Wednesday, 25 March 2009

Chinese Cakes and Whatever

Sun Luen snack bar on Little Newport Street, Chinatown

This is my first time here, very nearly seedy, both outside and inside.

Like all over Chinatown, service is abrupt- 'What you want?', with no hello, thanks or goodbye. I like that, at least I know where I stand with these folks!

Greasy situation

Chicken Curry Bun (Beef or plain Veg are also available)

Another deep-fried youcan'tputdown snack, quite surprised to find some decent pieces of chicken meat in there. Terrific.

Wife Cake- interesting background here.

The translucent winter melon and almond paste looks like aspic and the texture is like a firmer version of it as well. Although it's doesn’t possess a universally acquired taste the cake is good eating and not overly sweet. Eating can be incredibly messy due to the highly flakey pastry. Just to warn those with strict dietary requirements, the genuine article contains pork lard.

Coconut Bun

Simple and rather plain jane affair. The bread was incredibly fresh and soft. The desiccated coconut filling was heavily laden with marge. Only sweet tooths need apply.

Oh the fried dough sticks as well. £3.80 for the lot.

Tired of mille-feuilles or chocolate cakes, then try some something different for a change

I don’t normally post on what I’m casually snacking or bingeing on. However tonight’s pig’s feast is a little exception. It’s a brief insight to Chinese bread and pastries. Chinese bread and cakes are to be honest nowhere near as refined or sophisticated as their Western counterparts.

Their cakes for instance are made not from fresh cream or real butter, but margarine with either condensed or evaporated milk.

The finishing touches to the eyes of a non-Chinese are garish and a confrontational ‘you-can’t-possibly-eat-that’ disbelief!

The dubious colour coordination is a surefire sign of authenticity- it can only stem from a Chinese bakery.

I’m pretty confident in stating that as much as 50% of Chinese pastries sold are fried (very deep in that sense).

Take the Yau Ja Gwai or literally Oil Fried Ghost. I’m not even going to discuss the incredulous origins of this snack, you can read it here. These fried dough sticks are inherently bland and they have a texture that can only be described as chewy choux pastry. As far as I’m concerned they were meant as a breakfast staple- in Taiwan they would be served with a bowl of hot soymilk, in Malaysia with a herby pork broth and of course there’s the dim sum special of Ja Leung.

I suppose it’s probably down to that usual weakness that corrupts all of us: everything that’s fried is twice as nice. Very greasy, very unhealthy, very addictive and I’m surprised the Scots haven’t adopted it as part of their diet!

Hum Jeen Pang or Salt Fried Biscuit is equally bad for the arteries. Gloriously deep-fried and it’s sold plain (salty) or filled with either glutinous rice, red bean paste or in this case Kaya. Kaya is coconut jam, to be honest the green (any nasal related comments here are wholly antagonistic!) colour is something I’m not used to, it should be golden brown. Like the fried dough sticks, the sensation of the excess oil trickling down the lips when biting into it is pure…best not get too carried away with hyperbolic speak! Go on try it, it’s easy eating and no strange ingredients save the trans fat to speak of.

Han Yan So is almond cookie. Don’t be deceived by the looks and assume they have the same chewy effect as the North American variety. These cookies are coarser, sweeter and crumbles all over the bloody place when it comes in contact with the teeth. Because of the high concentration of eggs and fat (veg I hope) used, they don’t keep well. Eat them on the day of purchase. Chinese tea as opposed to coffee is the best accompaniment for the cookies, tea rids of the excess oil a lot more efficiently. (Don’t believe me, go and ask any of those Chinese Medical Centres that appear every 100 yards or so in this city)

Oh this thing, strictly speaking it shouldn’t be included but might as well. Yes a lovely spring roll with lots of cabbage, beansprouts and a few shreds of chicken.

The photo might not be to scale, but this is indeed a more-than-filling specimen. Chilli sauce helps and not the sweet Thai variety please.

See I never mentioned calories until now. £5.00 for the lot, good value considering that’s a kilo gently put on for every Euro pound spent.

NB I get these delicious things from Kowloon Restaurant (I know I’m impervious to bad service, but this one takes the biscuit! Mega rushed service and no English or Cantonese spoken) and Far East Restaurant, they’re both on Gerrard St, Chinatown.


Anonymous said...

Do they sell plain hum jeen pangs? I like them just as they are. I like the green kaya - it's what I grew up with (pandan green, no?)!

And I love dipping yau ja gwai into thick black coffee! I think I'll have to pick some up this weekend.

bellaphon said...

S-L, you're right with the pandan. You can get the plain ones from the Far East Restaurant.

Yup, thick, rough and strong Malaysian coffee (it gives me a sore throat as well!).

Douglas Blyde said...

Very graphic!

bellaphon said...

Douglas- Mark my word, I'm going to desconstruct a morsel of wonton into a thousand pieces!

Hollow Legs said...

Yau tsa gwai is best dipped into congee!

No egg custard tart? Dragons' beard candy?

bellaphon said...

Lizzie- You're so right, classic Cantonese dunk!
More of the others to come...gawd I can't stand Dragons' beard candy as my teeth are falling out!

Anonymous said...

those fried dough sticks are amazing with Milo, that's how we (used to) eat them in Thailand, but you really need to dunk and make sure the milo gets right inside :)

bellaphon said...


Thanks for dropping by. I used to feel awkward about dunking, but now I'm all for it. Three cheers for dunking, thank you so much Homer Simpson!

Joanna said...

Those are definitely accurate recreations of what we have here is China (I moved here). Except the ones you have there are probably safer to eat lol!

bellaphon said...

Joanna- Thank you for stopping by and the reminder on the questionable hygiene standards in big C. I’m going there this October so fingers crossed.

Anonymous said...

I see that you have two photos of a coconut cream bun. This bun appears very similar to the ones I buy at an oriental market in Florida, U.S. Would you by chance know of someone who could provide the recipe of this bun? Thanks! w i l l y t h e h e r o at y a h o o dotty com

Jane Kaylor said...

My favourite Chinese New Year food (though you sometimes find it all year round) is the Dragon Beard Candy, an ancient Chinese Emperor’s Dessert. It’s made into very sweet thin strands and sometimes filled with peanuts.
If you’ve never tried it, you simply have to! The only place I know to find this online is .

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Chinese New Year Cakes