"I have the simplest tastes. I am simply satisfied with the best." - Oscar Wilde

"I came, I saw, I ate." - Au Gourmand

Sunday, January 2, 2011

Yuan Yang (Ho Won Bake Shoppe & XO Kitchen) - December 28, 2010

Sometimes things are more than they appear. – Shrek

The excitement from the sponge cakes at New Kam Hing had so stimulated the brain that my fellow crusader to Chinatown remembered having a terrific yuan yang in Chinatown: Yuan yang (literally meaning “Chinese ducks,” which are believed to stay as a pair throughout their lives) is a quintessentially Hong Kong drink – a blend of coffee and Hong Kong-style milk tea. Why Hong Kong? Because Hong Kong milk tea is made of seriously and lengthily boiled tea, against the better esteemed English method; furthermore, it is enhanced with condensed milk. My only trial of this potent caffeine elixir, yuan yang, was in the form of a tapioca milk tea, well, tapioca coffee and tea, and my memory of it is colored by a disdainful unpleasantness.

However, the exact location where the best yuan yang could be found was lost in the snow as all the streets looked similar and disorientingly clean after a massive blizzard. Cold and tired, we stopped by at Ho Won Bake Shoppe – a local favorite. Their yuan yang was heavily dosed with half-and-half and came with a tea bag. I let my fellow crusader-cum-yuan yang initiated inspect the innocuous looking thing that was not café au lait. She exclaimed immediately that the color was not right. In addition, a real yuan yang should not be made of a tea bag. As to taste, while it was not as unacceptable as in my memory – more tea than coffee – but it was nowhere near “good” because weak tea or coffee or the combination of the two cannot be more than the sum of its parts. Therefore, the half-and-half floated disjointedly in the murky water and half-and-half was what we left the store with.

A little outside consultation was in order, by phone, and it took us to the correct address – a mere two doors down as a matter of fact – but a whole world away in the arena of yuan yang.

XO’s yuan yang was made with tea that had been long brewed and boiled and stewed on the warmer. Hence, the color of XO’s yuan yang was markedly darker. As you may have realized by now, for this particular milk tea, good tea leaves cannot be used: It is not a matter of wastefulness; the tea needs to be of rather poor quality so that it will not become overly thick or bitter during the long time it stays in the water. Instead of half-and-half, proper condensed milk was used. The yuan yang, surprisingly, tasted like tea – some kind of special blend of which the secret would not be easily revealed. I seriously doubt if I would have known there was coffee in it had I not been forewarned. The sweetness from the condensed milk and the strong tea, hiding the secret weapon – coffee, gradually and stealthily crept into my nervous system; the first sip opened my eyes (or planted a few yuan yang taste buds); the second sip converted me; and by the third sip, I was completely bought.

Ho Won Bake Shoppe
Address: 146 Hester Street, New York, NY 10013
Phone: (212) 966-5626
XO Kitchen
Address: 148 Hester St

Phone:  (212) 965-8645

No comments:

Post a Comment