A few months ago, I was watching a program on television about snacks in Tainan. One of the segments that really stood out was about a shop that makes a type of giant-sized mochi called ‘dafu’ (大福, known in Japanese as daifuku). So of course I had to try some out when I next visited Tainan.
Mochi are a Japanese rice cake made from sticky rice. In Japan, male members of the household traditionally pound sticky rice on New Year’s day (1 January) until it forms a smooth elastic dough. In Taiwan, mochi (麻糬, pronounced in Taiwanese as môa-chî ) are eaten throughout the year, more commonly as a sweet filled with Chinese-style pastes (e.g. red bean, black sesame or green tea). The popularity, and evolution, of mochi in Taiwan is one is further indication of Japan’s culinary legacy and Taiwanese adaptation.
Fulewu (福樂屋, literally ‘happy house’) is famous for its giant daifu, a type of mochi filled with real fruit and pastes. Its most famous item is a dafu filled with large organic strawberries, which the company grows itself, surrounded by a red bean paste.
On the television program I watched, the owner demonstrated the art of making the red bean paste (they boil and rinse the red beans three times), selecting the right strawberries, creating the elastic dough from glutinous rice and artfully pinching the skin so that it smoothly covers the mochi. So I was excited to meet the man himself, who happened to be serving behind the counter when we visited.
In addition to strawberry, the shop makes a range of other dafu varieties (in season), including mango, kiwifruit and banana. When I visited, they also served a variety with persimmon (a type of orange-fleshed fruit), as well as almond and sesame versions.
Fulewu also makes luxury savoury dafu versions using XO sauce, abalone and scallops, as well as moon cakes, ice-cream moon cakes and ice-cream mochi. And then they sell Taiwanese style products such as salty-plum juice and Penghu style peanut sweets.
I chose to sample one of the shop’s famous strawberry and red bean mochi (NT$45). It was slightly bigger than a golf ball. The fresh tartness of the strawberry was a perfect complement to the slightly sweet red bean paste and chewy mochi skin. My only regret — I was still full from dinner so had to refrain after one.
Having watched way to many forensics TV series and movies (I used to be a bit of a crime buff), I have photographed the dafu next to a coin so that you can get a sense of its approximate size.
My next dilemma was easily solved: I wanted to share the dafu with colleagues at work, but was not heading back to Taipei for another day and did not have a fridge to store them in. It seems I am not the only visitor to Tainan who wanted to share these dafu delights. For an additional NT$100 (around US$3) I was able to purchase an insulated box, which comfortably held a dozen dafu. And at a small additional cost, they organised refrigerated next day delivery. All up NT$790 (US$26) for a dozen giant dafu which arrived as promised before lunch the next day via refrigerated courier.
Fulewu is situated in Tainan City, at 113 Zhongyi Road Section 2 (福樂蛋糕(福樂麻糬FLMG), 700 台南市中區忠義路二段113號), telephone (06 221 2727). Despite having lived in Tainan as a student, I always feel a little disoriented by the sheer diversity of life in Tainan, but I think it was not too far from the Dutch fort of Chikanlou and surrounding temples. They are a popular stop for people buying food gifts to take home after a visit to Tainan, so can get busy on weekends. The shop recommends refrigerating the dafu and consuming within three days (our did not last that long).