Tuesday, 21 February 2012

Durian Pancake: Deliciously Different

Durian Pancake

Pancakes comprise of such standard ingredients, that people have always experimented with different combinations of filling in order to create something more exciting. But I never dreamt that durian pancake would ever be invented.

During my recent visit to Hong Kong, I stopped off at the reputable Moon Kee Dessert house. With its highly affordable prices and laid back atmosphere, its fun and colourful range of desserts makes it Heaven for people with a sweet tooth (me). Among the variety of desserts they offer, their durian pancakes are one of the more peculiar options on the menu, attracting new customers and always bringing back the regulars.

Durian is not a fruit that everyone of you will encounter in your lifetime, yet if and when you do, it is a taste and smell that you will never possibly forget. Imagine Marmite but more intense; you don't just love it or hate it, you either lust and crave for it or you would leave a room to escape it.

Spiky and hard on the outside, creamy and soft on the inside, the fruit lets off an unbelievably pungent aroma the second it is cracked open. Describing the smell is almost impossible, it is similar to being hit in the face by the smell of fuel at a petrol station, along with a hint of sweetness and sourness. The taste of durian is just as difficult to describe. Nestled snug in their own pods, each individual bulb of flesh has its own stone and is both the colour and texture of slightly hardened custard. Each taste is powerful and overwhelming to the mouth, resembling the characteristics of a herb as opposed to a fruit.

So as I entered Moon Kee Dessert house, I thought that it was rather sensible to split the restaurant into two sections: if you were here for the durian, you will be seated on the right, if not then you follow the waitress to the left. No one is made to endure the smell and consequently, the guests are kept happy. Further to my amusement, "Durian District" signs are clearly displayed on the walls, to make it extra clear in case anyone ventures into the wrong side of the restaurant.

From the curious shape to the bright apple green shade, the durian pancake is intriguing from the moment it arrives at the table. For the durian virgins among you, the pretty frosted coating and poofy-roundness is certainly misleading as the flavour is not as innocent as the appearance. The durian pancake is made up of three layers: durian mash as filling, freshly whipped coconut cream moulded around it and wrapped up in a colourful pancake to entice you.

Mushy but Magical

The pancake shell is light and crisp, making it wonderfully delicious from the first bite. The fluffy coconut cream compliments the flavours of durian yet at the same time balances the strong taste, making it an even more enjoyable experience. Although the pancakes are packed with a considerable amount of cream, it is actually much lighter than I had ever expected it to be. A few minutes after finishing my first pair, I was already peering around like an excited meerkat for my second serving.

I have had plenty of desserts in my lifetime, and perhaps I am slightly biased by my apparent lust for durian, but these pancakes are one of the best sweets I have ever tasted and certainly the best as far as pancakes are concerned. Much to my delight, I have managed to find the recipe on the internet, and although I am unable to celebrate Pancake Day today with a portion of homemade durian pancakes (as durian is currently out of season), please watch this space towards the summer as I will be attempting these!

If you are yet to try these Kings of Fruits, Chinatown sells them when they're at their seasonal best. So whether you're brave enough to buy the whole fruit (£10-20), or just trying out a pre-packaged segment, you will definitely have an experience to tell.

Moon Kee Dessert: Selection

Tuesday, 7 February 2012

Sharing a Splash of Sweetness

Boba Pix 'n' Mix

It's been a while since I have put my foodie thoughts to paper, but I figured my recent entertaining visit to Bubbleology would be a good place to start again.

Having visited the Soho branch, I did initially wonder how the brand would fit in at Harvey Nichols. Bubble tea has always been so casual and down to earth; certainly not something I would have associated with such an exclusive department store if I may dare say so. But to my surprise, the Bubbleology counter couldn’t have fitted in any better. From shiny steel worktops and blinding spotlights, to colour-coordinated floor tiles, every aspect created the most perfect laboratory setup.

I was greeted by two very welcoming Bubbleologists, who were so in sync they practically finished each other’s sentences. They explained enthusiastically how normally only one of them man the counter. Unlike the Soho branch, where each team member is in charge of one specific part of the making process, these guys are trained up to multitask here. It's not often you see such great chemistry between staff, watching them bounce around with so much energy was almost like being in the presence of real-life wacky scientists.

Bubble Teas: Passionfruit (left) and White Peach

Alex wasted no time in introducing me to the colourful variety of fruity bubbles they had to offer. These popping ‘bobas’ are crazy quirky and give the strangest sensation ever; bursting one of these in your mouth is like bursting an individual fish roe - juiciness exploding from a slimy shell. Whilst adding a dash of fun to the drink, these pearls don't require as much chewing as the original starchy ones.

In the meantime, Derrick was in the background, fixing up a bubble tea almost as effortlessly as an experienced bartender. He explained that this branch was different from the one in Soho in that they don’t need shaker machines to create the best cup of bubble tea; everything is done by hand to add a more personal touch. Just to deviate from my usual, I opted for the passionfruit bubble tea, and as I pierced the lid with my straw, I was mesmerised by the delicious fruitiness that wafted out. The drink actually reminded me of NestlĂ© peach iced tea - just as (if not even more so) flavoursome and fantastic. For those of you who like your passionfruit, I recommend you to match your drink with some passionfruit popping boba for a bigger fruity kick.

@ Harvey Nichols, Knightsbridge

With Valentines Day around the corner, Bubbleology is offering a complimentary large passionfruit bubble tea with the purchase of another, in the hope of inserting some (more) 'passion' into everyone's lives. So whether it is your other half or someone new, this is a fresh splash of sweetness to share together. As for the rest of you, I'm sure the passionate Bubbleologists would be happy to hand over your complimentary drink if you bring a friend and ask nicely!

The deal will be available at the Soho and Knightsbridge (fifth floor at Harvey Nichols) branches all day on Valentines Day.

If you recently missed the temporary taster Bubbleology counters at Harvey Nichols in Manchester, Leeds, Dublin or Edinburgh, you will be pleased to know that the brand is due to expand nationwide.

For more information on bubble tea, please see my other article at http://www.lemonicedtea-tfiichibun.com/2011/06/art-and-science-of-perfect-bubble-tea.html.

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