I often saw people carrying those nice bags in the subway, but never cared to read where it came from. From the clean and nature-looking design, and the fact that I only saw women carrying them, I assumed it was some kind of cosmetics. What does that say about me? I don’t know, but thanks to my Kaohsiung eat-out guidebook 雄好呷, I finally got down to the bottom of it.
What’s in the name? Eat 120 is the literal translation of the Chinese name 呷百二, and though 呷 means “to eat” in the Taiwanese dialect, in this particular case, it actually conveys the meaning of “until”. So the name is actually an expression to wish people a long life, and to live until they are 120 years old, 「活到一百二十歲」.
Eat 120 呷百二 inaugurated its first shop in 2005, in Kaohsiung, since then, more boutiques have popped up around the city, and Taipei, Tainan and Kinmen now also have a shop of their own.
Actually, Eat 120 is the brainchild of another renowned southern pastry shop called Hwajen 華珍, founded in 1978 and located in Donggang, Pingtung. Although, I’m unclear as to what kind of business relationships now links the two. From what I gather, the Eat 120 brand was created to answer the modern consumer’s demand for healthy and natural food. Building on the success of pastries from Hwajen, recipes and baking techniques were adapted and developed for Eat 120. In some ways, Eat 120 can be considered a Hwajen 2.0, created to keep up with people’s taste and with some modern machinery imported to keep up with production.
Eat 120 呷百二 sells Japanese inspired confectionery produced with local ingredients, which they like to emphasize. Technically speaking, this is a shop specializing in 伴手禮 or in other words gifts, often of the edible kind, which explains the pretty packaging. Besides cakes and pies, nothing is sold as a single item. They are mainly known for their healthy muffins, handmade pancake, and pineapple cakes. Their originality also lies in the use of unexpected ingredients like green peas (nougat) or tomatoes (shortcake), all praised to be natural, healthy, low-fat, low-sugar, but still refined and tasteful. Though as a trained eater of French pastries 😉 , where butter makes everything taste better (but not healthier), Eat 120 呷百二 first sounded like a hard sell.
Courtesy of the book, I had a BOGO coupon for their specialty djulis 紅藜 pineapple pastry, so a few days before it expired, I hurried to the closest store and got two boxes of those. From what I understand djulis is a sort of grain that Taiwanese aboriginal people consume for its healthy virtues, so the store even sell little jars of it, just in case you want to indulge in it by the spoonful.
The taste and texture of the djulis was rather subtle, so I felt like I was eating yet another variation of the iconic Taiwanese pineapple cake, but at least, it was a good one. The cake layer was compact, not too crumbly, and the stuffing was just sweet enough. It certainly deserves it spots among other noteworthy pineapple cakes. The pastries came in little golden boxes, so cute and pretty that I actually kept one box to conveniently put away some of my little things.
A few weeks ago, I stumbled upon another one of their boutiques while waiting to be seated at Din Tai Fung, in the food court basement of the Kaohsiung Arena Hanshin mall. I looked around their display, and the shopkeeper nicely offered me some samples. Actually, all the stores have some samples ready for customers, so feel free to ask for it, and they’ll kindly obliged. I had a bite of their healthy longan muffin, it was really moist, and the longan flavor really came out, definitely something that’s hard to not like. That is if you don’t mind longan of course (it did take me a few tastings to finally adopt it). I also got to try their three different shades of pineapple cake, one is made with a mix of pineapple and winter melon 冬瓜, the other is 100% of pineapple stuffing, and then, there’s the ones with djulis and pineapple. It was nice to be able to taste all three flavors like that, and the 100% pineapple came out as my favorite.
All in all, Eat 120 呷百二 is an acceptable alternative if you are looking for edible gifts.
Now, I will have to go see what Hwajen 華珍 is about 😕 .
Name: Eat 120 呷百二
Additional Reviews+Photos: pixnet/marukoharuko, pixnet/lovecremebrulee
Address & Business hours: main presence in Kaohsiung, but also present in Taipei, Kinmen, and Tainan
(last updated: 2014/10/24 五)