Chinese cuisine features different desserts to accompany your meals. While most people think that the Chinese dessert constitutes of only the sticky rice cake, there are many other kinds of desserts. This article aims at highlighting some of the best Chinese desserts.
Note that, they are nothing like the western style desserts since they differ in shape, texture and taste. They will not only make you yearn for more but also leave you satiated. Remember, they represent the different regions of China.
You will rarely find the Chinese desserts served as part of the regular course meal like the west. They are mostly served in teahouses in the southern region of China. This, however, doesn’t mean that you can’t eat some of them as part of your regular western meal.
How to Say Dessert in Chinese
Chinese New Year desserts
During the Chinese New Year, aside from the regular meals, there are desserts that you must include in your meal.
- Sticky rice cake
This features a traditional style dessert recipe which is almost always present during this time of the year. It’s a famous Chinese style cake that is fed to the Chinese kitchen God.
The kitchen god is given the rice cake so that he can only say the good about the family when he goes back to heaven. Also, it symbolizes the increasing prosperity and sometimes also promotions in the new year.
Furthermore, since it’s made round it symbolizes togetherness and completeness. It contains the glutinous rice flour and brown sugar. Different Chinese regions have different appearance and tastes of the same.
There are those who make it using the black sesame, sticky rice and eggs.
- Fried dough twist/Mahua
This is your regular dough twist that is fried in peanut oil to symbolize the re-union. You will popularly find it in North China. It’s made when you take the 2 or 3 dough paste bars and twist them together.
They are generally crispy and rich in flavor with some made using yeast while others are not. If you are from Tianjin then you will find these items in every part of your streets.
During New year, families from all over the world come together for the festivities and this dessert best symbolizes the union.
- Sesame seeds balls
You will find the different rice balls being served during the new year but the popular one is the one made using the glutinous rice flour and then rolled in sesame seeds. It’s further filled with red bean paste. It’s also fried making it crispy on the outside and soft on the inside.
You will often see the sesame balls at most times of the year in the Chinese bakery but during the new year, they are more popular. They symbolize fullness in the culinary culture of the Chinese.
- Almond cookies
This is one of the most popular desserts in Chinese culture. The new year is not over without eating a piece cookie. Although this is a traditional dessert it’s still as popular today as it was back then. If you know you expect kids to visit you, make sure you have these cookies.
The recipes indicate light and delicate flavor that isn’t overpowering. After making the cookie dough, a piece of almond is placed in the cookie that completely alters the flavor.
- Sweet red bean soup
This is another dessert that is eaten as a late-night snack. I don’t know of any celebration that will end without the soup though it’s popularly used as a new year snack. Notice that, the Chinese New Year wail present to you the different red images and foodstuffs.
This is because it symbolizes happiness and joy. Made using the lotus seeds and the dried peels of tangerine, the red beans among other ingredients, the soup has an appealing texture and flavors.
It’s best eaten hot and therefore it will work during winter. Some people like to use the glutinous rice balls for the recipe. You can describe this soup as the warm and comforting soup which is made to serve all the guests at new year.
- Osmanthus jelly
During celebrations, you can’t hold yourself from diving into the heavy dinner meals that are set for the new year celebration. The best dessert accompaniment is Osmanthus jelly which is light. It’s usually translucent and it’s made using the goji berries and the Osmanthus flower.
While it has the perfect appearance, it also has medicinal powers with the popular one being the ability to suppress your cough.
- The peanuts
Peanuts are a symbol of longevity. You may have your peanuts in different forms:
Five spices peanuts: here you have your peanuts coated in a mixture of corn syrup, brown sugar and five other powdered spices. The end results is a sweet and savory peanut blend.
Shelled peanuts: here you have your shelled peanuts coated in a blend of brown sugar and flour then baked to become light brown.
Peanut brittle: this one is made using the shelled peanut and malt sugar to produce the crispy texture, sweet taste and perfect aroma.
- Rice balls
These ones are preferred at Southern and Northern China. They are literary the soup balls that are mostly taken at the first breakfast of the new year. They feature the glutinous rice balls that are eaten and served in hot water.
The common thing about the balls is that they have the sweet fillings that come in terms of red bean paste, mashed jujube or melted sugar among others.
The balls are made in two distinct styles, the one you make like a dumpling and another you begin making the filling and have the rice powder poured on to make a ball. You may also eat it on the last day of the New year celebrations.
Take your time to try this recipe: Chinese rice ball with coconut
- Turnip cake
This cake is more popular among the people of Southern China. Here the main ingredient is usually the radish which brings good fortune. Once you make the shreds, you then add them to your rice flour and other flavorings.
If you wish, you can also add the sausage bits, peanuts and other foods like dried shrimps and shiitake. When eating the cake, you can dip it in soy sauce or kumquat sauce. You can also fry them or make alterations that fir your desired tastes.
- Jujube flower cakes
This is used to bless the people who are hoping to have the kids soon. You will also have your wishes come true in eating these cakes. In simple terms, you take your meatiest jujube then wrap it with the dough.
Alternatively, you can mold the dough into the flower.
- Mango pudding
This is my favorite desserts to make back home. The good thing about it is just you can make it wherever you are and its often taken cold thus its best prepared early to wait for mealtime. If you have visited China, you will notice that this is quite popular in the country during summer.
There are several ways to make it with the popular one being the use of gelatine or pudding powder, heavy cream, milk, mangoes and granulated sugar. In the end, some people don’t mind taking it without straining but since I like it smooth, straining it is a must.
The best way to describe it is the fact that its creamy smooth and sweet. You will mostly find it in the dessert shops. Though I’m never a person who loves sugar, I like eating sweet desserts. This smooth pudding will leave you looking for more of it.
- Flour tea pudding
Although it’s called the flour tea pudding, the dessert has very little to do with tea. It’s also popular in Beijing but not so much in other regions. When you plan to make it, you need to have a large bowl that has peanuts, sesame, wheat flour and other nuts assortments.
The above ingredients are mixed and then sesame seeds are used to garnish its top. The best way to describe the Beijing pudding is that it is thick, sweet and hot. You may use it during the winter season or during the fall.
- The eight treasures rice pudding
In China, the number eight means good luck. It may be used to mean that you are wished the best of luck in your businesses. Some people even use more red and golden fruits and other ingredients when making it bring more luck.
The eight treasures feature the number of candied fruits that are presented on top of the pudding as part of the decorations. They include jujube, lotus seeds, dried longans among other dried and candied fruits.
Additionally, it has the sweet sticky rice and red bean filling. It’s mostly served during the Chinese New Year. The pudding is then sizzled with syrup to make it sweeter. The pudding is loved in both China and Taiwan where it’s a must-have during the new year.
This one differs from the regular western pudding that is often creamy because it’s chewy. In addition, it has some filling on the inside that you should enjoy.
- Ginger milk pudding
This is another popular Chinese pudding that is made using the ginger juice, sugar and milk. This is your magical dessert that I expect everyone to fall in love with. Unlike other desserts that use the gelatine as the curding agent, you don’t need any of that in this pudding.
Your milk will quickly coagulate to form a sweet curd. The best part is that this pudding is smooth and has a taste of ginger for all the ginger lovers. Make sure you use the old ginger for they are rich in ginger protease which hastens the curding process.
Its origin is in Southern China and they love serving it hot. The smooth texture and balanced flavor lives you yearning for more.
When you decide to make it at home, remember to use only the whole milk and before you add the ginger juice to the milk, shake the juice.
For more recipe information, refer to the recipe in the link below:
- Coconut tapioca pudding
Making this pudding should be easy but I’m even sure that by seeing the glass presented herein you feel like taking it already. This is a healthy kind of pudding gluten-free and it’s made using tapioca pearls and coconut.
It’s a presentation of thick and starchy pudding that has a mild taste of vanilla, coconut and tapioca. You get to decide how you like it, hot or cold it will be tasty and rich. This is the traditional kind of Chinese dessert.
- Steamed egg dessert
You may refer to it as either egg custard or egg pudding. It’s mostly served at the end of your regular meal. It may be described as a comfort dessert of the Chinese.
I have an aunty who to date believes that when you make the dessert silky and smooth, you are bound to develop a silky-smooth skin. While it’s a great homemade dessert, you will find it in restaurants as well. Making it is easy but it’s also so delicious.
Since it’s made using the eggs, it tastes more like the eggs but you also have the milk flavor that gives it the smooth and silky texture.
- Douhua pudding
This is yet another favorite Chinese pudding that is smooth and delicious. It’s usually made using soft tofu. The best description to give it is a warm dessert kind that has a silky texture.
I like to make it the same way we used to do at home. If you are new to making the tofu pudding or would just like to try a different style, try my recipe.
Traditional Chinese desserts
Among the list of Chinese desserts, we have talked about above you will find most traditional desserts. But below are some more.
Whenever you are talking about the Chinese desserts, you won’t have a complete list without the mooncake. These cakes are mostly used during the mid-autumn festivals. It was invented over 3000 years ago.
It was used during the festival where we thanked the mountain god for the harvest. The moon is associated with the rejuvenation and water thus the name mooncake. The cakes are round and often small.
It’s made using vegetable oil, lard and different flours. You make the paste when you soak the beans and seeds in water. you then combine it with the oil and sugar but on the inside is the egg yolk that symbolizes the moon.
- Egg custard tarts
It’s history dates to the 20th century when the bakers in Guangzhou invented it. The regular tarts have fruit fillings so the bakers were looking for something unique yet flavorful to use as the filling. This led to the rise of the egg custard tarts.
It’s a loved dessert kind that you will find in most dim sum restaurants and bakeries. The one thing about this crispy yet smooth tart is that you can find it anywhere. It’s also easy to make because you only need to use flour butter, milk, sugar and eggs.
This one is best eaten immediately it’s from the oven.
- Pineapple bun
This dessert may mislead you to think that it has pineapple but it doesn’t. The name is from the exterior surface which looks like the pineapple exterior. The buns are buttery in texture and as sweet as the pineapple it’s named after.
You should eat these buns with tea and especially when in Hong Kong. They still feature in the traditional desserts even though they aren’t eaten at the end of the meal. They are sugary in taste yet delightful tiny pieces.
- Watermelon jelly
This is popularly used in Beijing and it’s very delicious. To prepare it you need the watermelon, cherry, sugar and vanilla powder. You boil these ingredients with water first to make a syrup and then the syrup is mixed with the watermelon juice before the cooling is done.
To further make it fun to eat, you mold it into the design of a watermelon slice. You can have it as a congealed jelly-like substance, firm and crispy.
Popular Chinese dessert
- Chinese steamed sponge cake
This is a little different from the regular sponge cakes because instead of baking it’s steamed. It, therefore, remains moist as opposed to other cakes. This is a traditional dessert that is famous and loved across the globe.
It’s a symbol of prosperity for the people. You make it by beating the egg white until it’s frothy and then you add the sugar, flour and yolks Some people may use the almond extracts for the nice flavor.
Moreover, some people add the glutinous rice wine to enhance its fragrance. After mixing all these, you just put the batter in the pan and then into the wok filled with simmering water. Then you cover it until it’s cooked.
Remember that the steamed cake will become hard when cold and if you wish to soften it again you should just steam it again.
- Bing tang Hulu
Another popular Chinese dessert and snack that you will find along the streets. It’s basically the candied fruits where the fruits can be anything from strawberries, hawthorn, mangos or grapes among others.
Depending on what is in the candy you can have it being either sweet or sour. However, the popular fruit used is haw that is from the hawthorn tree.
- Bar si di gua
We have talked about most desserts from other regions of the country. This dessert type is popular in the north eastern part of China. For most parts of the world, potatoes are used for main meal preparation. However, here we have it acting as a dessert.
It features your caramelized sweet potatoes that will often stick together. When making it you should break the pieces and dip them in water to harden them. They then become sugary but warm and soft on the inside.
It also has a crunchy exterior and is often used during winter.
- Milk tea
This is a popular Chinese drink that is not only popular within the country but every other place you find the Chinese in the world. Some people pair it with tapioca bubbles in other parts of the world.
However, here we have different versions of the drink. The one they use in the Chinese mainland isn’t the same as the one used in Hong Kong. Since it has additional jellies and ice creams in the recipes, it automatically becomes a dessert.
- Chinese almond cake
This is yet another traditional dessert that belongs to the Chinese. It’s easy to prepare and can be used as a dessert after your regular meal. You need to blanch your almonds and use the almond oil for the cake preparation.
You also bake it in the oven the same way you do with other cakes. The major advantage, however, is that you can make it gluten free and dairy free. So, here’s a recipe for all those who are health conscious.
- Chinese pumpkin cake
You should know by now that you may use pumpkins to make different meals. Among them is the pumpkin cake. I like the golden color and sweetness. It’s also your delicious cake to enjoy after your meals.
While we like eating out, notice that you can cook it at home following this recipe.
Authentic Chinese desserts
- Red dates candy
You all know that although the Chinese have the regular style of candies, they also have fruits that are candied to form sweet treats. This then fit in as desserts. The red dates candy is the best example for this.
You begin by mashing the fruit to a pulp then you mix it with powdered sugar and gelatine. You then make a paste out of it, roll it and then sun dry it. Lastly, you cut it into 4 or 6 squares. It has piquant, tart and sweet flavor.
- Sugar rings
If you know the fried dough twist that is popular in Northern China then the sugar rings are the same kinds but from South China. It assumes the shape of a flower and thus kids really love it.
To describe it, the sugar rings are crispy in texture and sweet to eat. It symbolises the togetherness of the family.
- Deep fried mantou
This is your regular plain and unfilled bun. The meal is quite popular in the hot pot restaurants but is often used as a dessert during the special holidays like the new year. For some people, the fact that it contains no filling makes it boring.
However, mantou is to Chinese what the doughnuts are to the westerners. When you dip it in the condensed milk you will realize that it’s not at all boring. The fried one is crispy and delicious that often acts as the main meal.
Ancient Chinese cookies
- Walnut cookies
This one equalizes the Chinese in that it shares the same manufacturing method. The main ingredients for use are the walnuts and flour. The yellow cookies have various cracks in them but are mostly delicious and they symbolize happiness.
They are soft textured and they have walnut fragrance.
- Anin Tofu
This is another ancient collection of dessert that has the tofu like solidity. You have the pudding dessert being made of almond milk. The agar is a gelling agent that makes a vegan style of pudding.
Mind you, the desert doesn’t have soy in it. The name is only about the tofu like semi-solid texture. It has the taste of the almond milk and jelly.
- Almond float
The best way to describe this dessert is that it features an almond flavored gelatine with a fruit cocktail on top. In some instances, you may use the fruit cocktail on top. The dessert is easy to make and it can feed a whole crowd.
Chinese chocolate dessert
- Chinese five spice chocolate pots de crème
I call this my romantic recipe for dessert meal. Although it’s a straightforward recipe that is easy to make, it’s really tasty. They have a gourmet twist that you can make ahead of time. This is the best way to impress your special date.
Making the dessert is all about the cream, milk, egg yolk and fine chocolate. To make this dessert, we use the 5 spice secret ingredients. Which include star anise, cinnamon, fennel seeds, Sichuan peppers, cloves.
You will, however, have some brands that contain nutmeg, ginger or cardamom. To make the crème dessert ensure you have the powdered five ingredients to make it easily.
- Chinese 5 spice chocolate truffles
The five spice powdered ingredient acts as a base ingredient for most of the Chinese cooking. You will find it being added to chicken, meat and most other meals. The secret to making the great chocolate truffles is adding five spices that change its flavor completely.
They are easy to make yet addictive. They are your simple on the go-to dessert pieces. With four ingredients you can create the delicious truffle.
Chinese fruit dessert
- Chilled melon fruit salad
Basically, the chilled melon fruit salad is a blend of fruit salad that is then coated with sugar syrup. All the fruit salad is then placed in a bowl or melon halves. This is your great recipe to serve the guests.
You can use the melon baller to mould your fruits into a ball size. You may also use the fresh mint as an addition to the recipe. Making it includes the addition of sugar, honey, raspberry nectar and lemon juice.
- Fortune fruit salad
When making the fruit salad, you only need the combination of raspberries, kumquats, oranges, pomelos, lychee and pineapples. You mix all these then place them in a desirable bowl and into the fridge.
Next, make the syrup by taking the mandarin juice, marple syrup and the Chinese 5 spices then sauté it over medium heat. Cool it then drizzle it over the salad before you serve it.
Chinese gelatine dessert
- Chinese Fruit jelly
This is your best choice during summer. It’s a cooled type of fruit jelly. In simpler terms, you have the jelly and different kinds of fruits added to the recipe.
The recipe basically includes the kanten or agar which is the white gelatinous substance that you use to solidify your liquids. Cut your fruits in small cubes then use the mold to get the perfect cubes of the jelly.
Chinese milk pudding
- Cantonese steamed milk egg pudding
The best sample that describes the milk pudding is this Cantonese style desert. You can describe it as the crème Brule that lacks the sugar top. This is a simple to make pudding that is common in Hong Kong.
The best way to go about making the pudding is to be creative. You can use ingredients like vanilla extracts to enhance the flavor. Other essential ingredients include whole milk, light cream, sugar, toppings like nuts and 2 large egg whites.
Always make sure it remains smooth to drink.
- Water chestnut cakes
This is a form of dim sum dish that has the translucent appearance as well as the tender texture. The main ingredient for this Chinese cake is the Chinese water chestnut. You must cut them into square shape then pan-fried before the service.
Its popular in Hong Kong and it symbolizes prosperity. Although most people like to eat the water chestnut cakes in restaurants you can also cook your own pieces at home.
The desserts discussed above are just a few of the Chinese desserts available. There are hundreds of desserts from all the regions of China. One thing that describes them best is the fact that they are all nutritious.