Back in July while doing research for my love letter to taro ice cream, I was disappointed to find supermarket freezers around Chinatown devoid of taro ice cream.*
But taro ice pops? Those were everywhere ("everywhere" being restricted to Chinese supermarkets, that is). I tasted these three brands so you don't have to—and you shouldn't because two of them are pretty bad. Here are the details.
* Actually, I found one lone container of taro ice cream on the top shelf of one supermarket's freezer. When I later opened it, it featured a layer of ice crystals from what I'm guessing was a many-months-long hibernation. Underneath the layer of ice was a foamy purple mass that looked like it had melted down at least once. And thus I learned my lesson: Do not buy the suspiciously lonely container of ice cream in a Chinese supermarket freezer.
Monterey Park, California-based Sweety touts "no artificial flavor & color" on its box. And indeed, it doesn't taste artificial—but it tastes too starchy. Sure, taros are starchy, but I don't want to feel like I'm eating a potato-sicle. And without any dairy, it has a less-than-appealing icy texture. Another big problem: It doesn't taste a whole lot like taro, despite that it's the second ingredient. Oops.
Ingredients: Sugar, taro, purple yam, stabilizer (guar gum, carob bean gum, xanthan gum), salt
San Francisco's Polly Ann did even worse than Sweety. Although the ingredients includes something creamy (well, non-dairy cream), the texture is still on the too-icy side, and due to a blast of stabilizers, also thick, gummy, and sticky. It's many textures, none being the one you want. The flavor was less taro, more chemical-tinged bubble gum. Sigh.
Ingredients: Filtered water, taro (ube)*, non dairy cream, sugar, guar gum, natural color
Just when I was about to lose all hope, Taiwan-based Shao Mei saved the day. Their taro pop is good! Unlike the other two bars, it's actually creamy (not icy, not overly gummy) and tastes like taro, with a balanced level of starchiness. It also features the nice addition of little taro chunks dispersed throughout. I'll admit that the more I ate it, the less I liked it, but at the end it still tasted roughly 5000% better than the other pops.
Ingredients: Water, taro chunks, coconut oil, skimmed milk powder, corn syrup, emulsifier, starch, natural flavor, FD&C blue no. 1, FD&C yellow no. 5, FD&C red no. 40