For most of the world, a dessert is a course meal that you eat last to complete your meal. It mostly consists of sweets and sometimes even fruits. In addition, it may have a beverage which normally comes in the form of wines or other forms of liquor.
In some places, however, coffee and tea are classified under the same category. Chinese desserts are a little different from the western kind. Their texture, shape, taste and make-up composition completely differ.
Another notable difference is that unlike the western desserts that you wait to eat at the end of the meal, Chinese desserts are mostly available between meals. There are desserts that you will find throughout your day. However, other desserts are even taken for breakfast.
1. Homemade tau foo faa-soybean pudding
Some people like it cold while others like it hot. The dessert is made using soft tofu and soybean. You should eat it with syrup. This syrup you can either infuse with ginger or pandan. Although most people prefer the clear syrup, you may also use brown syrup with tau fu fa.
I must say since the meal is spread across Asian countries and across the different regions in China, the recipe differs from one point to another. Since it is smooth and moist you can’t eat it with chopsticks rather you should always use a spoon.
During summer, people eat it cold with ice cubes and during winter you eat it warm. Other countries like Taiwan like to serve it with toppings like tapioca seeds, peanut or oatmeal, mung beans et cetera.
Vietnam also serves it with chia seeds and sugar, spicy ginger and sugar or lychee and coconut.
2. Chinese mango pudding
This is one that will quench your mango cravings. It features the mango, sugar and coconut and apart from being smooth, it’s also utterly delicious. This pudding is popular across different countries of the world but ours is rich and creamy.
They are best served cold especially on a hot day. Its gelatin texture, lightness, and rich mango flavor make most people reluctant to make it. The secret to the best mango pudding is making sure you choose the right mangos for your dish.
This one is ideally a common Hong Kong dessert that allows you to use coconut milk instead of the regular milk. The coconut flavor that never overpowers mango flavor is what you need for the pudding.
3. Coconut milk and rockmelon sago
This is another one of the sweet puddings that is made when you boil your sago with water or milk, then you add it to sugar and other desirable items. It’s true that the dessert sector is dominated by different kinds of cakes and sweets.
When you can make a really nice out of the ordinary pudding, people will flock your home to get a taste of it all. The major ingredients here are the tapioca pearls also known as sago, coconut milk, and rockmelon. It’s also the perfect taste with a balance of flavors.
4. Coconut tapioca pudding
This is another one of the desserts that you won’t put down once you taste. The one thing you may not know is that although its originally from Asia it’s loved across the board because it remains delicious and nice.
Moreover, you may even enjoy it as a vegan because in this case, you don’t need milk rather you use coconut milk. The pudding is gluten-free and delicious. It’s rich and nutritious since it has no gluten.
The tapioca seeds are made using cassava which is a root vegetable. Making a great tapioca pudding should take you not more than 25 minutes. The pudding further has a great texture and appearance.
Depending on how you want it, the texture can be anything from very thick to slightly thick pudding with goo tapioca seeds. Some people love it for breakfast.
5. Ma Lai Go Chinese Steamed Cake
This cake is made using brown sugar. You will mostly find it on the dim sum carts or restaurants meant for dim sum. The cake has been adopted by the Cantonese cuisine even though its originally from Malaysia.
Although it looks easy, making the starter dough is a real deal and it determines your outcome. However, some people just use baking powder. This will give your cake an almost similar effect. However, not using a dough starter means that your cake won’t have the air pockets.
This is the difference that the starter dough makes. Either way, though the cake remains fluffy and tasty. You must know that you will need more time when making this gooey, springy and delicious cake.
This cake is the type you cook in the bamboo steamer and the steaming process takes time. However, the texture isn’t compromised and neither is the taste. The cake is further airy like no other type. If you can’t make it at home, visit the dim sum restaurants in Hong Kong to enjoy it.
6. Chinese steamed sponge cake – ji dan gao
Cakes are the real desserts of all time known across the globe. However, unlike most other countries where cakes were baked, in China, the cakes are steamed. This is actually a traditional Chinese cake.
The traditional one contains only 3 ingredients namely the eggs, sugar and plain flour. These ingredients make the cake dry and therefore, today the cake has some more ingredients like water and oil to make it moist.
This cake is a basic description of the light and fluffy kind of cake. Its common during the various festive seasons of the Chinese calendar. The secret is to use a mixer that will beat the air out of the eggs when making the dough.
The difference with the previous cake is that it uses white sugar and not the brown sugar you use in the previous cake.
7. Chinese New Year cake- Nian gao
This is a cake you will eat specifically over the new year celebrations. Remember the sticky rice usually symbolizes prosperity and so does this cake. Although you will find this cake through the year, you won’t miss it at the new year celebrations.
How the cake is cooked is amazing. You first steam it, then you pan fry it in eggs at the end. Of course, the cake is sweet and since it’s pan-fried in eggs, it attains the crispy outer texture and it’s also chewy on the inside.
Its texture and sweetness make it adorable. Those who are looking to maintain a healthy lifestyle, learning to make this cake is a plus for you since it contains no gluten and dairy. One major ingredient that you must have is rice flour.
The flour is generously sweet and best for cleaning your spleen. For those times that you wish to have some good luck, consider buying this cake in Hong Kong or making it at home following the recipe below.
8. Chinese steamed rice cake
This is another one of the traditional pastry recipes. You make the cake when you ferment the rice batter which gives your cake a blend of both the sweet and sour tastes. The rice cake is fluffy and chewy but will be at its best if you eat it cold.
It’s further quite soft and delicious. You must use oil for its moisture and better texture but you don’t want to use a strong-tasting oil for that. Although it’s easy to make, you need to take care especially when you are letting it proof.
You only need a few ingredients which include rice, sugar, water and yeast for the whole process. The cake assumes a white color with honeycomb texture on the inside.
9. Jian Dui or Sesame Balls – Dessert Roll
I love the nutty flavor from the sesame balls. They are often classified under the dim sum meals and you will find them in dim sum restaurants or carts. Nothing beats its chewy yet crunchy texture.
The balls are made using the glutinous flour and it has red bean paste as fillings. You will find it year-round but it’s also the kind that is a must-have during the Chinese New Year. You aren’t restricted as to the fillings you should use but the common one is red bean paste.
This is a simplistic dessert come snack you will ever have. Notice that the inside of the balls you have a hole which is a result of the expansion of the dough.
10. Pineapple bun
This is a Hong Kong signature. Although the bun is referred to as the pineapple bun, the recipe has no pineapple. The name refers to its outer aspects which assume the character of the outer texture of the bun.
The bun is crusty on the outside then soft on the inside which is a typical characteristic of the Asian style of bread. The dough is pillowy but the result is a crunchy texture for the exterior. The bun is often served as a snack in dim sum restaurants.
If you have access to any Chinese bakery, you will come across this bun. Some people use it as a snack in between meals.
11. Chinese doughnuts stick-youtiao
This is basically long brown and deep-fried dough sticks. It’s eaten across China and other parts of the Asian. While you often use it during breakfast or lunch with other dipping sauces, the sticks are delicious at any time of day.
Some people even stuff the youtiao with minced meat to make a full meal while other people just prefer to enjoy them as youtiao. They are crispy on the outside with an eye-catching color.
12. Annin tofu jelly
If you want to know one of the most popular tofu jellies during summer, its Annin tofu. This is one of the healthy versions without cream in it. Some people call it almond jelly.
The way it’s made in one region is not always the same as the way we make it in other provinces but either way the jelly is awesome. Some people even replace the milk with almond milk and soy milk to make it vegan-friendly.
The common ingredients used include agar agar, almond and sugar. The jelly is originally from Hong Kong and it’s popular in dim sum restaurant. It contains no tofu although it has some soybeans. The reason why it has the name tofu is that it has the tofu cubes structure.
13. Coconut and Osmanthus jelly
Generally, the Osmanthus makes the perfect jelly for you to use after a meal. However, if you will blend it with coconut the jelly is just heavenly. What’s more, you only have to use the Osmanthus liquid, coconut milk and agar agar.
This jelly is great only for those who love the Osmanthus scent. For most people, it works during the warm weather as its eaten cold. The jelly looks amazing and you may decide to make it flowery.
14. Chinese almond cookies
This is an old-fashioned dessert that is popular to date. It’s further a Chinese New Year eatery. It symbolizes coins which means that it will give you good fortune. In fact, they are mostly gifted to you by your friends and family members during the New Year.
These crunchy treats are rich with the almond flavor. They are less flaky yet delicious sweets for us. The cookies have an undeniably rich flavor. It further remains buttery which gives it the perfect texture.
Almost every child loves these cookies. For you to make it authentic, you should use the almond flour instead of the regular wheat flour. The challenge is often to make the cookie without cracks. The secret is to make the dough soft by not using a lot of flour.
15. Chinese fortune cookies
What I like most about my country is that every meal or anything we do has a meaning. This is not specifically a Chinese dessert although its famous in the Chinese restaurants.
The secret to giving it the perfect texture and taste is to beat the eggs with the aim of making it as airy as you can. Since it has the vanilla and almond flavors you expect a burst of balanced flavors in your mouth.
16. Bing tang hu lu
Another one of the popular street desserts is candied hawthorn. The candies are common in Beijing and mostly from street vendors. This snack remains a traditional Chinese snack that is loved by adults and children alike.
You make it from the famous haw fruit. The fruit is apple like and you will popularly find it in the bushes. You then cover or caramelize the fruits in sugar and stick them on a stick. They are common throughout the year but mostly around the new year celebrations.
The good thing is that they are readily accessible across every street in China. What’s more, the moment you try these sweet treats, you get hooked to the goodies. You will also eat them more during winter.
17. Hong Kong Egg tart
For anyone who enjoys the Cantonese style dim sum, you should know the egg tart. This is the most popular dessert. Hong Kongers made a derivation that is from the Portuguese style of egg tart since the Portuguese lived in Hong Kong Macau area.
In the 21st century, we find that this dessert is served alongside the Cantonese breakfast. Others also emulated the British tart. These tarts are made using the Chinese puff pastry which is less oily than the regular western pastry.
The secret is to eat the tarts directly from the oven. Of course, the process of making the puff pastry is tedious thus most people simply prefer to buy the already made ones.
18. Tang yuan- glutinous rice balls
This is simply another one of the Chinese desserts made using the glutinous rice flour and rolled to balls. They are popular around winter solace and any kid who grew up in China must know these balls.
There are those that will have fillings. However, the one we are talking about here is the plain one. Typically, the balls are brightly colored to make them more attractive. It’s served in a sweet syrup which is infused with ginger.
You may choose to buy them from the shops or restaurants however, most people prefer to make them at home since it’s fun to roll them. They are silky smooth and chewy. The sweet syrup enhances its flavors.
19. Chinese fruit salad
For those of us who love it all healthy, the fruit salad is the easy way to go for desserts in different parts of the world. In fact, we must note that the fruit salad is a self-explanatory dessert where you may use the fruits in season at the time.
The secret is to make sure you play around with colors as well as flavors. Sometimes you might decide to use vinaigrette for the dressing. Remember you can blend the fruit salad with some crunchy veggies.
20. Hot candied sweet potato
Although some people will classify the meal as an entrée its more of a dessert. This meal is best eaten hot. Basically, the meal entails cubed sweet potatoes that you cover in molten sugar.
Although it’s served hot you may deep them in water to harden the candy before you eat them. Note that, if you let the candies cool down, you will have a problem pulling the cube pieces as they will stick together. It’s popular across Beijing.
21. Red bean soup
To most people, the soup is an appetizer but not for us. The sweet red bean soup is a traditional dessert that you love and eat as a late-night snack. It’s further popular during the new year. It features the red beans, lotus seeds and dried tangerine peels.
The soup is nutritious and filing. You should eat it hot and if you like you may have additives like rice balls to make it a whole meal. This sweet soup is best eaten during the cold season. Depending on how you want it, you may choose to have it thick or light.
21. Green tea coconut milk ice-cream
Last but not least is this delicious ice-cream flavors. I know we all enjoy eating ice-creams. Of course, we are champions at drinking the green tea. Therefore, anything you make using green tea is welcomed.
Featuring a blend of two rich flavors, ice-cream has never been this delicious with the silky-smooth texture. To make it you only need coconut milk, matcha and pure Marple syrup. Visiting these big restaurants, you will always have it as an option.
23. Chinese five spice chocolate pots de crème
Another one of the romantic dessert meals in the country. It’s a custard that you could make earlier then refrigerate before your eating time. Its nicely smooth and it contains anise, cloves, cinnamon, fennel and pepper.
To make a great piece of dessert, you should concentrate on the perfect blend of the cream, fine chocolate, egg yolk and milk. For those of us who enjoy chocolates, this is yours for fun.
24. Chinese Milk tea
This is a drink that you make from black tea and milk. It’s popular across the globe but mostly some people like to add the tapioca pearls on the tea. This makes it bubbly. You can find it across the globe in every big Chinese restaurant.
Of course, it differs from your regular mainland drinks since it’s from Hong Kong. The fact that sometime you may find additional ingredients like ice cream and grass jelly makes it a dessert.
Another one of the favorite cakes that is eaten during the mid-autumn festival. This is the time when we appreciate the moon hence the name moon cake. This is also the night when together with our family members, we enjoy the sight of the full moon.
Since its round in shape, it symbolizes the togetherness or completeness of the family members.
Coming from the northern side of China, sachima is a beloved pastry across the country today. You will mostly find it during the new year celebrations. They remain sweet crispy and delicious. It features the fried flour dough strips which you dip into the sugar syrup.
The strips are shiny and crispy as a result of nuts used in the mixture. Its taste differs depending on the region you are at. However, its appearance remains the same.
27. Lo mai chi
For those who don’t know lo mai chi, let’s just say that it’s your slightly sweetened rice cake. It’s usually encasing the peanuts to give it the crunchy taste and nutty flavor. Sometimes it uses the red beans for the fillings.
The pastry is similar to mochi but even more sticky and soft because it has a high ration of water. It’s further chewy and if you fall in love with this dessert, you don’t have to worry since you can find it in all the Chinese bakery shops.
28. Fried ice cream
I know what most of you think, ‘won’t the ice cream melt when its fried? I used to think that way too until I tried it. In simple terms, fried ice cream is where you take a scoop of ice-cream then deep fry it. This forms a warm crispy shell on the outer skin.
For ease, the ice cream scoop is taken, coated with eggs then rolled on breadcrumbs or cornflakes crumbs. You should use only the ice-cream that is at its lowest temperature to prevent the melting possibility.
29. Coconut bar
Now this is common in Hong Kong. Sometimes people refer to it as the coconut pudding. It’s an old-fashioned kind of dessert that you may still find in the yum cha restaurants. Egg white helps to makes the dessert more creamy, delicate and smooth.
In addition, you may add the gelatin to maintain its perfect texture. The dessert is made using coconut milk as the major ingredient.
30. Ginger milk curd
This is originally from Guangdong. It’s made using the ginger juice, milk and sugar. This is one of the hot desserts that is a favorite to many Asians. It’s easy to make after you know how to make the right consistency of the curd.
You only need to pour your hot milk on the ginger juice then you have the curd. Apart from being sweet it’s also nicely sour and smooth.
31. Eight treasures rice pudding
Another one of the sweet dishes enjoyed during the festive season and new year for that matter. The pudding is named after the eight ingredients you use in the recipe. The pudding is made using sticky rice. It further has the bean paste for filling.
For the decorations, you use 8 kinds of fruits that are candied then the syrup is brushed over it. Remember, the number eight is basically a magic number for the Chinese.
I bet you know by now that there are hundreds of delicious desserts not yet mentioned here. Contrary to most beliefs, just like we have a variety of foodstuffs, we also have a powerhouse of desserts.
Although it may be different from the kind of desserts you are used to, our desserts are delicious and will get you hooked when you try them.