I was really excited to try this bakery, which is conveniently located 2 blocks away from my uncle’s home in Kaohsiung, which is in southern Taiwan. Wu Pao Chun is actually quite a big deal here since some of its breads have won worldwide bread-baking competitions, such as the French Bakery Masters competition (Les Masters de la Boulangerie). They also have a commitment to providing fresh bread all throughout the day, as evidenced by their timetable of when certain breads are made during the course of the day. So of course, I had to try it.
Unlike a lot of bakeries in Taiwan which either sell only Taiwanese style or more European styled breads, Wu Pao Chun has a wide variety of carbs – both Taiwanese and European, as well as some that have a style and flavor combination of its own. For example, they have a selection of scallion flavored breads and breads stuffed with red bean and mochi, which are things that make me reminiscence about my childhood.
On the other hand, they also offer a selection of more European things, such as scones, viennosserie, and baguettes!
I decided to try a few items off their Top 10 list to see if they really live up to the hype.
I decided to try the longan (a sweet tropical fruit in the same family as litchi) and red wine bread which placed second, as part of a three-chef team, at the 2008 Bakery World Cup. It is also their number 1 seller, along with the litchi rose bread, the bread that took home the Master Baker title in the bread category at the 2010 French Bakery Masters competition (this one’s for next time).
Naturally I was expecting a lot. Texturally speaking, this bread was perfect. Crunchy outer shell, and a soft, airy inside – basically what I wish ALL bread could taste like texturally. The bread itself also looked very homey, as if it was a Wu Pao Chun himself was in the kitchen cranking out these breads. I mean, it’s just a simple round loaf with a flour logo dusted on top, nothing really too special, right?
This bread had wonderfully sweet and fruity aromas. Taste, however, received lower marks. I believe that when using alcohol in cooking and baking, it’s important to first of all, select the right type of alcohol and also to cook it down enough so that all that is left is the sweetness and flavor of the alcohol. There was too strong of an alcohol taste left over from the red wine and the red wine that was selected was too fruity to be paired with the naturally sweet longan fruit, resulting in what I felt was an overly sweet bread. It’s ok though, some butter slathered on top amended this issue easily.
I also couldn’t resist getting a croissant and an almond one. Almond croissants are my kryptonite in Paris – there’s just something completely irresistible about almond cream baked in puff pastry. Ooh la la I’m getting the pastry tingles just thinking about my Pichard croissant aux amandes (SOMEONE TAKE ME BACK TO PARIS). The Wu Pao Chun almond croissant, is, however, NOT an almond croissant as the only almond-y thing about it are the almond slivers on top. Instead of being filled with an almond cream, it is simply filled with pastry cream, which isn’t really a problem, but it wasn’t the almond croissant I was expecting. Maybe I’m being too harsh, but correct me if I’m wrong for expecting an almond croissant when I purchase something labeled almond croissant.
The croissant itself is not bad. It’s not as good as its Parisian counterpart, but it’s infinitely better than the squishy processed things from Costco that I used to believe were croissants. They’re not as flaky as the Parisan croissants and are more bread-y, leading me to believe that perhaps it’s not made with dry butter, which is what gives Parisian croissants its flaky, buttery heavenliness. Yea, I know, I’ve been spoiled rotten by Paris.
I also had to get a baguette, because I’m somewhat of a baguette addict. On any given day in Paris, I can consume an entire baguette by myself. The baguette is slightly more dense than French baguettes, but had good texture – nice crunchy outside, soft, airy interior. Baguettes here in Asia will never be exactly the same as the French baguettes due to the differences in raw materials – believe it or not the type of flour used makes a big difference due to the protein content in the wheat – but this was pretty close.
On the more Asian side, their red bean mochi bread was on point. Fluffy, sweeter type of bread stuffed with read bean paste and a blob of mochi, it’s hard to go wrong with this. Their pineapple cake was soft, buttery and made with real pineapple rather than artificial flavoring. I would even go so far as to say it’s better tasting than the famous Sunny Hills Pineapple cakes.
All in all, I was very satisfied with my trip to Wu Pao Chun, although I would say that maybe it’s a little too hyped up. That being said, I do have mad respect for the owner, who started working in bakeries in middle school to make ends meet and as a result of life, wasn’t even able to go to high school, but now is making his dreams come true, feeding the world delicious bread, and is even a Master de la Boulangerie! He is an inspiration to all, regardless of industry or trade. He is living proof that hard work, commitment, and passion go a long way.
I will definitely be making a trip back to Wu Pao Chun next time I’m in Kaohsiung or Taipei. I also do recommend anyone within the vicinity of Wu Pao Chun to pay it a visit since there is something there for everyone and new flavor combinations to discover!
Wu Pao Chun
No. 19, Siwei 3rd Rd.
Lingya District, Kaohsiung City, Taiwan
Tel: +002 886 7 335 9593