Tuesday, July 3, 2012

Meet Fresh: Taiwanese Dessert in Shanghai

A photo of a Taiwanese dessert restaurant in a recent post of scenes from Shanghai's Xuhui district apparently left some readers puzzled. They wanted to know, "What is a Taiwanese dessert?"

I am pleased to say that I had already conducted some research:

Taiwanese dessert making an appearance in Shanghai

The name in Chinese of the restaurant in my earlier post is "鲜芋仙" (xiānyùxiān). In English the name used by the restaurant is "Meet Fresh". The Meet Fresh chain of restaurants originated in Taiwan and now has branches as far away as Malaysia and Australia. One of their specialities is taro balls, included in the dish I tried. Taro is a root vegetable native to Southeast Asia. I would claim that the closest equivalent in Western food is probably the potato or sweet potato. However taro has its own unique taste. It can be included in a variety of dishes and even cooked similar in style to french fries or potato chips. My favorite version, though, is when it is sweetened and used in desserts.

I first tried taro while in Taiwan about 10 years ago. My lack of any Chinese language skills at the time led to some minor chaos while trying to order a milk tea. I was quite surprised to receive a purplish drink and realized there had been a communication problem. But I decided to give the drink a try. I still have no clue why the young employees at the Taiwanese store I visited gave me taro milk tea, but I am not complaining. I immediately became a big fan of taro.

Meet Fresh's Taiwan website can be found here. For those who cannot read Chinese, their Australian website in English here will be more useful. The online menu on the Australian site does not appear to be exactly the same as what I saw at the Shanghai store, but you can find a close approximation of the dish I tried here. Follow that link to see other desserts served at Meet Fresh. There are also some examples of Taiwanese desserts from other restaurants at the end of my post comparing the food culture in Taiwan and Italy. The examples there and on the Meet Fresh site provide a hint of the great variety of Taiwanese desserts. I hope more people will soon hear "coming to a store near you".

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