Jump to content
  • Welcome to the eG Forums, a service of the eGullet Society for Culinary Arts & Letters. The Society is a 501(c)3 not-for-profit organization dedicated to the advancement of the culinary arts. These advertising-free forums are provided free of charge through donations from Society members. Anyone may read the forums, but to post you must create an account.

Recommended Posts

I'm probably the worst person to kick off a Chinese Dessert thread. I have the least sweet tooth on the planet, but I know there is interest in the topic.

 

I often read that the Chinese don't do dessert. Not quite true. They don't necessarily serve sweet dishes at the end of a meal, but they may turn up midway through. Chinese food is not normally served in a strict order, serial way.

 

That said, it is not uncommon to finish a no dessert meal then head for one of the many places selling only desserts. Sweet yoghurt, cakes, candied fruits etc are everywhere.


Edited by liuzhou (log)
  • Like 6

Share this post


Link to post
Share on other sites

Thanks for starting this topic.  I must say, the topic of Chinese desserts interests me.  I, too, have heard "Chinese don't eat dessert" many times, but then you wander into a Chinese pastry shop, and fight your way through the egg custard tart scrum to the head of the line.  I love those things.  There are also other pastries on offer (I'll admit I've never much enjoyed moon cakes), but remember my years in Asia, and definitely recall being served sweets.  Think that rather bland almond pudding showed up on dim sum carts, along with sweet bean paste sesame balls, maybe a macaroon-coconut-type square, and a few other things.

 

Liuzhou, you may not have a sweet tooth, but you are clearly a keen observer of your current surroundings, and I'm very interested in what you have to say on this subject.

  • Like 3

Share this post


Link to post
Share on other sites

One popular dessert here is Guilinggao (龟苓膏 guī líng gāo), a herbal jelly used both as a medicine and as a dessert. It is also known as turtle jelly.


 


wg.jpg


 

The preparation originally included the powdered shell of a type of turtle, the “Golden Coin Turtle” (Cuora trifasciata; 金钱龟 jīn qián guī), hence the name which translates as “Turtle fungus paste”. This turtle is now prohibitively expensive and so, today, when turtle is still used, the shells of more common turtles are used instead. However, many modern examples contain no turtle shell. Instead they rely on the other ingredients which include extracts from various herbs, most importantly smilax glabra, a plant related to sarsaparilla.

 


Guilinggao is black or dark brown in color. Naturally, it is slightly bitter, although sweeteners such as sugar or honey are added to make it more palatable.


 


There are small café type places around town which only sell this.


 


Also, relatively inexpensive canned guilinggao with pop tops and little plastic spoons for immediate consumption can be found in all supermarkets and corner shops.


 


If you want to make it yourself, you can buy powdered shell, often labelled “Tortoise Powder”.


 


tp.jpg



Edited by liuzhou (log)
  • Like 3

Share this post


Link to post
Share on other sites

You said you don't have much of a sweet tooth.  Have you tried this stuff?  You mention sarsaparilla. Does it taste at all like our root beer?


Edited by Jaymes (log)

Share this post


Link to post
Share on other sites

You said you don't have much of a sweet tooth.  Have you tried this stuff?  You mention sarsaparilla. Does it taste at all like our root beer?

 

I've only ever had it twice. Once from the supermarket and wasn't over-impressed. Last month I had lunch with some Chinese friends. When lunch was over, they insisted on going to a dessert shop to eat this. Much better. But I doubt I'll go looking for it on my own.

 

I've never had root beer, sorry. Don't know.

  • Like 1

Share this post


Link to post
Share on other sites

I'm very intrigued. I'm sure I can find some at a local Chinese market and I'm going to give it a try.

  • Like 1

Share this post


Link to post
Share on other sites

Here is a true oddity.

 

Hasma is the oviducts and surrounding fatty tissue of a species of frog (Rana temporaria chensinensis David (Fam. Ranidae) – snow frog or forest frog) found in the forests of the far north of China in Heilongjiang, Jilin and Liaoning provinces. Known in Chinese as 雪蛤 xuě há (literally ‘snow frog’) or 雪蛤膏 xuě há gāo (snow frog fat), it is mainly used as an ingredient in sweet dishes, cakes etc, especially in Hong Kong style Cantonese cuisine.

 

DriedHasma.jpg

 

It is sometimes available dried in local markets and supermarkets, but more often crops up in restaurant dishes or as an ingredient in pre-packaged sweets such as these:

 

hasmasweets.jpg

  • Like 5

Share this post


Link to post
Share on other sites

A very common dish served at banquets is sugar coated taro (or potato). Again, it doesn't come at the end of the meal, but randomly. In western cuisine, I think it would be classified as dessert.

 

It is basically deep fried taro chunks which are coated with melted sugar. Served with a bowl of cold water. You grab a piece, dip it in the water to cool it and crisp up the sugar. Then eat it.

 

No picture but here is a recipe for a potato version (although taro is much more common).

  • Like 4

Share this post


Link to post
Share on other sites

Chilled silken tofu with syrup is very popular.

 

dcarch 

  • Like 1

Share this post


Link to post
Share on other sites

Chilled silken tofu with syrup is very popular.

 

dcarch 

 

Yes, but it's street food. Not a dessert in the western sense.

Share this post


Link to post
Share on other sites

This is where you buy “silken” tofu with syrup. In Chinese, 豆花, or 豆腐花 (豆腐花).

 

doufuhua1.jpg

 

Your chances of being served it in a restaurant or even a family meal are negligible.

 

douhua.jpg

  • Like 3

Share this post


Link to post
Share on other sites

Here is a true oddity.

 

Hasma is the oviducts and surrounding fatty tissue of a species of frog (Rana temporaria chensinensis David (Fam. Ranidae) – snow frog or forest frog) found in the forests of the far north of China in Heilongjiang, Jilin and Liaoning provinces. Known in Chinese as 雪蛤 xuě há (literally ‘snow frog’) or 雪蛤膏 xuě há gāo (snow frog fat), it is mainly used as an ingredient in sweet dishes, cakes etc, especially in Hong Kong style Cantonese cuisine.

 

DriedHasma.jpg

 

It is sometimes available dried in local markets and supermarkets, but more often crops up in restaurant dishes or as an ingredient in pre-packaged sweets such as these:

 

hasmasweets.jpg

 

 

I'm sure it's totally cultural-ist of me but Forest Frog Oviduct & Taro Sweet just doesn't...  I'll take chocolate mousse for a thousand, Alex, thanks very much.

  • Like 4

Share this post


Link to post
Share on other sites

Yes, but it's street food. Not a dessert in the western sense.

 

Yeah, after lunch on a hot humid day, you go out to have a bowl of sweet silken tofu, then walk around to get some fresh squeezed sugarcane juice and munch on peeled water chestnut on skewers.

 

Desserts to me. :-) 

 

 

dcarch

Share this post


Link to post
Share on other sites

Fascinating stuff. There are so many different worlds out there. Thanks for bringing them here.

  • Like 2

Share this post


Link to post
Share on other sites

Liuzhou- I have had durian turnovers  for dim sum.  I have also seen such things as egg tarts, red bean cake w/ coconut, lychee cake, pan-fried water chestnut cake, I know they are very different in appearance from Western cake, but I was wondering if one can buy them in a Chinese market? And, are they traditional dim sum fare?

Share this post


Link to post
Share on other sites

Liuzhou- I have had durian turnovers  for dim sum.  I have also seen such things as egg tarts, red bean cake w/ coconut, lychee cake, pan-fried water chestnut cake, I know they are very different in appearance from Western cake, but I was wondering if one can buy them in a Chinese market? And, are they traditional dim sum fare?

 

Yes they are widely available, but in bakery shops rather than markets. They are certainly traditional dim sum items. In fact, the easiest placve t find them is at 'morning tea' restaurants, which is where dim sum is eaten.

  • Like 1

Share this post


Link to post
Share on other sites

 

Desserts to me. :-) 

 

 

The OED defines 'dessert' as "A course of fruit, sweetmeats, etc. served after a dinner or supper". My point is that Chinese cuisine does not have such a course, and although they do eat sweet things at other times, by this definition it can't be "dessert".

Share this post


Link to post
Share on other sites

This is where you buy “silken” tofu with syrup. In Chinese, 豆花, or 豆腐花 (豆腐花).

 

doufuhua1.jpg

 

Your chances of being served it in a restaurant or even a family meal are negligible.

 

douhua.jpg

Is the syrup a caramel?

Share this post


Link to post
Share on other sites

Is the syrup a caramel?

 

It's a lightly carmelised sugar syrup, sometimes flavoured with ginger round here. There are many variations throughout China.

Share this post


Link to post
Share on other sites

Here are some things which turn up midway through breakfast, lunch or dinner.

 

gtc.jpg

 

These are pastries filled with sticky rice flavoured (and coloured) by green tea then rolled in sesame seeds. The plate usually gets emptied very quickly. Even I like them!

 

Then there are the ubiquitous egg tarts (蛋挞 dàn tà) - two types.

 

hket.jpg

Hong Kong Style Egg Tarts 蛋挞 dàn tà

 

mcet.jpg

Portuguese / Macao Style Egg Tarts

 

I seldom eat these, but when I do, I prefer the Honk Kong style.


Edited by liuzhou (log)
  • Like 4

Share this post


Link to post
Share on other sites

The OED defines 'dessert' as "A course of fruit, sweetmeats, etc. served after a dinner or supper". My point is that Chinese cuisine does not have such a course, and although they do eat sweet things at other times, by this definition it can't be "dessert".

 

I am not quite sure I agree with you. During banquets, there is always a sweet course at the end. That is at least with Cantonese cuisine. Dessert can be fruits, dessert soup, sweet buns, etc. Even through you can order sweet items at any time during dim sum, growing up, sweets were always ordered at the end. We've also always had something sweet at the end for Shanghainese and Pekingnese meals, such as caramel coated fruit or red bean pancakes.

Share this post


Link to post
Share on other sites

In the twenty years I've lived in China, sweet dishes have seldom arrived at the end of meals/banquets. And I've eaten all over China. I'm not saying it never happens, but it isn't compulsory. I've never been served dessert in a home cooking situation.

Share this post


Link to post
Share on other sites

In the twenty years I've lived in China, sweet dishes have seldom arrived at the end of meals/banquets. And I've eaten all over China. I'm not saying it never happens, but it isn't compulsory. I've never been served dessert in a home cooking situation.

 

I grew up in Hong Kong and desserts were always part of banquets. Even when we've had banquets in mainland China, there were desserts. Even for the more casual meals, desserts/fruits were usually served, sometimes complimentary by the restaurants. This has been the case when I was a kid and when I visited Hong Kong/China as an adult. At home (ours or friends/relatives), we've always had fruits at the end of the meal. Sometimes, there were other sweets such as ice cream, baked puddings, sweet dumplings, dessert soups, jello or cake.

 

My family owned several Chinese restaurants in Hong Kong when I was a kid. My parents also did business in China. So we ate out very often. Dessert was usually part of the meal.

Share this post


Link to post
Share on other sites

Well, I can only report my experience. HK may well be different from much of the mainland.

Anyway, it's difficult to find a banquet now. Xi JInping has effectively outlawed them

Share this post


Link to post
Share on other sites

In the twenty years I've lived in China, sweet dishes have seldom arrived at the end of meals/banquets. And I've eaten all over China. I'm not saying it never happens, but it isn't compulsory. I've never been served dessert in a home cooking situation.

 

Here in the USA, it is always, 100% of the time, for a banquet to give you one or two sweet items at the end. Recently I have seen tapioca custard.

 

For a home? never, unless there are non-Chinese guests. 

 

dcarch


Edited by dcarch (log)

Share this post


Link to post
Share on other sites

  • Similar Content

    • By Lisa Shock
      Years ago, when I visited Tokyo, I ate in a small but fascinating restaurant called 'It's Vegetable' which is now, unfortunately, closed. The chef was from Taiwan, and he made Buddhist vegetarian and vegan dishes that resembled meat. During my visit, several monks wearing robes stopped in to eat dinner. The dishes were pretty amazing. I understood some of them, like using seitan to mimic chicken in stir fry dishes, others used tofu products like yuba, but, others were complex and obviously difficult. One very notable dish we enjoyed was a large 'fish' fillet designed to serve several people. It had a 'skin' made of carefully layered 'scales' cut from nori and attached to the surface. Inside, the white 'flesh' flaked and tasted much like a mild fish. Anyway, apparently Buddhist fake meat meals are very popular in Taiwan and many places, cheap through to fine dining serve them. Yes, if I worked on it for a while, I could probably refine one or two dishes on my own, but, I am wondering if there's a Modernist Cuisine type cookbook for skillfully making these mock meats from scratch? (I have heard that some items are commercially made and available frozen there, much like soy-based burgers are in the US.) I am willing to try almost any offering, even if it's entirely in Chinese. And, I know how to use remailers to purchase regional items from the various local retailers worldwide who do not ship to the US.
    • By Kasia
      COURGETTE MUFFINS WITH LEMON
       
      Since I found the recipe for courgette muffins with lemon on the Polish blog gotujzcukiereczkiem I decided to prepare them. My children looked at the ingredients with surprise. Courgette and cakes don't go together well. The argument that they add caster sugar to the courgette pancakes didn't convince them. The muffins reminded my husband of the lemon cake his grandma used to prepare many years ago. I just liked them. They were short lived, because they disappeared in no time, slightly lemony, moist and not too sweet. They were perfect.

      If I didn't know they had courgette in them, I would never believe it. Try it, because it is worth it.

      Ingredients (for 12 muffins)
      muffins
      200g of flour
      a pinch of salt
      half a teaspoon of baking soda
      half a teaspoon of baking powder
      150g of sugar
      peel from one lemon
      a tablespoon of lemon juice
      2 eggs
      150ml of oil
      a teaspoon of vanilla essence
      a teaspoon of lemon essence
      210g of grated courgette
      icing:
      3 tablespoons of milk
      10 tablespoons of caster sugar
      1 teaspoon of lemon essence

      Heat the oven up to 170C. Put some paper muffin moulds into the "dimples" of a baking pan for muffins.
      Mix together the dry ingredients of the muffins: flour, salt, baking soda and baking powder. Mix together the sugar and lemon peel in a separate bowl. Add the eggs, oil, lemon juice and both essences. Mix them in. Add the dry ingredients and mix them in. Grate the unpeeled courgette, don't squeeze and don't pour away the liquid. Add the courgette to the dough and mix it in. Put the dough into some paper muffin moulds. Bake for 25-30 minutes. Now prepare the icing. Mix the milk with the caster sugar and lemon essence. Decorate the muffins with the lemon icing.

      Enjoy your meal!


    • By liuzhou
      Note: This follows on from the Munching with the Miao topic.
       
      The three-hour journey north from Miao territory ended up taking four, as the driver missed a turning and we had to drive on to the next exit and go back. But our hosts waited for us at the expressway exit and lead us up a winding road to our destination - Buyang 10,000 mu tea plantation (布央万亩茶园 bù yāng wàn mǔ chá yuán) The 'mu' is  a Chinese measurement of area equal to 0.07 of a hectare, but the 10,000 figure is just another Chinese way of saying "very large".
       
      We were in Sanjiang Dong Autonomous County, where 57% of the inhabitants are Dong.
       
      The Dong people (also known as the Kam) are noted for their tea, love of glutinous rice and their carpentry and architecture. And their hospitality. They tend to live at the foot of mountains, unlike the Miao who live in the mid-levels.
       
      By the time we arrived, it was lunch time, but first we had to have a sip of the local tea. This lady did the preparation duty.
       

       

       
      This was what we call black tea, but the Chinese more sensibly call 'red tea'. There is something special about drinking tea when you can see the bush it grew on just outside the window!
       
      Then into lunch:
       

       

      Chicken Soup
       

      The ubiquitous Egg and Tomato
       

      Dried fish with soy beans and chilli peppers. Delicious.
       

      Stir fried lotus root
       

      Daikon Radish
       

      Rice Paddy Fish Deep Fried in Camellia Oil - wonderful with a smoky flavour, but they are not smoked.
       

      Out of Focus Corn and mixed vegetable
       

      Fried Beans
       

      Steamed Pumpkin
       

      Chicken
       

      Beef with Bitter Melon
       

      Glutinous (Sticky) Rice
       

      Oranges
       

      The juiciest pomelo ever. The area is known  for the quality of its pomelos.
       
      After lunch we headed out to explore the tea plantation.
       

       

       

       

       
      Interspersed with the tea plants are these camellia trees, the seeds of which are used to make the Dong people's preferred cooking oil.
       

       
      As we climbed the terraces we could hear singing and then came across this group of women. They are the tea pickers. It isn't tea picking time, but they came out in their traditional costumes to welcome us with their call and response music. They do often sing when picking. They were clearly enjoying themselves.
       

       
      And here they are:
       
       
      After our serenade we headed off again, this time to the east and the most memorable meal of the trip. Coming soon.
       
       
    • By liuzhou
      Today is 元宵 yuán xiāo, the Lantern Festival marking the 15th day of the first lunar month and the last day of the Spring Festival (春节 chūn jié) which begins with the Chinese New Year on the 1st of the lunar month.
       
      Today is the day for eating 汤圆 tāng yuán, sweet glutinous rice balls.
       
      I was invited to take part in a celebration ceremony this morning in what is considered to be the city's most beautiful park. I half agree. It lies in the south of the city, surrounded by karst hill formations, but for me, the park itself is over-manicured. I like a bit of wild. That said, there are said to be around 700 species of wildlife, but most of that is on the inaccessible hills. There are pony rides for the kids and some of the locals are a bit on the wild side.
       

      Park Entrance
       

      Karst Hill
       
      Although the park has beautiful flower displays and great trees, what I love most is the bamboo. Such a beautiful plant and so useful.
       

       
      They had also hung the traditional red lanterns on some of the trees.
       


      The main reason for us to be there was to be entertained by, at first, these three young men who bizarrely welcomed us with  a rendition of Auld Lang Syne played on their bamboo wind instruments - I forget what they are called. They are wearing the traditional dress of the local Zhuang ethnic minority.
       

       
      Then some local school kids sang for us and did a short play in English. Clap, clap, clap.
       
      Then on to the main event. We were asked to form groups around one of four tables looking like this.
       

       
      Appetising, huh? What we have here at top is a dough made from glutinous rice flour. Then below black sesame paste and ground peanut paste. We are about to learn to make Tangyuan, glutinous rice balls. Basically you take a lump of dough, roll it into a ball, then flatten it, then form a cup shape. add some of each or either of the two pastes and reform the ball to enclose the filling. Simple! Maybe not.
       

       
      Some of us were more successful than others
       

       
      These are supposed to be white, but you can see the filling - not good; its like having egg showing all over the outside of your scotch eggs.
       
      Modesty Shame prevents me telling you which were mine.
       

       
      At least one person seemed to think bigger is better! No! They are meant to be about an inch in diameter. Sometimes size does matter!
       
      Finally the balls we had made were taken away to be boiled in the park's on-site restaurant. What we were served were identically sized balls with no filling showing. They are served in this sweet ginger soup. The local pigs probably had ours for lunch.
       
       

       


      The orange-ish and purplish looking ones are made in the same way, but using red and black glutinous rice instead.
       
      Fun was had, which was the whole point.
       
    • By pastrygirl
      I had a chance to try a couple of Valrhona's new "inspirations" flavors today, the passion fruit and the almond.  The almond was good but I'd probably add salt.  The passion fruit is intense and delicious, I bet you could cut it with a sweeter white chocolate and still get good flavor.  They also have strawberry.  These are cocoa-butter based so can be used for shell molding.  https://inter.valrhona.com/en/inspiration-valrhona-innovation
       
      I could definitely see using these.  Passion fruit is one of my favorite flavors, and I already indulge in the convenience of Perfect Puree so I don't think this would compromise my integrity   
       
      Just wanted to share.  Available soon, probably expensive
  • Recently Browsing   0 members

    No registered users viewing this page.

×