou where I live, people also eat flower bulbs. Lily bulbs are sometimes eaten fresh, but tend to be dried for storing.

In some restaurants you can find lily bulb as part of a vegetable dish. I recently tried it with some wood ear mushrooms and lotus root. The white colored petals don’t have much taste of their own. It’s definitely not like onion in that regard. The texture is interesting though, as it’s halfway between soft and crunchy. Perhaps a slightly undercooked potato would be a good comparison. It was a great texture as part of a dish, but it would be bland just on its own.

Fear Factor – 3 / Taste Test – 7

Salted cheese lemon tea

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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