Fire & Ice and Everything Nice
It’s true dedication when I am passing by a hawker centre after a meeting and decide that I should check it out for the blog since I have never been to that particular one before. I’d just eaten but a hawker centre of that size deserved some exploration.
I was at Alexandra Road for a meeting and as I wandered around, I spotted a large hawker centre with quite a lot of stalls still open even though it was 4.30pm. I wasn’t particularly hungry so I decided to try some of the local desserts. The stall I patronised was obviously a franchise. Anytime you see the words “House of …,” it’s a franchise.
Despite my misgivings, I decided to give it a try by virtue of the fact they had a rather intriguing sounding dessert – Pear with Fungal. Er … really? Suppressing a gulp (and a little bit of nausea), I decided to investigate.
The stall owner must be a fan of Mind Your Language. I can imagine many a sheepish chuckle and relieved giggles as unsuspecting potential diners like me discover that the dessert is an innocuous sweet Chinese soup of Chinese pears and white cloud fungus.
As it was such a hot and muggy day, I decided to purchase some to test the combination of sweet, crisp pear with mushy, slippery white cloud fungus – a sure-fire cure for over-heated systems as these two are cooling foods. I was not too convinced that it would be a tasty marriage but perhaps I was just slightly biased as I am not a keen fan of cloud fungus. Still, the food adventurer in me decided to give it a go.
I also purchased some glutinous rice balls soup, something I am not that fond of too but since I was on a mission of culinary pushing-of-the-envelop, I decided I would go the whole hog. And also, I fancied the idea of a fire and ice dessert sensation.
The icy cold, cooling and mushy Pear and White Cloud Fungus soup flirted with its complete opposite, the hot, spicy ginger soup with the chewy and glossy tang yuan aka glutinous rice balls filled with black sesame and peanut pastes. Even the colours were contrastingly vivid!
I expected to enjoy the cold Pear and White Fungus soup more since I typically prefer cold desserts. And it had little Chinese almond halves in it which I adore so I thought it would be the obvious winner in the contest of fire and ice. But surprisingly, the glowing pale concoction left me cold. It had a strange, gluey taste and texture that was slightly, disturbingly chalky. The pears had a tang to them that did not pair well with the white cloud fungus or the almonds. What little white cloud fungus there were, were so overcooked they almost melted into the soup. I found it rather unappetising.
I resigned myself to eating the tang yuan, with the consolation that it is near impossible to mess up ginger soup so I could at least enjoy that. As expected, I did not enjoy the peanut-filled glutinous rice ball although the dough was a lot more tender and glossier than normal. Furthermore, the peanut filling was dry and I could taste that it had been roasted the day before, as the oil was slightly rancid.
I quickly moved on to the black sesame-filled glutinous rice. Much, much better. The black sesame paste was smokey and nutty yet sweet enough to temper it. The slightly gritty texture highlighted the moist, chewy and slippery glutinous shell and it was altogether rather nice, even if it is still not my favourite dessert.
Thankfully the ginger soup was generous and slightly thick, which makes me wonder why the House of Desserts is so partial to starch in their sweet dessert soups. I find the addition quite unpleasant.
As I left the stall, I pondered on the fact that the stall advertised itself as a vegetarian dessert stall. Surely all desserts are vegetarian? What desserts are meat-based??? Perhaps they meant vegetarian as in using no animal by-product? Hmmm …
Still, I am glad I gave it a try because I got to try a new dish and realised I did not like it. And I tried another dish I normally do not like and discovered I do not dislike it as much as I thought I did. I’m still not going to go out and buy myself some glutinous balls but if I did, I would choose the black sesame ones and avoid the peanut ones.
Well, that was fun … now where’s the Ben & Jerry’s Phish Food?