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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)
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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.

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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)
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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)

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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.

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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.

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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

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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).

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Chilled silken tofu with syrup is very popular.

 

dcarch 

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Chilled silken tofu with syrup is very popular.

 

dcarch 

 

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

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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

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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.

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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

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

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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?

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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.

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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".

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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?

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Is the syrup a caramel?

 

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

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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)
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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.

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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.

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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.

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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

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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)

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