Tag Archives: Dessert

An Exotic Dessert at The Oval Room

On yet another business lunch, we went to The Oval Room, located (and likely named after) near the White House.  As it was a rather formal outing, I tried to keep it professional, and restrained myself from taking photos of the meal.  Each dish was excellent and had an unexpected touch.  The white asaparagus soup ($11), for example, was smooth and creamy, punctuated with sharp, herbaceous notes from sorrel leaves.  The halibut ($23) was surprisingly earthy, served over a bed of fresh sugar snap peas, shimeji mushrooms, and a deep brown broth.   

But the most surprising, and beautiful, dish was the dessert–coconut custard with lemon-lime sherbert, mango lhassi, and candied mint ($10).  I was expecting a sweet, tropical dessert, but what arrived was much more sophisticated.  While the coconut custard had a subtle coconut flavor, it was more of a vehicle for the other components.  The mango lhassi had a sharp, spicy chile flavor, reminiscent of Southeast Asia.  The lemon-lime sherbert added strong acidity and complexity.  

I also loved the dessert’s gorgeous presentation, garnished with lovely violets and green mint leaves.  I (clearly) couldn’t resist taking a photo. Hopefully my professional career doesn’t suffer because of it, but such are the occasional perils of being a food blogger.

The Oval Room
800 Connecticut Ave. NW
Washington, DC 20006
(202) 463-8700
Oval Room on Urbanspoon

Best Hong Kong Style Dessert Shops

In addition to cheap dim sum, cha chaan tengs, and awesome Malaysian food, one of the things I miss most about Hong Kong is the plethora of Cantonese dessert shops.  While I love ice cream, cakes, and pies, I have found that American desserts tend to be heavy on the sugar and carbs, which can be unpleasant in this summer heat.  In contrast, Cantonese desserts are light and refreshing–the perfect ending to a hot summer night.

So where can you find the best mango sago and sweet tofu (豆腐花; doufu hua) in Hong Kong?  Here are my top 3 favorites.

Honeymoon Dessert (滿記甜品)

With several locations around HK, Honeymoon Dessert might win (only by a slight margin) as my favorite dessert shop in the city.  While the menu features many traditional Canto desserts, it also offers modern twists on the classics.  My friends and I decided to go wild on our last visit, and ordered watermelon doufu hua, tang yuan in almond milk, and coconut mango sago with pomelo (pictured at the top, from right to left).

The watermelon tofu was a perfect summer dessert–cool silken tofu topped with a refreshing, not-too-sweet watermelon puree.  Tang yuan in almond milk, in contrast, was served warm.  A classic Chinese dessert, tang yuan are sweet glutinous rice dumplings filed with either black sesame or peanuts and sugar.  We chose the peanut variety.  Each bite was pleasantly chewy, with the sweetness tempered by a sip of almond milk.

The best dessert at Honeymoon, one that I ordered everytime, was the coconut mango sago with pomelo.  For those unfamiliar with this dessert, sago is a type of starch very similar to tapioca–almost like mini boba, but less chewy.  Served in a cool mango and coconut concoction with slices of tart pomelo interspersed, this dessert was addictively fruity and fresh.

With all of the desserts at Honeymoon priced below $40, it’s no wonder there is always a line out the door.  For modern takes on classic Canto sweets, head to a Honeymoon Dessert near you.

Shop 303, Podium 3, World Trade Centre
280 Gloucester Road, Causeway Bay

Hui Lau Shan (許留山)

Arguably the most famous dessert chain in Hong Kong, Hui Lau Shan is best known for its plethora of mango offerings.  From drinks to soups to puddings, Hui Lau Shan is a mango lover’s dream.  More grab-and-go friendly than Honeymoon, Hui Lau Shan has take-away service for its drinks, which range from $28-34 HKD.  For those eating in, my favorite was the mango puree and coconut milk over purple sticky rice (pictured above).  And for those less adventurous eaters, beware of another of HLS’ most popular desserts: snow frog spawn and birds nest, served in a coconut (snow frog spawn and bird’s nest are supposed to be good for the skin, making it popular with the ladies).

Hui Lau Shan has several locations throughout Hong Kong, but my favorite was in Mong Kok:

58-60 Sai Yeung Choi Street, Mong Kok

Wu Dai Tong Tang (五代同糖)

Wu Dai Tong Tang definitely wins for presentation.  Its desserts are whimsical and light-hearted, with some offering a Cantonese take on Western classics.   Huge sugar-dusted souffles are popular here, along with Asian-style panna cotta and molten chocolate cakes.

My friend and I shared a taro ice with grass jelly and red bean and an egg custard.  In addition to incredibly herbaceous grass jelly, the taro ice was served with corn flakes on the side.  I’m still a bit confused by this and am not sure all of the flavors worked together in the dish, but the corn flakes did add an unexpected crunch.  I much preferred the egg custard, served in the most adorable and apropos dish ever.  If you’re looking for more out-of-the-ordinary HK style desserts, Wu Dai Tong Tang is the place to go.

Shop G11, Elizabeth House
250-254 Gloucester Road, Causeway Bay
(Note: The building it is housed in is on Gloucester Road, but Wu Dai Tong Tang is actually in the back entrance.)

Delirious for Dumplings

Since arriving in Hong Kong, I’ve been surprised by the relative lack of regional Chinese restaurants.  While Hong Kong and Guangdong style cuisine reigns supreme, there are noticeably few Sichuan, Shanghai, and Northern-style Chinese establishments.  I might even venture so far to say that Japanese and Vietnamese restaurants outnumber their Mainland counterparts.

As a result, I was pleasantly surprised when my co-worker suggested that we try a Beijing-style dumpling place for lunch.  The meal brought back pleasant memories of my 6-month stint in Beijing, in which jiaozi were an integral part of my diet.

The restaurant is located in the Queen Street Cooked Food Centre, in the Sheung Wan District.  For those unfamiliar with Hong Kong’s cooked food centres, they are basically a large room filled with hawker stands, each serving a different type of food.  Though not always the cleanest option, cooked food centres are a wonderful way to become acquainted with local Hong Kong dining.  Authentic home-cooked fare makes braving the loud, crowded, no-frills setting worth it.

The meal started off with a complimentary bowl of soup.  Fresh cilantro, tomato, and egg accentuated a simple broth.  In contrast to most Chinese starter soups, which consist of random vegetables and leftover bones, this soup was clean and composed.

The main attraction of the meal was the dumplings.  I ordered pork and dou miao (Chinese pea shoots) dumplings.  The dou miao added a nice crunch and freshness to the pork filling, while the jiaozi pi (or wrapper) held together well.  Doused in vinegar and chili oil, these dumplings were satisfying and soothing–just like a Chinese grandma made them.   At $30 HKD (a mere $3.85) for a plate of 12 dumplings and a bowl of soup, this was certainly a bargain for lunch.

Even though we gorged ourselves on dumplings, my co-worker and I still managed to save room for a traditional Cantonese dessert, purchased from the stand next door for HKD $3.  I apologize for not knowing the name of the dessert, but it is similar to Japanese manju–a glutinous rice cake stuffed with sweet mashed taro.

For deliriously delicious dumplings and much more (like this Mediterranean full-service restaurant), head to Queen Street Cooked Food Centre when you are in Hong Kong!

Lao Beifang Jiaozi Guan
Food Market, 1 Queen Street , Sheung Wan

Snowmageddon Cooking: Whole Wheat Apple Muffins

Gorgeous icicles adorning my window

Thursday was my third (and last) snow day. Even though the intense wind and snowfall had subsided, I still found it quite difficult to navigate my way outside. Snow still covered the roads and sidewalks, slushy puddles began to form in the walkways, and the already huge icicles outside my window (pictured above) grew even larger and longer. With conditions outside still treacherous, I resigned myself to spending another day indoors.

I had been resisting the urge to bake all week, but with another snow day to keep me indoors, I decided to throw caution (and my “diet”) to the wind and bake up a storm. I wanted to stay semi-healthy though, and found these whole wheat apple muffins on Smitten Kitchen which fit the bill perfectly. Even better, the recipe uses several basic ingredients which I already had in my pantry. The only things I had to buy were whole wheat flour ($3 at Whole Foods) and 2 Granny Smith apples.

The muffins were a cinch to make. The only thing I found worrisome was the ratio of batter to apples. I had WAY more apples than batter, and the batter was really thick–almost like bread dough. To thin it out, I added a bit more yogurt and a splash of milk (but did not change the consistency dramatically).

Despite this, the muffins turned out wonderfully and filled my apartment with warm spiced aromas. They made a lovely afternoon snack with a cup of Earl Grey tea, and made a delicious and hearty breakfast the next day. To stop myself from gobbling up all of them, I took the rest to my office (which was, thank goodness, open the next day), where they were a big hit. I didn’t have a single one leftover!

These healthy yet heavenly muffins should definitely be added to your baking repertoire–I know I’ll be adding them to mine!

Whole Wheat Apple Muffins

Adapted from Smitten Kitchen

Yield: They said 12, I got 17.

1 cup (4 ounces) whole wheat flour
1 cup (4 1/4 ounces) all-purpose flour
1 teaspoon baking powder
1 teaspoon baking soda
1/4 teaspoon salt
1 tablespoon cinnamon
1/2 cup (1 stick, 4 ounces) unsalted butter, at room temperature
1/2 cup (3 1/2 ounces) granulated sugar
1/2 cup dark brown sugar, packed (I used light brown sugar)
1 large egg, lightly beaten
1 cup (8 ounces) yogurt
2 large apples, peeled, cored, and coarsely chopped
Splash of milk and extra yogurt, if your batter is too thick

Preheat the oven to 450°F. Grease and flour 18 muffin cups and set aside.

Mix together the flours, baking powder, baking soda, salt, and cinnamon, and set aside. In a separate bowl, cream the butter and add the granulated sugar and 1/4 cup of the brown sugar. Beat until fluffy. Add the egg and mix well; stop once to scrape the sides and bottom of the bowl.Mix in the buttermilk gently. (If you over-mix, the buttermilk will cause the mixture to curdle.) Stir in the dry ingredients and fold in the apple chunks.

Divide the batter evenly among the prepared muffin cups, sprinkling the remaining 1/4 cup brown sugar on top. Bake for 10 minutes, turn the heat down to 400°F, and bake for an additional 5 to 10 minutes, or until a toothpick inserted into the center of a muffin comes out clean. Cool the muffins for 5 minutes in the tin, then turn them out onto a wire rack to cool completely.