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Tuesday, September 20, 2011

Chili Lime Cupcake Hits Every Taste Sensation

Posted By on Tue, Sep 20, 2011 at 10:00 AM

Nute Chulasuwan holds the tiny but memorable Chili Lime Cupcake
  • Nute Chulasuwan holds the tiny but memorable Chili Lime Cupcake

I didn't know a cupcake could be this interesting.

My view of the potential of cupcakes has been changed forever by one bite of Nute Chulasuwan's chili lime cupcake. This cupcake hits every taste sensation. It opens with sweet lime, with the balancing hit of bitterness from the lime pith, and the creamy texture of the frosting. The chili kicks in on the finish, giving it a slightly salty, slightly spicy note that's not at all over the top.

Who talks about complexity in a cupcake? Yet that's the only way to describe Chulasuwan's miniature creation. It's just $1 and you could eat it in one bite, but I'm glad I took it in three tiny ones. Like a fascinating wine, this is a cupcake to be sipped, not gulped.

About now you're thinking, "Where can I buy this?"

Curry fishcake
  • Curry fishcake

Well, unless you want to hire Chulasuwan for catering, unfortunately you'll have to wait a month for the next New Taste Marketplace, which is where I found this little gem on Saturday.

The marketplace is a non-profit event that allows new vendors like Chulasuwan to showcase their goods. All proceeds go to the Food Pantry, which gives out free food to needy San Franciscans.

I also liked Chulasuwan's green tea cupcake for the same reason -- complexity. This moist cupcake is made with matcha, and the inherent bitterness of the green tea balances its sweetness.

"I love it not too sweet, a little bit bitter," Chulasuwan says.

A native of Bangkok, Chulasuwan came to the US to study at University of Scranton, which is in an area not known for its culinary delights other than the dubious pleasure of scrapple. She came to San Francisco to visit a friend and decided to stay. Her Thai food and baking prowess impressed former Slanted Door pastry chef Mutsumi Takehara, who hired her at Sandbox Bakery, which is still her day job.

Chulasuwan keeps the cupcakes moist by baking them at a low temperature. They're the perfect treat after her curry fishcake ($5), which she makes with wild red snapper and tops with coconut milk, thinly sliced kaffir lime leaf, cilantro and red chile. Yep, that's also at the New Taste Marketplace, only once a month. See you in October?

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W. Blake Gray


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