Wednesday, May 5, 2010

[中壢] - 劉媽媽客家菜包 - Liu Mama Hakka veggie buns from Zhongli

Liu Mama's Hakka Buns?

Some of you dirrrrrrrrrrrrrrrrrrty minded folk might be thinking that I'm about to discuss body part curvature belonging to some random Taiwanese MILF or older mom......but sorry to disappoint. It's neither booty, badonkadonk, nor breasasists (like David Alan Grier used to say on Living Color to refer to mellifluous mounds of mammalia)....but Hakka Taiwanese veggie buns made with a mochi-like texture (glutinous sticky rice) of many flavors (and contents), a truely specialized and indigenous specialty that is integral to the local food culture.

I have never stepped foot in Liu Mama's store, which I read is located in Zhongli city, Taoyuen County (the next county that's SW of Taipei county, an hour or so away from Taipei downtown is best guess) which is also where the international airport is located. Interestingly that is almost synonymous to Narita airport being an hour+ outside of Tokyo. Fortuately I have had the pleasure of trying these buns thanks to someone who bought them there, drove an hour into Taipei so that they can be enjoyed.

Gotta love the Hello Kitty clear bags they use for small orders...

Liu Mama's (or Mama Liu for proper English juxtaposition) is open 24 hours, a successful family run business, and has developed an insanely strong local following for their Hakka Taiwanese veggie buns which are all hand made from scratch. One of the main ingredients is a dark green plant (and can arguably be thought of as leafy green blades of grass) known as "ngeh bahn" in Hakkanese dialect, that is mixed in with sticky rice and molded until it reaches the consistency guessed it, MOCHI. Taiwanese people are just as crazy about their mochi (muo shu in Mandarin). This is almost parallel to certain types of wagashi/mochi in Japan that are naturally green for the same reason (except those are sweet).

So what goes inside this Hakkanese Bun? Liu Mama's sells one easily x2 the size of a cha shiu bao for a measly NT$20 or roughly US$0.60. They come in different colors too, and for example a purple one is made with purple mountain yam, and a yellow one may be due to a local variety of sweet potato.

The best one of the lot? It might be the standard white one with shredded daikon, preserved veg, baby dried shrimp, and maybe a wee bit of minced pork inside. Latter samples had strong white pepper presence which can be a bit overwhelming.

This is extremely hardcore and regional. It might be way too Chinesey, Hakkanesey, and Taiwanesey combined for some, but if you're the type of person who never turns down a good bun, likes mochi, and comfort Asian food, then maybe this might just be the right package to sample.

If you ever find yourself in Zhongli, this is supposed to be a "must try" item. The problem is that each one is quite filling, whether it is a salty one, or a sweet version for dessert. Any more than that during a week and you may get sick of it quite quickly.

These also quite gooey and naturally, sticky, to the touch. It's best to eat these warm to hot, as the flavors do disappear quick when they are left to cool to room temperature. These also are very tempting to do the high school boy prank of throwing something gooey, wet, and sloppy against the bathroom walls and see if they stick (how many of you tried clumping some toilet tissue together, run under tap water, and tossed that sucka like a baseball to see who would make a bigger splash?) It's tempting to do that baseball pitch or curveball with these sticky buns, but it's literally an epicurean faux pas!

There are many other businesses that sell these kind of buns all over Taiwan, and arguably locals may have other favorite places. However LMM's is the one of the most famous and well known.

But yeah Liu Mama be da ho. She's also pimpin' her bunz on yootoob

劉媽媽菜包 Liu Mama's Hakka Veggie Buns
桃園縣中壢市中正路268號‎  (Tao Yuen county, Zhongli City, Zhongzhen Rd #268)