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Try shaved ice, boba cakes and QQ toppings for a dessert fix with a Taiwanese twist
There’s more to Taiwanese drinks than bubble tea. At Yi Fang Fruit Tea, the most popular drink is made from jade tea leaves (regional to Nantou county), with passion fruit, apple and orange slices and pineapple jam. (Yi Fang is named after the founder’s grandmother, and the pineapple jam recipe is hers.) Other drinks reminiscent of the island country are winter melon juice with freshly squeezed lime and star fruit juice (which is sourced from Chiayi county). Most of Yi Fang’s overseas franchise ingredients, like the cane sugar, their assortment of tea leaves and the famous pineapple jam, are imported from Taiwan.
672 Yonge, 647-748-0666 and others. facebook.com/yifangtea.ontario
The idea of a warm or hot dessert soup may seem unusual, but it’s quite common in Taiwan. Lee Chen Bistro does this quite well, with tang yuan with black sesame filling done three ways: steamed and coated with crushed peanuts, in a osmanthus infused syrup, and lastly in a sweet fermented rice soup. Tang yuan are made from glutinous rice powder.
214 King West, 416-519-8688, and others. leechenbistro.com
Conveniently located on Dundas between Bay and University, ZenQ knows how to dish Taiwanese desserts: whether you’re looking for a sweet soup, like their tofu pudding; or something more cooling, like their shaved ice with fresh mangos and ice cream.
171 Dundas West, 416-596-9833, and others. zenq.ca
As one of the first Taiwanese cafes to offer the traditional shaved ice and grass jelly desserts, Green Grotto’s Markham location offers an “icy formosa bowl,” made with brown sugar crushed ice. Topping options include tapioca, taro, QQ balls and sweet mixed beans.
7040 Warden, 905-300-2578, and others. greengrotto.ca
Meet Fresh originated in 2007 when a brother and sister from a farming family in Tainan insisted on making their ingredients fresh, like grass jelly, tofu pudding, taro and sweet potato balls. The menu has expanded to shaved ice, almond soup, purple rice soup, small bites like mochi and much more.
333 Spadina, 416-260-6886, and others. meetfreshcanada.com
Bubble Lee’s brown sugar pearl milk is indulgent and fitting for your sweet tooth. The recipe was in R&D for three years before the founder’s daughter gave them the thumbs up for the perfect ratio. The drink is made from just two ingredients: milk and tapioca that they braise in brown sugar. (You can also add black or green tea to your drink.) The tapioca is guaranteed fresh as it’s made every two hours.
469 Queen West, 647-350-8880, bubbleleecanada.com
The bakery section of T&T supermarket offers an array of Taiwanese desserts. While many Asian regions have their own version, the sachima you can find at T&T – a rectangular cube made from strands of fried dough – is soft, but chewy with the perfect amount of QQ from the maltose and honey that holds it together. (Don’t ever call it the Asian rice crispy though!) These treats are topped with raisins or sesame seeds, but as with butter tart purists, it’s up for debate.
7070 Warden, 905-470-8113, and others. tntsupermarket.com
Mabu’s mango honey cube toast with ice cream and fresh mango is an impressive order. Ice cream is placed on top of pieces of stacked toast and topped off with fresh mango pieces. Another traditional dessert, often sold in Taiwan through street vendors and at night markets, is the boiled mochi with sweet peanut and black sesame powder.
578 Yonge, 416-901-8183, and others. mabugeneration.com
At the Bakecode bakery, you can find salted egg yolk croissants (a savoury and sweet flavour many Taiwanese desserts have) as well as Asian-inspired treats like the taro mousse cake and the black sesame chiffon roll cake. They recently released two boba cake options: the sea salt crema boba cake and the brown sugar boba cake.
4910 Yonge, 647-346-3888, and others. bakecode.com
BlackBall focuses on classic Taiwanese grass jelly desserts. In addition, they also offer aiyu jelly, konjac jelly, tofu pudding and shaved ice. More unique is their offering of toppings for the jellies, like sesame mini balls, yamQ, taroQ, white rice balls and matchi mini balls.
472 Yonge, 416-925-6668, blackballna.com