3 March 2018

Taiwanese street food: 酥 (su), 糕 (gao), 餅 (bing) (part I)

Cakes in Taiwan belongs to three different tribes: 酥 (su), 糕 (gao), 餅 (bing).
Su (酥) is a pastry made with shortening and tends to be crumble.
Gao () strarts with batter and ends with steaming or baking.
Bing () is a general name for wheat-flour based food with flattered or disc-like shape. Many of them are similar to Indian roti, French crepes and Mexican tortillas, but can also resemble western style cakes and cookies. Bings can be sweet or savory.

1. Pineapple cakes (鳳梨酥, fengli su)

Pineapple cakes are definitely one of my favourite dessert in Taiwan. Made from pastry including flour, sugar, butter and eggs and filled with pineapple jam. Sometimes pineapples are mixed with winter melon. 

During Japanese era pineapples became main of Taiwan's economy. Japanese imported many varieties of pineapples and established numerous processing plants. 
In 1930s Taiwan became third largest exporter of those fruits in the world. 

Pineapple cakes have at least a century of history in Taiwan as ceremonial food. When production shifted toward domestic sales and use of fresh pineapples, bakeries started to use those fruits in pastries. Pineapple cakes became one of top selling souvenirs in Taiwan. 
Those cakes are often given as engagement gifts, from groom to bride's family. In Hokkien language pineapple (ong lai) sounds similar to phrase "prosperity has come" which is the hope that many children will be born in the family. 

pineapple cake feng li su

2. Chinese New Year cakes (年糕 / 甜糕, Niángāo)

Eating those cakes during New Year is considered good luck. 甜 means sticky and it's identical sound as year. Those cakes are made of glutinous rice that is pounded into a paste, molded into shape or cooked again. Nian gao can be pan fried before eating.

Picture source: https://images.app.goo.gl/owENfJCoVuZ4V3k98

3. Prosperity cakes (發糕 , Fāgāo) 

Usually eaten during Chinese New Year, fa gao are made of rice flour, yeast and sugar and steamed. During steaming the top splits into four segments. 

4. Nionya cake (娘惹糕, Niáng rě gāo)

Those cakes are made of glutionous rice flour or tapioka flour with different materials added like mung beans puree, red beans purees, peanut powder, coconut milk, coconut sugar, etc. Those cakes can be steamed, fried, roasted, sweet or salty. 

5. Champion Rice Cake (狀元糕, zhuang yuan gao)

Made of steamed glutinous rice flour, usually with filling of sesame or peanuts.


6. Red bean cakes (紅豆餅, Hóngdòu bǐng)

Red bean cakes are made of batter is special pan. Those pancakes can be filled with butter, chocolate, red beans, peanuts, sesame, etc.. They are very fluffy and are really a nice dessert. Usually made in round shape and sometimes also called wheel cakes.

7. Moon cakes (月餅, Yuèbǐng)

Moon cakes are traditional cakes of Middle Autumn Festival. During this time people exchange gifts as those cakes in beautiful boxes.

Cakes have round shape and are decorated with Chinese characters. Typically moon cakes are about 10 cm in diameter and 3-4 cm thick. 
Traditionally those cakes are made with sweet dense filling. The filling can be made of lotus seed paste with egg yolk inside, sweet bean paste or 5 nuts paste. 

8. Sun cakes (太陽餅, Tàiyáng bǐng)

Sun cakes originates from Taichung. The typical fillings consist of condensed malt sugar. The crust is flaky and the shape of Sun cakes is round.

9. Sweetheart cakes (老婆餅, Lǎopó bǐng)

Those cakes are made with thin crust of flaky pastry with fillings of water melon, almond paste, sesame and spiced with 5 spice powder.

10. Wedding cakes (囍餅, Xǐ bǐng)

Wedding cakes are round cakes with diameter of 20cm. Can be stuffed with sesame, red beans, green beans, white sugar, etc. On the cakes you can see double happiness pattern and sesame seeds.
Traditionally those cakes are given from man's family to woman's home before wedding.

11. White malt cake (白色麥芽餅, Báisè mài yá bǐng) 

The processed maltose is put in a cookie with coriander and peanut powder. 

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