Joey Leung isn’t a fan of the word “best”.

When I tell the pastry chef her strawberry panna cotta is the best dessert I’ve eaten all year, she writes back with an enthusiastic note that tries to bring me back down to earth.

“I really feel honoured!! I know it’s not the BEST because honestly I don’t believe in ‘the best’, but I appreciate you saying this!!!”

Never miss a Melbourne moment. Make sure you're subscribed to our newsletter today.

SUBSCRIBE NOW

With the pastry chef’s wishes in mind, I’ll settle for saying her strawberry panna cotta is one of the best desserts I’ve eaten all year.

She makes the two-toned creation at her tiny shop Joy Jaune, at Preston Market. It was meant to be a one-day-only special for International Women’s Day (IWD) in March this year. Leung says a Broadsheet contributor, Claire Adey, who visited the market the day before IWD was the first person outside of the small Joy Jaune team to try it.

“I remember she said, ‘I can’t believe I just had this dessert in the market’,” Leung tells me over email. “I was like: 😭😭😭😭 I nailed it!”

Marketgoers agreed, and Joy Jaune sold out of the special on IWD. Leung initially thought the dessert would be “too foreign to the crowds” at the market, but was “overwhelmed” by its popularity and decided to keep it on the menu.

The dish looks like something out of a Cooking Mama videogame. It’s made using a dome-shaped mold with a scalloped outline and a heart on top that’s usually used for Hong Kong-style mango pudding. The bottom layer, a cream-coloured just-set panna cotta, is topped with a slightly translucent and sparkling ruby-red strawberry jelly.

Leung’s not-too-sweet jelly sings with pure strawberry flavour – nothing like store-bought Jelly Joy or Aeroplane Jelly – because she uses fresh market berries. She macerates these with fresh lime juice and sugar and turns it into a consommé before making the jelly layer.

The panna cotta is flavoured with vanilla paste and has a texture like silken tofu. Leung says the secret is to never let the liquid boil. Another key is the storage time. Leung limits the number of strawberry panna cottas to 40 on weekends so they’re not stored for too long (they’re only occasionally available on weekdays). “The texture will eventually change after a few days,” says Leung. “People say it’s still safe to eat, but I will say, ‘No, that is not what I created.’”

The dessert is gorgeous to look at. The flavours are pure and the greatest expression of each ingredient. But the best part might be the jiggle. The treat wobbles pleasingly like a heart-shaped dancing Korean pudding cat or Eat Nunchi jelly cake, making it as delightful to look at as it is to eat.