Leaf Dessert – A Great Old School Dai Pai Dong Chinese Dessert Specialist in Central, Hong Kong
**For full post and pics**: http://www.lauhound.com/2012/09/leaf-...
Leaf Dessert 玉葉甜品 is an old school dai pai dong in Central, Hong Kong. Supposedly its 100 years old and this is the fourth generation to run this dai pai dong!
A dai pai dong is an open air stall that is basically somewhere in between street food and a restaurant. There used to be lots of them in Hong Kong, but the government changed the laws and it’s impossible to open one now and the ones that are still around are grandfathered in. I’ve been trying to eat at more of them when I come to Hong Kong because they are slowly dying and once they’re gone they’re not coming back. According to this Wikipedia article there are only 28 left in Hong Kong! So I’ve actually been to a reasonable percentage of them! Almost all of them in either Central or Sham Shui Po.
While they have regular food, Leaf Dessert specializes in old school Cantonese desserts and that’s what they’re really known for. The dai pai dong is located on Elgin Street on a hill; several of Central’s dai pai dongs are on or just off Elgin. The menu is only written in Chinese, so I’ve included all of the characters you’ll need to order and I doubt they speak much English as this is certainly not tourist food. The lady was pretty gruff, but I was expecting old school mean service because I feel like that’s how a lot of dai pai dong people are.
Here’s what I got:
Cold Green Bean Soup With Seaweed (Leng Hai Dai Liu Dou Tang 冷海帶綠豆湯):
This was sweet green bean soup that had barley in it (yi mi 薏米) and it’s also flavored with stinky grass (chou cao 臭草), which contrary to name is not stinky at all and adds a very slight herbal flavor to the dish. You had the option to get it cold (leng 冷) or hot (re 熱); I got it cold. You also had the option to add seaweed (hai dai 海帶) as well. The soup was really nice as it was flavorful and not too watery; a lot places make this way too watery and it just tastes like green beans in water. I also liked the added flavor and texture from the barley. The seaweed sounded kind of weird even for me, but I decided to try it and I’m glad I did. It was that thick kind of seaweed and I liked the extra texture that it gave the soup. This was very refreshing on a hot and muggy day in Hong Kong and was probably one of the best renditions I’ve tried. 8.5/10
Glutinous Rice Balls with Sugar, Sesame and Coconut Topping (Tang Bu Shuai 糖不甩):
I have no idea why they call it 糖不甩, which translate to “sugar thrown off”, anyone know why they call it this? Anyhow, it was four hot glutinous rice balls that were topped with a mixture of sugar, coconut and sesame seeds. The glutinous rice balls had great texture; very soft and chewy. The topping tastes like it sounds although the coconut flavor was not very strong. It all went together really well and I enjoyed this dish a lot. I’d highly recommend trying this dish. 9/10
I really enjoyed this place a lot although I’m a big fan of Chinese desserts and my girlfriend often say I like old people desserts and this is definitely Chinese old people food, so I’m not sure everyone will enjoy this as much as me, but I’d definitely recommend it anyhow.
If you like old style Chinese desserts, and if you are still in HK, try 源記甜品專家 (Yuen Kee) in Centre Street, Western District the signature item there is 桑寄生蓮子蛋茶 which is a herbal tea "soup" with lotus seeds and simmered egg. Other items like black sesame or walnut paste could potentially be disasterous (ditto for egg sponge cake which is their signature, heard recent reports of it being not good, but I loved it when I was a kid). Within walking distance to/from Tim's Kitchen.
re: K K
hey K K - I'm back in the US, but yuen kee is high on my list of dessert places to in HK (i've got this really long list of restaurants that I've been adding to and checking off through the years) and the 桑寄生蓮子蛋茶 is what i wanted to try there. I was planning on trying it this trip, but I ended up running out of time before I had a chance. Definitely next time