When I was in Sydney last year, Meet Fresh was all the rage. It was a two-queue night on Goulburn Street for our group of ravenous food bloggers – first, we joined the legendary line at Mamak, happy to wait for the best roti in Chinatown. After that, the queue at Meet Fresh. I have a big appetite but my secret is knowing when I’ve hit my limit. I left my friends with the crowd at Meet Fresh and took my food baby belly into a cab back to my hotel.
Now that Meet Fresh has opened in Perth on James Street in Northbridge, I don’t need to fly over east for a taste of this Taiwanese dessert sensation. The Perth store was Meet Fresh’s 11th Australian store (Canberra the 12th).
There are four main categories of dessert on the Meet Fresh menu: taro balls dessert, herbal jelly, traditional tofu pudding, and crushed ice desserts, all served with different combinations of ingredients including peanuts, tapioca pearls, red beans, green beans, lotus seeds, barley, sweet potato, coconut jelly, noodle jelly and lemon.
Drinks include herbal, black, milk and winter melon teas, some available with whipped cream on top, all served in unique glasses that look like the love children of jam jars and beer steins.
The glossy black herbal jelly is Meet Fresh’s signature but taro balls appealed to us. My friend Prez ordered Taro Balls Dessert No.4 (taro, red beans and pearls). I chose Taro Balls Dessert No.7 (taro, honey beans and pearls – I couldn’t resist the lure of “honey beans”). Meet Fresh’s taro balls are hand-made from shredded taro which is steamed and mixed with corn and potato powders, kneaded carefully to ensure the chewy texture will be just right, then cut into shape and cooked.
The shaved ice with random beans and things in our desserts made me think of Malaysian ice kacang – very refreshing, and a cooling choice when summer comes around.
I chomped my way through the interesting textures. The flavours are quite subtle. My favourite elements were the shaved ice and sweet honey beans. You’ve got an ice pick of sorts at your disposal; just tap or chip away at the icy mountain with your spoon between mouthfuls.
In the store, you’ll see a poster of Mr and Mrs Fu, the “two masters” behind Meet Fresh. There are now more than 100 Meet Fresh stores in their native Taiwan.
Chewy taro balls and cold cooked beans won’t be everyone’s idea of dessert (especially with Chocolateria San Churro up the road, Superstar Waffles on William Street and the Ben & Jerry Scoop Wagon five minutes walk away in the Perth Cultural Centre), but the growing diversity of our choices is fantastic.
If you’re after more than dessert, Taiwanese cafe Taro Taro in Victoria Park serves noodles, rice and fried chicken as well as honeydew and milk teas, herbal jelly, ice cream and tofu pudding. But I think Perth would be absolutely delighted if Taiwan’s most famous dumpling restaurant set up shop here. In the meantime, I’ll keep eating those perfect, juicy xiao long bao in my dreams (and on every trip to Sydney).
Unit 7A, 109 James St (corner of Nicks Lane), in between Saigon Restaurant and Gelare.
Northbridge, WA 6003
Monday and Tuesday 11.30am to 10pm
Wednesday, Thursday and Sunday 11.30am to 11pm
Friday and Saturday 11.30am to midnight
There are stores in Sydney, Melbourne, Brisbane and Canberra too – see Meet Fresh locations.