Fish and desserts. No, it’s not what you think it is. These cakes are nowhere near to Rachel Green’s infamous contribution to Thanksgiving dinner with her ‘authentic’ English trifle in Friends (beef sautéed with peas and onions + custard + jam + bananas isn’t anyone’s cup of tea!) There’s nothing fishy about these fish-shaped treats, and no fishes were harmed in the making of these desserts.
Bungeo-ppang (bungeo = crucian carp; ppang = bread) is a Korean fish-shaped pastry (hence the ‘bungeo’). It’s a staple find in the Korean street food scene, especially in winter. Created by using a fish-molded waffle iron-ish contraption, the pastry encases a filling, which is most commonly sweet. Old-school bungeo-ppang is filled with a sweet red bean filling. Red bean is a common flavor and ingredient in Asian desserts. It may sound astonishing to consume beans in desserts, but red bean desserts are far from savory ones. Sweet red beans are sweet, and they tend to be less sweet than a handful of typical dessert ingredients. It’s a flavor that unites sweet tooths and savory foodies. Bridging that gap results in a special flavor experience.
Modern twists are added to the selections of bungeo-ppang nowadays. Chocolate, custard pastry cream, ice cream and more are popular too. Taking the bungeo-ppang discovery to another level, I found a box of bungeo-ppang inspired cakes from Korea at my favorite snacks aisle at a local supermarket in the Lion City. I was intrigued with the cakes’ shape from the illustrations on the box, and the interesting fillings sealed the deal when it came to the decision of adding it to the snack stash.
From what I noticed through examining the illustrations, it seemed to me that each cake is filled with mochi and chocolate. Flipping the box around to a label with English translations, my suspicions were confirmed. Furthermore, another element to the filling was uncovered: red bean paste.
Mochi is embraced warmly in the desserts realm. Considering that the fusion of mochi and donuts has made waves in the donut realm, it’s not a surprise to spot another mochi crossover. Will the two worlds collide? Or will it be a match made in heaven? To seek that answer, let’s dive into the taste test!
Let’s begin with the sponge cake – it’s a moist and soft cake that tastes like vanilla. It’s a lovely cake with red bean and chocolate paste, and mochi. The cake shines brilliantly on its own, and it elevates the other flavors too.
The detailed motifs you’d find on bungeo-ppang aren’t replicated, however, the cakes’ shape resemble fishes. As for the motifs that are imprinted on the cake itself (which I believe is identical to the filling taste-wise), well, I’ll classify them as ‘abstract’.
The thick and smooth filling is almost paste-like, echoing the texture of classic red bean paste. It tastes like a blend of red bean and milk chocolate. The collab between cake and red bean is perfect. It’s my favorite part in each and every bite, from the beginning to the end. Milk chocolate, which I reckon is combined with red bean paste, is well-balanced for a cocoa touch. As I’ve never tasted red bean and chocolate together in a single bite, this unique experience is something I’d love to taste again in the future.
Chewy mochi sits alongside the red bean-chocolate combo. Mochi merges with cake seamlessly, and flavors from red bean and chocolate tie in excellently. I was expecting more mochi in the filling, considering that the fusion of mochi and donuts do feature mochi a little more prominently. The amount of mochi is possibly justified as a balance between two highly distinctive textures. They’re friends who’re polar opposites, but when they unite, they create something wonderful. I feel like it’s the dawn of another new global mochi era: mochi and sponge cake!
I love everything about these little fish-shaped cakes. Along with being super cute, the symphony of flavors they possess is music to my taste buds.