Taste Test: Taro Ice Pops

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Left to right: Sweety, Polly Ann, and Shao Mei taro ice pops. [Photographs: Robyn Lee]

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.

Sweety

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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

Polly Ann

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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

* Taro and ube, or purple yam, are often used interchangably, but they're not the same thing.

Shao Mei

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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

About the author: Robyn Lee is the editor of A Hamburger Today and takes many of the photos for Serious Eats. She'll also doodle cute stuff when necessary. Read more from Robyn at her personal food blog, The Girl Who Ate Everything.

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