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Mind-blowing Mango Pancakes

Mango pancakes in Hong KongYou know you’re in the right city when you can just randomly stumble across a place that’s this delicious.

How delicious, you ask?  Extremely delicious.

Mango pancakes in Hong Kong

I wasn’t even sure what I was ordering.  I held up two fingers (my brother is here on this leg of the trip, so I’m ordering for two), just assuming I’d wind up with waffles.  He asked “mango pancake?” I nodded, and we were off to the races.

Mango pancakes in Hong Kong

Everything about this was shockingly good — from the fresh and fluffy pancake, to the satisfyingly tart sauce, to the chunks of absolutely perfect mango.  The very sweet, creamy mango works great with the pancake, with the slightly sour sauce cutting the sweetness from the fruit.

I wish I knew what this place was called, but trust me — if you ever find yourself in Hong Kong, just wander around until you find it.  It’s totally worth it.

Attacked by Deliciousness

Melon Pan Kyuei in Tokyo, JapanSo there I am, just walking around in Tokyo and minding my own business, and wham.  Attacked by crazy deliciousness, completely out of nowhere.

Which is to say that I was hungry and wanted a snack, so I stopped by Melon Pan Kyuei, a bakery in the Tsukishima area of Tokyo.  Most of the time, if I’m eating somewhere, it’s because I’ve looked it up and heard that it’s supposed to be good.  This was a completely random drop-in.  I’d never even heard of a melon pan, which is kind of like a Chinese-style pineapple bun, but a billion times better.

Melon Pan Kyuei in Tokyo, Japan

Oh man, this thing.  It was still warm from the oven, which is always delightful, obviously.  It’s got a crispy, sugary exterior that’s made all the more crispy and amazing thanks to those deep ridges, and the interior is fluffy and light as air.  The inside is kind of like the lightest, fluffiest slice of white bread that you’ve ever had — it’s not all that sweet, but that’s where the crispy, crunchy, amazing exterior comes in.

I figured this was going to be more like a pineapple bun, so I wasn’t expecting much — it was actually kind of shocking how good this was.  It was an unexpected sucker punch of amazingness.

Sweet, Sweet Beans

Fish cake with beans in Tokyo, JapanOne of those things that’s huge in Asia and virtually unheard of in the west is putting beans in desserts.  It’s a little bit off-putting at first, but then you quickly realize it’s delicious and wonder why you haven’t spent your whole life eating beany sweets.

Fish cake with beans in Tokyo, Japan

These little bean-filled, fish-shaped cakes are particularly popular, and with good reason.  And this place (this was a random discovery and the sign was all in Japanese, so I have no idea what it’s called) was particularly good.

It was warm and fresh, with a generous amount of sweet bean filling encased in a subtly sweet, pancake-like exterior.  This particular place had a bit of extra cake around the edges (it’s usually just the fish) — this is actually kind of ingenious, because the extra part is nice and crispy, which contrasts nicely with the cake and the beans.  It’s really good.

Regular Pancakes are for Jerks

Pancake perfectionHey, you know the pancakes that you grew up loving? Yeah, they’re trash.  The Austrians have perfected the pancake; we all need to get with the program and follow their lead.

There’s a restaurant here in Vienna called Heindls Schmarren & Palatschinkenkuchl that serves a dish called kaiserschmarren, which, I’m pretty sure, is the best version of pancakes that I’ve ever had.

It’s kind of like a traditional pancake, only more dense and rich, with an eggy, almost custard-like flavour.  A big part of its appeal is the way they serve it; they cut it up and then put it in the oven just long enough for the edges to crisp up.  The contrast between the lightly crispy exterior and the moist, cakey interior is the stuff dreams are made of.  Sprinkled with icing sugar, topped with cooked raisins, and served with a tart cherry compote, it’s pretty much pancake perfection.

Serving a Cannoli the Right Way

Good stuffCannolis aren’t exactly a Roman thing, but there was no possible way I was going to leave Italy without eating at least one. A quick “best cannoli in Rome” search led to a very conclusive answer: everyone seems to be in agreement that a Sicilian bakery called Ciuri Ciuri has the tastiest cannoli in the city.

The first thing you notice is that the cannolis in their display case are just empty shells that they fill to order, because of course. Of course. I’ve never seen a bakery back home do it this way, and I have no idea why. It’s clearly the right answer; there’s nothing sadder than biting into a mushy cannoli.

Yep

(An aside: bakeries in Italy really make me feel like a weirdo for not being a coffee drinker. Every time I order a pastry, I get asked if I want a coffee too. When I inevitably say no, the server always gets a mildly confused/shocked look on his face, like a child who’s just been told there’s no Santa.)

Anyway, the cannoli was pretty amazing; it had a nice crispy shell (of course), and the creamy ricotta filling had just the right amount of sweetness. Also, there wasn’t any orange zest in there, which is correct. Orange in cannoli is for jerks. If you prefer cannolis with an orange flavour, then I’m sorry to break it to you, but you’re a jerk.

Sorry, but someone eventually had to tell you.

What the…?

How is this okay??In case you’re wondering, I bought this candy from a vending machine at a Spanish bus station in the year 2017. I literally did a double-take when I first saw it.

If you can get past the horrifying racism, it actually tasted pretty good! Kind of like peanut M&M’s, but without the candy shell and with a thinner layer of decent-quality dark chocolate.

But, you know, horrifying racism and all that.

Great Pastry, or Greatest Pastry?

THE BESTThis wasn’t something that I thought would be particularly blog-worthy; just a quick (and unhealthy) breakfast thanks to a random recommendation on the internet.  “Hey,” the internet told me, “the napolitana de chocolate at La Mallorquina is actually pretty good!”  Okay, internet, I’ll give it a shot.

The bakery turned out to be in a super touristy part of town, so my expectations weren’t very high, to put it kindly.

Then I took a bite and my whole life changed.

Wait wait wait. Is this as delicious as I think it is?

I took another bite.

Why yes, it is as delicious as I think it is.

Holy crap, this thing is so damn good I can’t even stand it. The combination of the rich, buttery pastry with the intensely chocolatey filling (which is sweet, but not overly sweet) and the contrasting texture you get from the crunchy sugar on top is absolute perfection.

I wanted to run around the city pumping my fist like Arsenio. “THE NAPOLITANA AT LA MALLORQUINA IS SO GOOD! EVERYBODY GO EAT ONE!”  I wanted to barge into other bakeries and start flipping tables over, because it’s all garbage compared to what they’re serving at La Mallorquina.

For the rest of the day it would just randomly pop into my head.  I’d be walking in a park or something and then “holy cow, how good was that pastry??”  I wound up going back to La Mallorquina two more times throughout the day to get it again, and it was just as good both times.

I want to eat that pastry every day for the rest of my life. I want to shrink myself down and live inside of it.

(And yeah, in case you’re wondering why I mostly write about food on this blog, it’s probably because I have the capacity to get that excited about a pastry.)