Chinatown Part Two: What I Found There

Let’s continue with Chinatown, shall we?

If you happened to miss part one, you can find it –>HERE

Because I know you’re all super keen on vicarious travel.

So the first time I went to Chinatown I bought this sucker:

Great Hannah, what on earth is it? It’s a steamed cake!! Basically, whipped eggs and sugar and flour. It’s oh, so light and sweet, but not too sweet. The texture is like angelfood cake, only more cloud-like. You know how angel food cake kind of sticks together? This cake isn’t sticky at all, and it’s so spongey.

I could go on and on about it, but basically, if you ever have the chance to try steamed cake, DO IT!

Next up, and you can totally judge me for this, was the Chinese New Year visit you read about in my last post.

No, not that I went to Chinatown again.

But rather that I bought all four of these pastries in one visit.

From L-R, Top-Bottom: Pandan Cake Roll, Sweet Yam Pastry, Red Bean Paste Fried Sesame Ball, Pandan Pastry.

Can you just see them?

The two pastries were typical and flaky, but not at all dry. They were filled with delicious pastes of either Sweet Purple Yam or Pandan. If you’re not familliar with Pandan, it’s a bit difficult to explain. My friend, who is Malaysian had to keep telling me it didn’t taste like anything much, but it was the smell that made it taste so wonderful.

It comes from the screwpine plant and the leaves are commonly used in cooking. Most things that are flavoured with this are a delightful green. According to the ultimate authority of Wikipedia (Don’t tell me you don’t trust it),

The characteristic aroma of pandan is caused by the aroma compound 2-acetyl-1-pyrroline which also gives white breadjasmine rice and basmati rice (as well as Bread Flowers Vallaris glabra) their typical smell. Bottled pandan extract is also available in shops, but often contains artificial green food coloring. The leaves also have a repellent effect on cockroaches.

Cool, huh?

AND just so you know, there have been cockroach sightings at SOAS. So I’ll be using this stuff.

I actually went to the asian market and bought a little bottle of extract of the pandan variety after taking a nibble of the pandan cake. Gosh. So soft and cakey!! Not dense, but pillowy soft and light as a feather.

The red bean ball was my least favourite. I loved the centre, which was filled with a sweet red bean paste of which I am quite fond. The outside was fine, because I like sesame flavouring, but it was fried, which I didn’t realise when I bought it. I’m not the hugest fan of fried things, because 1) They are usually too heavy and 2) The flavour of the fried-ness covers up whatever flavour is there naturally.

I might have eaten the paste out of the middle and tossed the rest.

All in all, I will be back. At only £1 a pop, these cakes are well worth a trip over there for a cheap and delectable taste of Asia!

Stay tuned for a bit of a comical trip through one gallery in the British Museum and some Grecian Urn comics.

Love, Hannah