Back when I was still working at the newspaper, I did a business story on the gentrification of street food; ie, well-loved local hawker favourites such as popiah, oh-chien and nasi lemak being repackaged and sold in a ‘nicer’ setting (comfortable, with air conditioning), to serve a younger crowd. This was back in 2014, when the trend was just starting to emerge.
Fast forward seven years later, and such establishments are now the norm rather than the exception. Some of these, like Dao, are generational businesses, updated to suit modern times and palates. Founded by three siblings from Ipoh (their father is the owner of Woong Kee Dessert, a famous traditional tau foo fah shop in Ipoh), Dao draws from the siblings’ family recipes to bring soymilk-based desserts — with a twist — to KL’s urban folk.
The Puchong branch is not their first; they also have outlets in SS15 Subang, Damansara Jaya and Kuchai Lama. S and I were in the neighbourhood recently when we walked past so we got some items to go.
Of course, given the setting, the prices are slightly higher than what you get from the usual roadside stalls/ tau foo fah vans. A regular bowl of tao foo fah (Dao spells it as ‘dao fu fah‘) will set you back RM4.20, with a choice of ginger, brown or white sugar syrup. Aside from beancurd and soymilk, they also serve dao bing (shaved ice) and soymilk-based ice cream.
S got the tau foo fah. I was still feeling full from our yumcha session, so I bought a 500ml bottle of soymilk with white sugar. It comes in a slim bottle with minimal packaging. At RM5.30, it’s almost double of what you can get from roadside stalls, but this is to be expected. Tastewise, it was good — not too sweet, and the ground soybeans had a great fragrance — but I probably won’t get it to go next time. If I’m paying a premium, I want to enjoy the environment as much as the food.
DAO DESSERTS (PUCHONG)
4-G, Jalan Kenari 18, Bandar Puchong Jaya, 47170 Puchong, Selangor
Opening hours: 10AM – 10PM (closed Wednesdays)
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The fam and I aren’t big on birthday celebrations – we rarely even get cakes – but my colleagues in Singapore were kind enough to send me one when they heard it was my birthday. Thanks, guys! They used a service called Cake Together, which is like a marketplace for bakers. There are over 100 to choose from and they provide deliveries around the Klang Valley, Johor Bahru and Penang.
My colleagues ordered a five-inch Chocolate Mudcake from Little Collins, a cakery and cafe in Mont Kiara KL. It arrived at the stipulated time. Aside from the cake, the delivery also included a few bottles of Nescafe.
The cake was beautiful. I was expecting it to be very sweet, but it was just right. It was everything a good chocolate mud cake should be: thick, moist and chocolatey. The cake was also very tall, so despite being five inches there was more than enough to share between our fam of four.
The Cake Together website is very easy to navigate: you can browse according to category, including flavours, cake types (brownies, cupcakes, puffs, etc.) or cakes for special occasions. They also offer halal-certified options, as well as vegan and gluten-free cakes.
You can get same day delivery if you order before 4PM. The order will arrive within four hours. Alternatively, you can order in advance and set the date and time you’d like for it to arrive. Very convenient!
The Chocolate Mudcake from Little Collins is affordable at RM55. Depending on where you stay though, the delivery will cost more: to deliver to my place, the charge was RM25, which is almost half the price of the cake. That’s the price of convenience, I guess.
Tucked within a quiet KL suburb, Tanuki by Crustz is certainly worth a visit
nevermind your Waze taking you through suburban roads that lead to god knows where if you take a wrong turn. This delightful dessert café is sister to the popular Xiao by Crustz patisserie at Happy Mansion, and it serves creamy ice cream cakes and frozen treats, alongside too-pretty-to-be-eaten gateau offerings.
The cafe looks unassuming on the outside, but venture in and you’ll find a cozy escape, with an open garden that offers plenty of natural light, and comfortable interiors with lots of wood and beige. Not to mention a beautiful display of cakes and ice cream cakes once you walk into the store. 🙂
WHAT’S THE SCOOP?
A decade ago, there was no such thing as a ‘dessert café’: if you wanted swanky, you’d go to Haagen Dasz or Swensen’s.
These days, there is no shortage of places where you can go to satisfy your sweet-toothed cravings, thanks to a boom in café culture. Tanuki by Crustz is one of them, but rather than serving ice cream scoops, they’ve differentiated themselves with their ice cream cakes. These are not your Baskin Robbins variety either: they’re a reflection of owner Koh Xiao-Ly’s deep passion for desserts. Drawing from her experience with Xiao by Crustz, Koh’s creative cakes often feature multiple elements and layers, such as compote, jelly, cream, crumble and biscuits topped with sorbet and gelato.
Aside from ice cream cakes and petit gateau, you can also enjoy cool beverages, which are often visually appealing and just begging for an Instagram photo lol. (Above) the Strawberry Milk (RM16) comes with dollops of preserved strawberries, a thin wafer and strawberry sorbet topped with a meringue piggy. The sweetness and tartness is wonderfully balanced.
The Peach Passion Sparkling Float (RM16) is a sour and refreshing soda and works perfectly if you’re pairing it with a sweet dessert. It comes with a cute animal-shaped meringue biscuit and passionfruit sorbet.
The gateau cakes are so pretty, you’ll feel almost sorry to dig in.
Making each cake is a laborious process that can take days. Take for instance the Sunny Side Up (RM17), which features yogurt mousse with mango passion fruit jelly, milk chocolate ganache and vanilla sponge on a sable viennois biscuit base. “It’s not like regular cakes where you bake a whole cake, then cut it into slices. Here we make individual cakes and there are many different layers within. It gives you a nice mix of textures and flavours, but there’s also a lot of work involved,” says Koh.
My personal favourite is Miso (RM17), which is only available on Sundays. The cake is made with layers of miso caramel cream, miso crème brulee, white chocolate mousse, almond sponge and chocolate sable Breton. The miso lends the dessert a slight saltiness, so the sweetness is not overpowering.
There are plenty of other desserts to try at Tanuki. Koh constantly changes the menu to keep her offerings fresh, especially during the festive season. Although the prices are slightly above average, I think they are fair seeing as how much work goes into making these delectable creations.
TANUKI BY CRUSTZ
26, Jalan Selera 1, Taman Bukit Indah, 58200 Kuala Lumpur, Wilayah Persekutuan Kuala Lumpur
Opening hours: 12 – 6PM (Fridays to Sundays)
If you’d like to read about how this young and passionate pastry chef started her business, you can check out my interview with her for Fireflyz Magazine – Page 42 (click for fullscreen):
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First popularised in Japan, souffle pancakes are a gift to mankind. (Okay, I’m exaggerating. But not by much).
Bouncy, airy and soft as clouds (insert more adjectives here), these delectable creations are made with less flour and uses egg whites that have been whipped to a meringue, which is then gently folded into the batter. This gives the pancakes their signature fluffiness, and makes them airier and lighter than regular pancakes. Thanks to their popularity, you can find many cafes serving them here in the Klang Valley. One of these spots is Souffle Dessert Cafe in Bandar Puchong Jaya. There’s always a long queue on weekends, so come early or if possible, go on a weekday.
The space is small and it can get very noisy when there’s a crowd. Unless you’re here on a weekday, probably not the best place to chill and relax. Like many cafes these days, this one has a slightly industrial vibe, with a partially exposed ceiling and sleek wooden furniture, accentuated by a shelf full of plants and knick-knacks.
The pancakes are all the same flavour, but they are served with different accompaniments. The Original (above) is simply two pancakes stacked on top of each other, topped with fresh cream and a dusting of powdered sugar, paired with butter and maple syrup. You can opt for other ‘flavours’ such as Chocolate, Strawberry, Seasonal Fruits, Mango, or Matcha Red Bean.
After getting the pancakes to jiggle a bit for Instagram, cutting into these beautiful babies felt blasphemous. Unlike regular pancakes which are much denser, the texture is more porous and airy. The pancakes here are not too sweet, so it goes well with the rest of the sweeter accompaniments like the syrup and sauces. As each dish is made to order (the pancakes deflate if you leave them around for a long time, so you can’t prep them in advance), expect a wait of at least 20 minutes.
Moo’s Matcha Red Bean, which came drizzled over with matcha sauce and azuki beans. The matcha lends the dessert a slight bitterness, which balancsd out the sweetness of the azuki beans and the pancake itself really well.
There are plenty of other places serving Souffle, but if you’re around Puchong, Souffle Dessert Cafe does not disappoint! They also serve waffles, coffee and tea.
SOUFFLE DESSERT CAFE
What’s soft and bouncy and feels like pillows?
If you answered souffle and/or souffle pancakes, then you’d be right. The name itself is an indication to its cloud-like nature, with the French word ‘souffler‘ meaning ‘to blow’. While the dessert has been a hallmark of classical French cuisine, it was the Japanese who popularised the souffle pancake, a fluffy cross between a pancake and a souffle made by whipping meringue into the batter so that it puffs up.
In the Klang Valley, there are a number of places serving these delectable treats, and I’ve rounded up three that I think serve pretty good ones!
SOFFLE, SUNWAY PYRAMID
Sporting a minimalist interior with soft, subtle colours, hanging out in Soffle with friends over a dessert or two is just the pick-me-up one needs after a day out shopping. The cafe serves nine different varieties of souffle pancake, from the fruity Mango Cream and Strawberry Cream, to the creamier options of Oreo, Tiramisu or Belgian Chocolate. Their signature? Following the trend of putting tapioca pearls on everything, Soffle’s specialty is the Brown Sugar Pearl souffle pancake, which is poured over with a brown sugar sauce, boba and brown sugar syrup.
What we liked: Texture of chewy pearls paired extremely well with the soft, bouncy souffle pancake. Everything is made fresh in-house daily, from the pearls to the batter for the souffle. Come after lunch, as they might not have everything ready if you arrive around 11AM.
Also try: Soffle has a range of tea drinks, but go for the yoghurt ice cream – although it is not always available.
- F1.55B, First Floor, No.3. Jalan PJS 11/15, Bandar Sunway, Petaling Jaya, Malaysia
- Phone: 03-7499 3900
- Open: 10AM – 10PM
MOGE TEE, SS2
Moge Tee in SS2 specialises in fruit teas, but their souffle pancakes are also commendable. While they do have the usual flavours like Classic, Oreo, Tiramisu and bubble tea (duh), they’ve also got a pretty unique one called Sekkisei, which was created exclusively for a campaign with a skincare company. The Sekkisei is an Instagrammer’s wet dream and very pretty to look at, from the edible gold dust and flakes on top to the wooden board their souffle pancakes are served on. Tastewise, I feel that their souffle pancakes are a cut above the rest as well. Because they use cheese in the pancake + the sauce, there is a salty element to balance out the sweetness – kind of like salted caramel. The ice-cream that comes with the Sekkisei is made from tofu and very light, with a texture like sorbet, so you won’t feel like the dessert is too cloying.
The Tiramisu is a good one as well, but served with regular vanilla ice cream and a tiramisu biscuit.
What we liked: Nice balance of salty and sweet, cheesy, not cloying, beautiful presentation
Also try: Their wide range of fruit teas! Some of their bestsellers are the dragon fruit and cheese topped watermelon, avocado and the signature fruit tea. Refreshing, and pairs perfectly with the souffle pancakes.
- 52, Jalan SS2/61, SS 2, 47300 Petaling Jaya, Selangor
- Phone: 03-7865 6757
- Open: 12PM – 1AM
HOSHINO COFFEE, MID VALLEY
Don’t fret – we haven’t left out the classics. If souffle pancakes are not your thing, go for the original at Hoshino Coffee @ Mid Valley. The brand is from Japan, specialising in coffee and desserts – but they serve Western and fusion (yoshoku) dishes as well.
The atmosphere is like a typical kissaten (coffee bar/restaurant) – it’s almost like you’re somewhere in downtown Tokyo! The cafe spans two floors, with the lower level boasting booths for privacy and a coffee ‘bar’ area, while the upstairs is more reminscent of a lounge with elegant leather sofas.
Hoshino serves three flavours – Vanilla, Chocolate and Matcha. Each one is made to order so expect a waiting time of at least 20 minutes. Souffles are notoriously hard to make (just watch any episode of Masterchef) but I can say that they’ve perfected the art here. The desserts came out beautifully, served in ramekins. Photo takers will have to act fast; the souffle starts sinking almost immediately. The texture is eggy like custard, and the dessert is meant to be mixed together with the sauce that comes with it – ie vanilla or chocolate sauce.
The Matcha will appeal to those who like a hint of bitterness to balance out the sugary sweetness of the souffle.
What we liked: Perfectly baked souffles! Eggy and custardy.
Also try: The coffee, which is an Arabica blend. Not for those who like strong coffees, the coffee here is pretty mild.
- 27.G, Ground Floor, The Boulevard, Lingkaran Syed Putra, Mid Valley City, 59200 Kuala Lumpur
- Open: 8AM – 10PM
Food trends come and go, but when it comes to dessert, I think nothing beats a good ol’-fashioned cake and waffle combo. If you’re in the Petaling Jaya neighbourhood, one of the best places to get both is at Fluffed Cafe and Dessert Bar. Sandwiched in the middle of a row of quiet shoplots in Taman Paramount, the cosy nook is pretty popular, judging by the crowd that was there during our visit on a Sunday night. Since it was just S and I, we managed to get a table at the back quick (the cafe seats around 50 people +)
I was pleasantly surprised to find that they have a Birthday Special, where patrons can claim a waffle set either 1 day before, on or 1 day after their birthday, with a minimum purchase of RM40 (it’s a good idea to come with friends!). Since S and I already ordered 1 cake each for ourselves and drinks (which was already RM50), we felt it’d be a shame if we didn’t redeem the waffle. We were going to regret this later but wth.
For drinks, I had the Strawberry Milk, which was refreshing with just the slightest hint of sweetness – it tasted a lot like a strawberry-flavoured yoghurt shake.
PS: Service was super quick: almost as soon as we ordered and looked for a seat, the drinks came wtf we hadn’t even sat down properly yet. But then again we took a really long time ordering so the kitchen probably prepped it while we were still logging orders coz they got fed up with our indecisiveness. lol
S had their signature drink called Maple Story, which is earl grey and maple-infused panna cotta with frozen espresso cubes and cold milk. The panna cotta pudding at the bottom of the glass was smooth and sweet, balancing out the slight bitterness from the espresso which melted when combined with the cold milk.
I saw this Smores Cheesecake in their display glass and it looked so good I couldn’t resist ordering. The chocolate/biscuit base on the inside was solid, complementing the soft, gooey smores coating on the outside. It was a tad too sweet for me though, and it got cloying rather quickly.
S decided to save his tiramisu for home coz we still had a waffle coming.
I got to customise my Birthday Waffle! I went for Charcoal Waffle, paired with three scoops of ice cream: their signature Hokey Pokey (vanilla + honey with bits of honeycomb), Black Chocolate and Red Strawberry. The dish was served with slices of banana and strawberry, and they gave me a little candle to boot. 🙂
The waffle was fluffy and crisp, just the right portion for two or three to share. They didn’t skimp on the ice-cream either, which were giant scoops of solid, smooth creaminess. My favourite was the Hokey Pokey, as it was sweet with subtle hints of honey that brought out the vanilla flavour rather than overpower it. Black Chocolate came a close second with its rich, thick and slight hint of bitterness. The Red Strawberry was really sour, which I didn’t like, but S thought it was okay.
They also have unique ice cream flavours like Tau Foo Far and Macadamia Crumble.
We left completely stuffed and satisfied from our food excursion. I’d definitely come here again for my waffle fix if I’m in the neighbourhood! It’s not the best place for chilling though as the place gets crowded and super noisy, you might have to shout at each other to be heard. Service was fast, friendly and efficient.
FLUFFED CAFE AND DESSERT BAR
55, Jalan 20/7, Taman Paramount, Petaling Jaya, Selangor.
Opening hours: 12PM – 10PM (Tues – Suns)
If you Google ‘best gelato in Australia’, chances are that Gelato Messina is on the list. Established in Sydney in 2002 by a family with Sicilian roots, the highly successful ice-cream chain has stores all over the country, including in Brisbane, Perth and Melbourne. It was the latter, tucked in a corner of Melbourne’s bohemian/hipster neighbourhood of Fitzroy, that I visited recently on a press trip.
We got there at a good time, as there wasn’t much of a queue. There were several tables on the sidewalk where customers were enjoying their cold treats on a warm autumn afternoon.
There’s the cardinal rule of enticing one’s senses of sight and smell at food establishments – and Gelato Messina definitely had the first one down pat. As soon we stepped into the airy store, we were greeted by delightfully vivid mounds of gelati in all hues and shades, as well as towering cones of wafer sticking out like a magnificent countertop crown. Benches and beanbags lined the brick wall, left deliberately unfinished for a rustic, bohemian look.
A wonderfully messy playground of sweet and chocolate-y dreams. They have a whopping 40 flavours available, with five weekly rotating specials.
The glass case next to the ice-cream counter houses Gelato Messina’s signature items – gelato cakes – perfect for special events and celebrations. There’s the quirkily named Dr Evil’s Magic Mushroom (background), sure to be a hit with the kids (and the kids at heart!).
Made to look like a toadstool, the top dome is filled with dark chocolate gelato, peanut cookies and dulce de leche, topped with layers of vanilla cream, chocolate sponge, a red ganache and white chocolate buttons for the ‘spots’. Meanwhile, the ‘grass’ is crushed biscuit, white chocolate and almond praline and popping candy.
Evil indeed, for the waistline.
Another bestseller is their Hazelnut Zucotto (foreground), the brand’s first gelato cake which features hazelnut and gianduia gelato encased in a frangelico-soaked hazelnut sponge and cream/finished with mirror glaze (for that shiny smooth appearance).
We got behind the counter for some backstage action, where a kitchen staff was busy whipping up ingredients for a limited edition gelato cake. This involved dipping a beater into hot caramel sugar and whipping it around to create glossy, gossamer-like sugar webs; as fine as spun thread. It was a tedious process, but I understand now why people keep coming back to Messina – it’s their commitment for fresh ingredients and making as much as possible in-house. When you control the ingredients and how they’re made, you also control the end flavours to ensure that everything is top quality.
Messina Melbourne’s head chef, Michelangelo Vinci
is as dreamy as his desserts oh cough ahem i mean ahem.
Well, as they say, the proof is in the pudding (or in this case, the ice-cream) so we had to sample a couple of flavours. I love dairy, so I went for their dairy flavours (which are low in fat, coz they use less cream). We couldn’t try all 40, but my favourites were the Tiramisu, which was delightfully fluffy thanks to the egg, marsala and mascarpone, with lady finger biscuits soaked in espresso coffee, as well as the Vanilla which also had eggs, organic Tahitian vanilla bean and fresh milk for an awesomely creamy texture. Thick, rich and not overly sweet.
Adventurous souls can find some unusual pairings, like the coconut + lychee, poached figs in marsala and yoghurt caramel. The sorbet range offers flavours like salted coconut and mango salsa, blood orange, lemon and strawberry.
GELATO MESSINA (Fitzroy branch)
237 Smith St Fitzroy, VIC 3065
Business hours: Sun- Thurs (12pm – 11pm), Fri-Sat (12PM – 1130PM) – for those late night ice cream cravings!
Update: This outlet is permanently closed.
Taste Better’s tagline is ‘Once Tasted, Remember Always’.
Awkward grammar aside, I think that sums it up pretty well. These petite little pastry puffs are a delightful snack, especially the durian flavoured ones. The exterior is light and fluffy, hiding a creamy durian centre, which oozes out when you bite into them. They also come in flavours like Yoghurt and Malaysian fruits like cempedak and soursop.
The brand recently opened an outlet at IOI Mall in Puchong, so we got a box. The puffs are not sold individually. Smallest serving is a packet of six for RM10.60.
Baked fresh daily, the puffs are best refrigerated and eaten cold so that you can feel the burst of cold creamy durian in your mouth. The flavour is rich, it’s almost like eating pureed durian – none of that flavouring sht.
They’re located in numerous locations around Malaysia, so do check out their website taste-better.com to find the closest one to you. Also available in Singapore, China and Indonesia.