Meet Fresh, a Taiwanese-based chain known for their herbal grass jelly and taro ball desserts, opened a U.S. branch in Irvine last summer.
For those unfamiliar, grass jelly is an Asian dessert, usually served sweetened and chilled, with a texture much like Jell-O. The jelly is made from the leaves of Mesona chinensis, a member of the mint family. It’s often served in drinks or in shaved ice. Taro balls is a popular Taiwanese dessert. They are chewy, mochi-like balls, similar to the Chinese sticky rice balls (tang yuan), but made out of taro. They are often eaten with syrup or as a shaved ice topping.
Unsurprisingly, the store is located in the Diamond Jamboree plaza that also houses the popular 85C Bakery and other Taiwanese-based chains.
I’ve been curious about this spot for a long time, and so we went to check it out during our last trip to Orange County. Considering the limited menu, I was surprised by the store’s popularity, with a never-ending line that rivaled the one a few doors down at 85C.
Most of the desserts fall into three categories: a drink, shaved ice, or a hot dessert soup. For each of these categories, they offer various combinations of their herbal grass jelly, taro balls, and some of the common ingredients that pair with these items.
We started with an order of fresh made mochi, mainly because it was listed as one of their top five items. Half of them are made with brown sugar for a more molasses flavor and half are made with white sugar. These were bouncy and chewy. I’m not particularly fond of this style of mochi so I didn’t care too much for it, but Mr. K liked it a lot.
Hot Herbal Jelly No. 5
It was actually a cold day when we went, so we thought we’d be smart and order a hot herbal jelly. For the hot herbal jelly, the jelly is melted down to a thick soup. I was really disappointed to see that instead of using the regular sized taro balls, they used tiny ones. Taro balls already have a very subtle flavor, but when miniaturized, I couldn’t taste them at all and had to be careful not to swallow them whole.
Meet Fresh Signature (cold)
Here it is with the condensed milk poured on top.
We were quite full by this point, but I didn’t want to leave without getting the proper taro balls, which I spied being served in their cold version. On top was a large sheet of chilled grass jelly, along with taro and sweet potato balls. Underneath is a layer of grass jelly flavored shaved ice.
I think this would have tasted quite refreshing on a warm day, but we couldn’t fully enjoy it since it was so chilly the day we went.
Overall, we thought this place offered decent Taiwanese desserts that are hard to find in the US. It’s not quite as good as the taro balls and grass jelly desserts we have when we are in Taiwan but it does temporarily satisfy my cravings.
2710 Alton Pkwy, Irvine, CA 92606