China’s street food scene is, of course, legendary, but people with a sweet tooth will be spoilt for choice too. Both China’s traditional and more modern recipes produce some drool-worthy results. Better yet, most Chinese desserts contain far less sugar than those made and consumed in the West. This, however, doesn’t make them any less delicious. Here, we reveal the top desserts that you just have to try on your trip to China. All that’s left to say is – ‘enjoy’!
Ba si di gua
A dessert made from potatoes may not sound all too appetising but don’t knock ba si di gua until you try it. Culture Trip explains more about what to expect from this delectable delicacy:
“Ba si di gua is a dish made of caramelized, cubed sweet potatoes that stick together like glue. Once you’ve managed to separate a single cube from the bunch, dip it quickly in cold water to harden the caramel, a process that will leave you with a crunchy, sugary outside and a warm, starchy inside. Absolute heaven, especially in the winter months.”
Sticky rice cakes
We assure you that you’ll be in snack heaven when you try lee go or sticky rice cakes. This dessert is popular at special occasions like Christmas and Chinese New Year and is actually thought to bring the person who eats it luck and prosperity for the year ahead.
Sticky rice cakes are made from rice and brown sugar, a simple combination that makes for a truly authentic taste. Thanks to their ease and affordability, many locals make these in pre-made batches at home.
The sweet snack is then eaten at breakfast or as a pickup mid-afternoon. Developed a taste for sticky rice cakes after a recent trip to China? Make your own at home by following this gluten-free recipe.
Red bean bun
This sweet steamed bun is popular throughout China, and for good reason. Red bean buns are made using red bean paste, a filling that is widespread and often mistaken for chocolate. They can be enjoyed as sweet snacks or an after dinner dessert, and they’re available in several different shapes and sizes. With this in mind, many travellers make it their mission to try as many variations as they can find in every place they visit!
Dragon’s beard candy
There’s an art to making this traditional Chinese candy. The technique used to make dragon’s beard candy has been perfected ever since the delicacy’s invention during the Han Dynasty, which ran from 206 BC-220 AD.
Dragon’s beard candy is of a similar consistency to candy floss courtesy of its spun sugar ingredient. It is however much, much stickier. You’ll find this melt-in-the mouth dessert at many street food stalls, particularly close to popular tourist attractions. It’s the perfect sweet snack to give you an energy boost after a long day’s sightseeing.
You may be familiar with the egg or custard tart but unlike the Portuguese favourite that we enjoy here in the UK, Chinese egg tarts are eaten warm. The recipe was introduced in Macau by Portuguese colonisers so they’re similar in taste to the egg tart.
Many have an oriental twist that you won’t be expecting. Chinese egg tarts are sold in restaurants (mainly Cantonese style eateries) and at hole-in-the-wall shops. Again, egg tarts provide the perfect on-the-go snack if you’re out sightseeing.
Known as the Chinese toffee apple, tanghulu takes candied fruit to the extreme. As well as the traditional skewered, liquid sugar-dipped crab apples, you’ll find that kiwis and grapes are given the same sweet treatment. Taste tanghulu at its most authentic by purchasing this dessert from street food vendors.
Photo by See-ming Lee