Chinese desserts are very different from desserts in the West. In Chinese culture, desserts are not overly sweet. They are usually made with natural ingredients such as fruits, beans, flowers and more.
Not only can desserts be served after a meal as a treat, but some can also be eaten as snacks or even during the meal. Chinese people value eating “balanced” meals with both yin and yang foods.
Traditionally, Chinese desserts are categorized. There are baked desserts, candies, rice-based snacks, jellies, custards, dessert soups and more. They play important roles in defining Chinese diets.
Here are four traditional Chinese desserts you should try.
1 Tang Hu Lu (糖葫芦 Táng hú lu): A childhood dessert
Tang hu lu is very similar to a caramel apple. However instead of apples dipped into caramel, hawthorns are skewered and dipped into liquid sugar. After a while, the sugar hardens and you get a crunchy sweet exterior and a tart soft interior.
Tang hu lus are often served at food markets and as street food. If you do not like hawthorns, you can replace them with other fruits such as grapes, strawberries, oranges and kiwis.
2 Tang Yuan (汤圆 Tāng yuán): Rice balls of goodness
Tang yuans are an important dessert in Chinese culture. They are often served during the Lantern Festival (元宵节 Yuán Xiāo Jié) to symbolize reunion and harmony.
Tang yuans are made from sweet glutinous rice flour. They are filled with various types of fillings such as black sesame, peanut and red bean paste.
If you are looking for a dessert that is warm, chewy and yummy, you should give tang yuan a try. Here is a recipe.
3 Tang Hua (糖画 Táng huà): Art you can eat.
Tang hua is exactly how it sounds: a picture made out of sugar. 糖 táng means “sugar” and 画 huà means “painting” or “picture..”
Tang hua is very popular with children. It is often made by old aunties and uncles near schools, parks and street markets.
To make tang hua, the only two ingredients you need are sugar and water. Simmer sugar on the stove. When it changes to a caramel color, it is ready. These sugar paintings are usually drizzled onto a marble or metal slab into whatever shape you want. The sky is the limit when it comes to tang huas.
After you finish drawing, place a stick or skewer on top. Once it has hardened, it is ready to be eaten. Tang huas are delightful treats. Although it is just sugar, there is still depth to it.
4 Eight Treasure Congee (八宝粥 bā bǎo zhōu): The “gold” is in the dessert
Eight treasure congee has to be one of my favorite Chinese desserts. It is a dessert traditionally served during festivals. Eight treasure congee is warm (although it can be served cold), comforting and nutritious. It is the perfect guilt-free dessert.
The reason why it is called “eight treasure” is because there are eight main ingredients. The eight ingredients are green mung beans, red mung beans, glutinous rice, lotus seeds, jujubes, peanuts, longans and goji berries.
Of course each household, restaurant and chef has their own recipe and their own “eight treasures.” Here is a recipe for the congee.
If you try any of these desserts, let us know what you think in the comments below.