Hawai‘i’s First Meet Fresh Brings Taiwanese Desserts to Ala Moana
Find grass jelly and taro balls at this chain from Taiwan.
On a recent trip to Ala Moana Center, I started with mochi bread from Brug Bakery, tried ChickenJoy from Jollibee to see if it’s really the best fast-food fried chicken, and then finished lunch off with grass jelly shave ice at Meet Fresh. Just supporting global capitalism via Japan, the Philippines and Taiwan, in two hours or less. I feel conflicted—I love the variety, but when cities across the world have the same chains, will they lose their unique appeal?
But as usual, existential questions melt away in the face of comfort food, which Meet Fresh’s icy grass jelly bowls are to me. Stepping into the new Meet Fresh, I’m embraced by the smell of warm taro steaming, sweet and starchy, and it triggers memories of the Meet Fresh near my parents’ home in California, and that is a line to memories of Taipei, where street vendors and small shops would scoop grass jelly, herbal and refreshing, the antidote to muggy days.
The Meet Fresh at Ala Moana is still in its early opening phase, so Meet Fresh’s usually extensive menu is currently limited to a handful of signature bowls, each large enough for two. Meet Fresh built its name on its grass jelly and taro balls, so begin with the Icy Grass Jelly Signature ($9.75), a simple bowl of slippery, quivery grass jelly over grass jelly flavored shave ice, somewhat dry and grainy, like a soft granita, and taro balls, which look like gnocchi, but are chewy like pa‘i‘ai. The bowl comes with a little container of Coffee Mate, as if you were ordering coffee at a diner—sometimes I pour it on top if I want a little richness. The overall effect is one of the least sweet shave ices you’ll have, a balance of delicate flavors. There is also a Double Taro Signature ($10.75), which adds on ice cream and a scoop of taro paste, but for me, the extras are overkill.
The Red Bean Soup Signature ($9.75) is the opposite of the grass jelly bowl—warm and hearty. It’s another of my favorites, thanks to the big chunks of sweetened taro and taro balls, but especially because of the tanyuan—sticky rice balls filled with molten black sesame.
I tried the mung bean cakes ($8.25) for the first time—a mung bean paste stuffed with sweetened red bean. If you like mooncakes, you might like these softer versions, but lacking much texture, they’re boring.
Meet Fresh assures us there is more to come, but for me, the cold grass jelly bowl is enough.
1450 Ala Moana Blvd. Ste 1320