Taiwanese pudding

My eldest son, almost four, loves pudding — a dessert found at every convenience store and most bakeries in Taiwan that is kind of like a creme caramel. It is a special treat for my boy after soccer. He was so upset last weekend when we forbade him from having what he wanted, even when he said please. There was, you see, another food safety scandal — this time involving the starch used as a thickener in many processed foods including puddings.

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This isn’t the first time that Taiwan foods have been found to contain nasties. Despite high consumer expectations about good quality produce (you just need to look at the number of organic shops springing up everywhere), Taiwan has been plagued by problems with cheap and dangerous additives. First there was the mainland Chinese melamine milk scandal in 2008, then in 2011 the shock news that a type of plasticisers was found in probiotic drinks, jellies, and sports drinks, amongst other things.

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Okay, my attempt at unmoulding this pudding was not perfect, but my toddler did not complain

So I thought it was a good opportunity to learn how to make home-made pudding. It wasn’t actually hard, but I was surprised at how few recipes there were on the internet — at least in English. Eventually I found one and tweaked it a bit.  Well, quite a lot (halving quantities for one.)  My pudding recipe is basically a type of set custard. Old fashioned puddings were more eggy, i.e. more like a traditional baked custard with a sugar caramel on top. Then manufacturers adopted gelatin based versions instead, presumably because it was easier and cheaper.  These days, I have noticed that many pudding are incredibly rich, much more like a cream based panna cotta, which I think is where the inspiration has come from.

Enjoying homemade pudding -- nothing beats Mum's cooking

Enjoying homemade pudding — nothing beats Mum’s cooking

I have always wondered about the history and origin of ‘pudding’ (bùdīng, 布丁) in Taiwan. Mr Taiwanxifu swears it is a Taiwanese dish through and through: many Taiwanese grew up eating pudding. But I always wondered if it was a cultural relic of the short Spanish presence in northern Taiwan. More likely it was introduced by the Japanese, who also have a steamed cream caramel/flan desert also called a pudding, which they presumably learnt through their exposure to European culture during the Meiji period.

Ingredients

topping
2 tablespoons brown sugar (Taiwan ‘black’ sugar is best)
1/2 teaspoon gelatine
2 tablespoons boiling water
custard
2 1/2 cups full cream milk
1 teaspoon vanilla extract
3 egg yolks
1/4 cup of white fine (castor) sugar
1 package gelatine (14g)

Method

  1. Combine the brown sugar and gelatine in a bowl. Pour over the boiling water and still to dissolve. Spoon into small glasses, pudding dishes or pudding glasses and set aside to cool. If you have time, refrigerate overnight.

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  2. Pour the milk into a saucepan, add the vanilla and cook over a low heat until it begins to simmer (i.e. a few bubbles but not quite boiling).
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  3. In a separate, medium sized bowl beat the egg yolks and sugar until pale and thick. They will increase in volumne.
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  4. Gradually pour the hot milk mixture onto the eggs, whisking constantly. The mixture will start to look like a buttercup coloured milkshake.
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  5. Then transfer the milk and egg mixture back into a clean saucepan. Cook over a low heat, stirring constantly, for around five minutes or until slightly thickened.
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  6. For a more professional and smooth texture, strain the egg mixture through a colander. (I was lazy and didn’t do this step, and my puddings turned out fine albeit with a slight homemade texture.)
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  7. Dissolve the contents of the gelatine packet in a small amount of hot (boiling) water. Add to the hot custard mixture and stir until combined.
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  8. Transfer the custard into a pouring jug, and allow to cool slightly. Then carefully pour on top of the brown sugar jelly layer on the bottom on the pudding glasses. Allow to set, and refrigerate until needed. Enjoy!
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Taiwanxifu Toddler gives homemade pudding the spoons up

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About taiwanxifu

‘Taiwanxifu’ (pronounced ‘shee foo’) means ‘Taiwan daughter-in-law’ in Chinese and has been my nickname ever since I married my Taiwanese husband, Sam. I love sampling Taiwanese food, even local specialties such as stinky tofu, pigs blood cake and Taipei beef noodle soup with offal. But there are many other options on the menu. Promise!
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16 Responses to Taiwanese pudding

  1. Claire Shen says:

    I am going to try this recipe this long weekend, hopefully Jacob will love it. He loves pudding so much just like Austin

  2. Wendy says:

    I miss eating this.

    • taiwanxifu says:

      It’s good, isn’t it? I like it on shaved ice and Mr Taiawnxifu likes it with avocado in a smoothie. But it is also good on its own, especially made fresh like this one.

  3. elly says:

    Wow. This recipe is similar to caramel pudding. However, the pudding needs to be steamed before refrigerated. I love to try this one.. :’3

    • taiwanxifu says:

      What I tried to create with this recipe is the type of ‘pudding’ usually sold commercially, i.e. the type that my preschooler really loves. Originally, most ‘pudding’ were steamed egg puddings. I think they are derived from Japan, who probably got them from Europe (Portugese at a guess, just like the castella cake that has become popular honey cake in Japan and Taiwan.) Mr Taiwanxifu, and friends of a similar age, remember eating the little egg puddings when they were children. But gradually manufacturers changed to this type of recipe, which is really a custard set with gelatin. And now most commercial ones use artificial ingredients so there probably isn’t even much, if any, egg in them at all.

      These days, there are a variety of ‘pudding’ recipes in Taiwan. This custard/gelatin is still the most popular type that you see. But nearly every bakery or eatery will have its own version, and often upmarket bakeries will make a steamed egg custard type dessert. I have also noticed that cream-based pannacotta are now also popular, sometimes they include a caramel at the bottom but not always.

      Long explanation. But kids really like this version because it is smooth and has that comfort food feeling. I hope you like it.

  4. Elise says:

    I’m excited to make this for my boyfriend! He really misses the pudding from Taiwan and cannot find a good substitute here in the states. Can you please tell me how many servings this makes and how long it takes for each layer to set? Thanks!

    • taiwanxifu says:

      It makes approximately six. It will depend a bit on the size of the containers you put it in, but six and possibly a small extra one.

  5. Hello! for the gelatin amount for the custard part.. is it really 14g of gelatin? or did you mean 1.4g?

    • taiwanxifu says:

      Hi, yes 14g. I have just used up the gelatine in my cupboard, so I am sorry I can’t check the measurements. From memory it amounted to one sachet. Are you using powdered gelatine? There is a difference between powdered gelatine and gelatin sheets http://www.davidlebovitz.com/2009/04/how-to-use-gelatin/.

    • taiwanxifu says:

      I will add further that the custard mixture is quite runny. This is normal — the gelatine will set it. Good luck and drop me a comment or photo on Facebook to let me know how your puddings go!

  6. Cathy says:

    I tried your recipe. Thank you so much my girls love it. where did you get your jars?
    thanx

    • taiwanxifu says:

      Thank you so much for the feedback. I got the jars in Taiwan. They are commonly used pudding jars, sold at most bakeries. Some are from consumed bakery puddings, and some were purchased cheaply at Taiwan’s RT Mart.

  7. bleueyeslove says:

    Seriously have been craving these lately! I lived in Taiwan for 2.5 years and this was one of my favs!! I went to Ottawa, Ontario, Canada for a trip two weeks ago and I had a Pudding Milk Tea at a downtown market and I am addicted again!! I can’t get anything like this in Northern Alberta Canada. :( Thanks for sharing this recipe in ENGLISH!!!!!

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