Chinese desserts are generally not as widely appreciated as other aspects of Chinese cuisine as they don’t seem to suit western tastes, being generally not as sweet as desserts from other countries. Though this may be true, China has quite an extensive collection of distinctive desserts, sweets, and pastries. Here, we talk you through some of the best.
Chóngyáng Gāo - 重阳糕
Chongyang Festival is celebrated Hong Kong and Guangdong on the ninth day of the ninth month of the Lunar Calendar. It is believed that there is too much “yang” (darkness) on this particular day, so long ago the festival was started to ward off danger. On this auspicious day, Chinese people visit the graves of their ancestors, climb mountains, drink chrysanthemum wine and eat chóngyáng gāo.
Translating directly to “dumpling cake”, chóngyáng gāo is baked or steamed, and made up mainly of rice flour and sugar. It’s topped with bits of jujube (Chinese dates), chestnuts, and almonds. “Gao”, which means “high” or “tall”, is also the Chinese name for “cake”. The character is regarded to be lucky, and in keeping with this idea, people climb high into the mountains to enjoy the cake. The chrysanthemum wine is said to ward off evil.
Shuǐjīng Bǐng - 水晶饼
Crystal Cake (shuǐjīng bǐng) originated about 800 years ago in Shaanxi Province during the Song Dynasty. It comes specifically from Weinan City in eastern Shaanxi Province. The cake was named as such because of its translucent and glittering appearance.
The outer crust of shuǐjīng bǐng is made of wheat flour, starch and oil. The filling is usually made from a mixture of sugar, lard and pounded rock candy, and/or candied fruits and nuts. The crust is mixed together and rolled out flat, before being wrapped and closed around the congealed filling.
Dòuhuā - 豆花
Source: Wikimedia Commons
Dòuhuā, short for ‘dòufu huā’, is also referred to as soy pudding or tofu pudding. Currently there are several regional varieties of dòuhuā, but it is thought to have originated in western China during the Han Dynasty. Dòuhuā is generally comprised of soft or “silken” tofu and some sort of sweet sauce or syrup. These days dòuhuā is a truly multinational snack, having spread to the far reaches of southeast Asia, including the Philippines, Malaysia, Indonesia and Thailand.
True to Sichuan Cuisine, Sichuan style dòuhuā is not often served with various spicy or savory seasonings, such as chili oil, soy sauce, scallions or nuts. In Guangdong, dòuhuā is served with sweet ginger and a clear sugar syrup, and may also be mixed with a bean paste and coconut milk. In the Philippines, it is served with a brown sugar syrup. In Thailand, it is served as a cold dish with milk and a fruit salad.
Yuèbǐng - 月饼
No list of Chinese desserts would be complete without the auspicious Moon Cake (Yuè Bĭng), most often associated with China’s Mid-Autumn Festival. Having begun during the Shang Dynasty some three thousand years ago, the festival was conceived as a way to thank the mountain gods for the harvest, the dragon who brought the rain, and the moon, which is associated with rejuvenation and water. It is a timeworn tale that every month the moon grows pregnant as she waxes, then gives birth when the crescent moon is at its thinnest.
Moon cakes are usually round, measure about 10cm in diameter and are about 3-4cm thick. The crust is made of varying flours and lard or vegetable oil, and the filling is traditionally made from a thick mixture of red bean or lotus bean paste. The paste is made by soaking the seeds or beans in water, draining them with a sieve, then mashing them with a combination of oil and sugar or other sweeteners. Moon cakes also usually have a whole intact egg yolk at the center, symbolizing the moon.
Liángfěn - 凉粉
Like dòuhuā, Grass Jelly (liángfěn) has spread throughout Asia as a staple dessert. It is made with the Platostoma Palustre plant (commonly known as “Chinese mesona”), a variety of mint. The jelly is formed by boiling the dried stalks and leaves of the plant with potassium carbonate and starch, which congeals into a jelly like substance when cooled.
In mainland China, Grass Jelly is traditionally served with a sugar syrup like dòuhuā, However, now it is commonly served as a salad with fresh fruits, or in milk tea or smoothie type drinks. In Indonesia it is sold as a powder mix (similar to JELL-O powder), which renders it less bitter, and is served with syrup, coconut water and ice. In Thailand, it is served with ice and brown sugar. It may also be combined with various fruits. In Malaysia, Brunei and Singapore, it’s often mixed with cold soy milk and served as a drink.
Xīguā Lào - 西瓜酪
Watermelon Jelly (xīguā lào), is a part of traditional Beijing cuisine. It’s less commonly found elsewhere than most of the previous dishes, but no less delicious. It’s usually prepared using watermelon, cherries, agar, sugar and vanilla powder. The ingredients are boiled with water into a syrup before being mixed with watermelon juice and cooled into a jelly.
Xīguā lào is sometimes made to look like a slice of watermelon itself. Its consistency varies from firm and even crisp to a more congealed jelly like substance, depending on the quantity of ingredients used. This Chinese dessert is most commonly served during the summer months.
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"being generally not as sweet as desserts from other countries"- this is China-style thinking. "We don't like chocolate, it's too sweet." But juices have tons of sugar, syrup, same with yogurts. Most breads and bakery products are practically desserts. Many of Chinese snacks are full of sugar too. Personally, I only like milk custard, some mango desserts and such here. Except for Chongyang Gao, the rest don't look appealing at all.
Sep 17, 2017 21:51 Report Abuse
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