Foie gras ice cream

 

imageI recently had to go on a business trip to Shanghai, and that’s always a great opportunity for me to let my inner foodie loose. There are so many great restaurants both western and Chinese, and I managed to visit a few that were still on my to-do-list. There was one though I had been to before, but I just had to go back to .

Pree is the custom made ice-cream parlor where I previously tried truffle and Sichuan pepper ice-cream. I was in luck as this time around there were a few new flavors to try out. One of the more unusual ones that caught my attention was a foie gras gras and fig flavored one. Now I was pretty sure that foie and fig would make a great combination, but as a desert?

It turned out to be one of the best ice-cream I have ever had the pleasure of eating. As before the texture was divine, smooth and creamy. On first bite a big hit of alcohol warmed my whole inside. It was a sweet, raisin-like alcohol such as perhaps sherry or brandy. Foie gras mousse is often prepared with a fortified alcohol, so that does make sense. The fresh fig and the fig syrup added to the sweet profile, but where was the foe gras? Honestly I would never have guessed it was foie had I not known, even though there was an ever so slight savory undertone. Did I mind that? Not at all. It was still one of the best ice-creams of my life, and trust me I eat a lot of ice-cream in a year.

Fear Factor – 3 / Taste Test – 9

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Chinese savory cakes

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I found these weird looking little boxes at the supermarket containing all kinds of strange candies. There were five flavors: green beans, osmanthus flower, chestnut, water chestnut and taro. I wasn’t quite sure what to expect, so I decided to select a sample of all five. I wanted to get the worst one out of the way first, and went with the green beans.

I was in for a surprise and in for a shock. What I put in my mouth was as strange as an everlasting gobstopper by Willy Wonka. Out of the package came a small block that turned to powder as soon as I bit into it. The powder then turned into a paste on contact with my saliva. From solid to powder to liquid in a manner of seconds. It was unusual to say the least.

I did not like the flavor of the green bean one at all, and just about spat it out. Most of the other ones were not as bad, because they had a sweet hint besides being savory. However, that savory note was still there, and the textures were simply not enjoyable for me.

Fear Factor 2 – Taste Test – 3

Mooncakes

 

IMG_7730Mooncakes come around in China once a year to celebrate the coming of autumn. During the Mid Autumn Festival people go out of their way to pick up a box of these beautifully decorated pastries with either a sweet or a savory filling. Traditional fillings include red bean bean, salted egg yolk, pork, rose petal and nuts.

I received a box of mixed mooncakes from my employer and was a bit hesitant, as I haven’t eaten many mooncakes that I actually like. Somehow I always end up with the savory ones. This time, however, I asked a friend to translate the ingredients, and kept the ones I felt were safe to eat.

The pastry itself was rich and crumbly like any buttery pastry in a Parisian shop. I tried a number of different fillings and thoroughly enjoyed some of them. A highlight was the snow pear, lily and wolfberry centered cake, which was sweet with a hint of freshness. I also loved the more modern ones such as the mango and coconut mooncakes. Unfortunately I also bit into a white bean moon cake, which was less desirable, bringing the overall score down to a seven. Better luck next year.

Fear Factor – 3 / Taste Test – 7

Sugar cane juice

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In Guangzhou, a major city in the south of China, I often see street vendor slinging freshly squeezed sugar cane juice. The last time I went there I bought bottle to try. Sugar cane is obviously used to make sugar, so I imagined this drink to be super sweet. This, however, was not the case. Sure, it was sweet, but no sweeter than any other fruit juice. It tasted a little “grassy” to me. Makes sense, I guess, as I believe sugar cane officially is a sort of grass.

Fear Factor – 0 / Taste Test – 6

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

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