The Incredible Flavor of Cishan Bananas／旗山香蕉好味道
The Incredible Flavor of Cishan Bananas
◎English Translation: Peng Hsin-yi
◎Photos courtesy of Pao Chung-hui, Youth Banana Band
In Cishan, summer is an image of abundance: trees heavy with bananas ripening to sweetness beneath leaves that sway in gentle breezes, promising the reward of golden richness. No words can describe Cishan's bananas other than heavenly goodness. Visitors to Taiwan's "Banana Empire" are always looking for ways to bring the flavor of Cishan to their friends and families –and there are plenty to be found. On Cishan's Old Street, the confluence of all things ancient and modern, one can follow a waft of warm banana fragrance through the Baroque-style buildings, and find various banana pastries that make the entire trip worthwhile. We are going to sample a few, and show how a fruit excellent on its own can be made into something even better.
Chimei Bread Banana Pound Cake
Chimei Bread has been in business for more than 30 years; a whole generation grew up with Chimei's flavors, and Chimei is determined to pass those memories onto another generation. The bakery has never strayed from its original recipes. Still, an old shop needs to reinvent itself every now and then so as to stay competitive. About five years ago, Chimei developed a special recipe for banana pound cake, and it was an immediate hit. The banana pound cake looks like a giant doughnut. It weighs 3.6kg (about 8lbs), and the store says only tree-ripened bananas grown in Cishan are used. Cake flour rather than ordinary flour is used, achieving a fluffier texture than that of a traditional pound cake or banana bread. Each cake contains at least 2kg (about 4.5lbs) of banana puree to ensure every morsel is saturated with the sweet scent of bananas. Because bananas naturally contains a lot of sugar, Chimei reduced the amount of sugar added to the mix, and uses trehalose (a sugar extracted from seaweed) instead. After two hours in the oven, the banana-laden batter is transformed into a ring of golden goodness. The texture of Chimei's banana pound cake is somewhere between traditional banana bread and chiffon cake. It is moist but not dense; the banana flavor is just right, never too sweet. The banana pound cake is baked in a bunt cake mode; each cake ring can produce 24 slices, and each slice weights about 150 grams (about 5.3oz). It is satisfying in every way, and has quickly become an exceptionally popular souvenir.
Old Street Café Banana Cheese Cake
If you like bananas and cheesecake, then this desert has your name on it. A perfect mix of two differently wonderful flavors, this delicacy features a tamer banana scent, allowing the creamy cheesecake mixture to take the lead. But the cake reveals its character the moment you put a piece in your mouth. The delicate bouquet of banana flavor blossoms as you bite into the banana/cheesecake mixture. It does not overpower, but lingers and makes you want to try it again.
The recipe calls for two parts cheese and one part fully ripe banana. The batter requires an hour and a half of baking in a water bath in order to set properly, and each cake weighs about 600 grams (about 1.5lbs). The finished product looks much like a regular cheesecake, but the banana flavor adds depth to the eating experience. Many foreign visitors used to cheesecake in its original form have been impressed. During the Chinese Lunar New Year, Old Street Cafe sold more than 200 of them, and it is now the most popular item in the shop.
| Where to buy ?
| ‧Chimei Bread
No. 62, Jhongshan Rd., Cishan Dist., Kaohsiung City
‧Old Street Cafe
No. 32, Fusin St., Cishan Dist., Kaohsiung City