The desserts of China will catch your eye, satiate your sweet tooth, and leave you coming back for more. Back home, you might even try to recreate them in your own kitchen. But if you’re like us, they will only leave you craving the original. With so many wonderful options to choose from, here are what we believe are the best Chinese desserts:
Candied Hawthorns (Tang Hulu – 糖葫芦)
A very popular, traditional Chinese treat made by skewering the tart hawthorn fruit on a stick, coating them in molten sugar, and hanging them on a sort of “tree” to cool in the air.
Although they aren’t the meat skewers that are often associated with Beijing, Tang hulu can be found in street stalls all over the city. Moreover, cities like Tianjin and Shanghai have taken to selling them too, and they have become quite the hallmark of Chinese desserts. This sweet-and-sour treat is especially popular in the colder seasons and often contain several small, hard pits so watch out!
Flour Tea Pudding (You Cha Mian –油茶面)
Though a direct translation, the name is a misnomer. This dessert has little to do with tea. Before preparation, stores will have large bowls of powder consisting of peanut, wheat flour, sesame, sugar and other assorted nuts that they mix just-so, and serve it up sprinkled with sesame seeds as garnish on top. This Beijing original is thick, hot, and mildly sweet. Perfect for a fall or winter day!
Double-Layer Steamed Milk Custard (双皮奶)
Here’s something that is particularly famous in Guangzhou, Macau, and Hong Kong. As the name implies, it has two layers of skin on the top that gives it a texture similar to panna cotta. It is traditionally made from buffalo milk, which has higher fat content, giving it a velvety smooth texture. There are also different flavors, such as chocolate, red bean, and mango.
Hot Candied Sweet Potato and Taro (拔丝白薯)
Some Chinese restaurants will label this dish as an entrée, but it’s actually closer to a dessert to the Western palate. Best eaten hot, it is a plate of cubed sweet potato and taro, covered in molten sugar. To avoid burning your mouth, bowls of water are used for dipping and hardening the candy coating. When the plate cools, the sugary coating will fuse together, making it a challenge to pull apart. This dish is served in restaurants across Beijing, and it has become trendy to serve all sorts of candied fruit alongside the standard sweet potato and taro.
For those who want something a little on the lighter, healthier side, try a mango tapioca pudding. This simple dish, once tried, could probably be recreate it at home with relative ease. It consists of cubed mango with many pea-sized tapioca pearls floating in sweet coconut milk. Typically, the milk isn’t as thick as the word “pudding” would suggest, but your experience may vary. The dessert can be found in restaurants all over China, and variations on the dish are popular as well.
Egg Tarts (蛋挞)
Egg tarts, also known as Portuguese egg tarts, are a popular pastry available at bakeries and restaurants. Similar to English custard tarts, these desserts are sweet and fluffy, combining a puffy pastry crust with a tasty egg custard. They are typically eaten alone as a snack, or after Yum Cha as dessert. Although they are found primarily in Hongkong, Macau and Guangzhou, their popularity has led them to be served in Yum Cha restaurants everywhere.
Fancy yourself a foodie after looking through all these mouthwatering desserts? You’re sure to love our Gastronomic Tour of China with award-winning food writer Fuchsia Dunlop. Fuchsia will accompany you across the country as you barter in local markets and cook dinner with families right in their kitchens. Along the way, Fuchsia will introduce you to a variety of delectable treats and will be sure to leave your taste buds happy. Get started planning your trip today.