Beijing Old Liu's Crispy Mille-feuille Cake
Words and photography by Josie
Translated by Angel Pu
On Lane 87, DaNan Rd, Shiling night market, Taipei city
24-hour open for order, home delivery available
Recently a new snack vender in the Shiling night market serving up Crispy Mille-feuille Cakes has become so popular it often attracts long lines. However, not many people know that this crispy mille-feuille cake has a history of 1,200 years. It is said that after Xuanzang, a famous Chinese Buddist monk, brought back Buddhist scriptures from India and translated them, the Tang Dynasty emperor gave this vegetarian crispy cakes as a gift. After many improvements on the cake, it became a favorite among the monks and then the folks.
Liu, who is from Beijing and worked the in interior design industry, is very good at cooking, and crispy mille-feuille cake is one of his friends' favorites. Feeling this traditional snack is rare not only Beijing, but also in Taipei, Liu and his wife started their business providing these cakes. Besides the traditional veggie flavor, there are also creative ones like cheese, beef, pork, corn, green onion, salty egg yolk and stir-fried minced beef with pickles (all NT$40 except salty egg yolk). There are also seasonal flavors such as the very popular shredded white radish with pork.
Actually, the most attractive point about this crispy cake is not about its stuffing, it's the aroma and crispiness of the crust, and the spiciness of the Sichuan pepper. According to the owner's wife, they try their best to make the flavor as traditional as possible. "Even tourists from Beijing praised our cakes are really authentic!" she notes.
A. Although this is just a snack that costs no more than NT$50, the owner makes sure every ingredient, from Yilan green onions to Australian beef belly to to pork thigh, is good quality. When the cakes are baked, they are round and golden crispy, but the inside is as fluffy as feathers.
B. The salty egg yolk flavor contains cooked egg yolks soaked in Kaoliang liquor for overnight. Although it is stuffed with ingredients, crispy mille-feuille cake is not like pie because the dough doesn't contain oil, but rather water.
C. Made with over 30 ingredients, including various kind of Sichuan pepper, cloves, star anise, cinnamon, and sesame, the handmade sauce is another secret why this cake is so addictive.
D. Liu uses different temperatures to cook the cakes and makes sure he doesn't put too much oil in the pan. The cakes go well with tea and it goes nicely with a Chinese-style afternoon tea. It even tastes good when it's cold with beer.
E. Because the cakes flavors can't be distinguished on the outside, Liu uses dried grapes, melon seeds, and black sesame as markers for different flavors.