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[Weekender] Taiwanese desserts gain ground in Korea

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Published : 2017-07-07 17:34
Updated : 2017-07-07 17:34

Move over macarons and Frappuccinos. Just as Starbucks made coffee drinks a daily essential for millions of Koreans and consumers around the world, authentic Taiwanese desserts are soaring in popularity here.
 
Taiwanese dessert shop 315 Taiwan Cafe located on Teheran Street in Gangnam, southern Seoul (315 Taiwan Cafe)

Seoul isn’t exactly home to the most authentic Taiwanese desserts. But if you take a chance and indulge in freshly crafted milk tea and munch on a heated Taiwanese pancake at 315 Taiwan Cafe on Teheran Street in southern Seoul, you will realize why the shop has become a standout dessert shop around the area. 

Taiwanese dessert shop 315 Taiwan Cafe located on Teheran Street in Gangnam, southern Seoul (315 Taiwan Cafe)

Opened in March, the shop gets its name from 3:15 milk tea, one of Taiwan’s most famous tea brands. The tea bags are used as a base for the shop’s signature milk teas, recreating the original flavor of the Taiwanese drink. Drinks are often customizable, so order yours hot if you prefer, and control the amount of tapioca and sweetness to your liking. Frequented by an average of 1,500 visitors a day, the bustling shop has also seen a growing number of customers who regularly buy snacks from the store.

“This Taiwanese dessert shop offers almost everything you can include on your Taiwan shopping list, and that’s what makes it so special,” said Jung Yi-en, the shop’s manager. 

Taiwanese dessert shop 315 Taiwan Cafe located on Teheran Street in Gangnam, southern Seoul (315 Taiwan Cafe)

“We have a lot of visitors from Taiwan as well, and they usually find the flavor of our desserts very authentic.”

The shop’s most famous items includes Fenglisu, a pastry with a buttery crust and a pineapple paste filling, and Cong Zhua Bing, a pancake filled with ingredients such as ham, egg, cheese and onion. Grilled to order, the slightly crispy and chewy hand-grab pancake pairs perfectly with a glass of milk tea for a small meal. Nougat crackers, which combine sweet milky nougat with savory crackers flavored with sauteed spring onions, are also one of customer favorites. 

Taiwanese pancake Cong Zhua Bing (315 Taiwan cafe)

Jung claimed that 315 Taiwan Cafe was the first dessert shop in Korea to have brought authentic Taiwanese snacks. The warehouse-styled cafe also displays boxes of various Taiwanese sweets, all of which are for sale.

The Taiwanese dessert trend is not new in Korea. Large sponge cakes, also known as giant castella, gained popularity in Korea with their extra soft texture and large size. 

A number of shops have sprouted up in major cities here since May last year, until the baked good was swirled in harmful ingredient controversies in March. Nougat crackers and fenglisus also became available at convenience stores in October last year, becoming one of the most-sold items at the stores. 

Considering Taiwan’s high reputation for the variety of its desserts and its geographical proximity to Korea, experts predict Taiwanese desserts to only grow in popularity in in Korea.

“As Koreans are expanding their palate for foreign cuisine, owing to the large number of people traveling abroad, they are now reaching for different kinds of desserts other than western snacks,” said Chung Yu-ni, CEO of Oliversweet, Korea’s pastry brand.

“I also think it is natural for Koreans to turn their eyes to Taiwanese desserts that are usually cheaper than high-priced European items,” she added. 

By Hong Dam-young (lotus@heraldcorp.com)