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12 Chinese Desserts Everyone Should Try

Part of the Google Local Guides Program, Alessio enjoys traveling and discovering new cultures and especially food traditions.

Chinese sweets are not as popular as the typical dishes served by Asian restaurants in Western countries, but they are still very unique and delicious.

Chinese sweets are not as popular as the typical dishes served by Asian restaurants in Western countries, but they are still very unique and delicious.

Chinese cuisine is not limited to dumplings, spring rolls, or fried rice. One can see it not only by making a trip to China but also by looking around for traditional Chinese restaurants, those having mainly Asian customers in search of the most genuine flavors. What about desserts? Chinese cuisine boasts a wide choice of desserts popular among the locals, even if many Westerners are not used to Chinese pastries. Despite this, I think it is nice to discover this aspect of Chinese cuisine too, perhaps less known but equally worthy of mention.

One of the main reasons why Chinese sweets have never been particularly successful in Europe and the USA is the sweetness level. The Chinese are not used to overly sweet flavors while, on the contrary, Westerners prefer a very high level of sweetness compared to Chinese standards. It is not uncommon for a Chinese to find an American cheesecake too sweet and for an American to taste a typical Chinese dessert and find it not very tasty. You may still decide to try Chinese sweets, especially if you think you can enjoy them even with a lower level of sweetness than you may be used to.
Here you will find some of the most delicious Chinese pastries you can try for breakfast or as an alternative snack.

Top 12 Chinese Pastries to Try

  1. Tangyuan
  2. Bubble Tea Cake
  3. Bubble Waffle
  4. Coconut Baked Cakes
  5. Rose Milk Pudding
  6. Egg Tart
  7. Rainbow Cake
  8. Mooncake
  9. Milk Bunny Jellies
  10. Bingfen
  11. Vanilla Fruit Jelly Cake
  12. Red Beans Pudding

1. Tangyuan

For some people, this dessert may seem somewhat bizarre, as its peculiarity is that it is served in a broth. It consists of glutinous rice shaped into small balls containing a sweet filling, like sugary black sesame, crushed peanuts, red beans, or matcha. Chinese people traditionally eat Tangyuan during Yuanxiao, also known as the Lantern Festival. Another particularity of tangyuan is that they are not only a pastry: savory fillings may also be used so that this dish is more than just a dessert.

A sponge cake featuring tapioca pearls, sea salt whipped cream, and black sugar.

A sponge cake featuring tapioca pearls, sea salt whipped cream, and black sugar.

2. Bubble Tea Cake

Bubble tea is one of the trendiest drinks right now. It is an example of a Chinese dessert, although this article highlights more food like cakes or biscuits. Despite bubble tea's popularity, the artisanal cakes prepared by Chinese pastry shops with milk tea ingredients are maybe less known.

Here in the photo, you can admire a sponge cake covered with sea salted whipped cream, black fructose syrup, and tapioca pearls on the surface: typical ingredients also employed in the preparation of some types of bubble tea.

A plain bubble waffle

A plain bubble waffle

3. Bubble Waffle

Also known as "egg waffle", it is maybe an exception among the various Chinese pastries, as it is also popular among Westerners. It is a waffle made from an egg-rich batter and cooked on a pan featuring the cells that give this pastry its particular shape featuring the bubbles. The bubble waffle can be eaten plain or with fresh fruits or sweet toppings.

Coconut baked cakes

Coconut baked cakes

4. Coconut Baked Cakes

I can't find an exact English name for these small cakes baked by artisanal Chinese pastry shops and then packed and sold to the customer. They feature puff pastry and dough with flour and coconut powder. They are delicious, especially as an alternative breakfast.

A rose milk pudding

A rose milk pudding

5. Rose Milk Pudding

If you want to try something different from the usual chocolate or vanilla pudding, this rose-flavored one might be for you.

Egg tarts

Egg tarts

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6. Egg Tart

Egg tart is a Chinese derivation of two English and Portuguese pastries. You can find it in most Chinese bakeries, pastry shops, and some restaurants specializing in dim sum.

Chinese cake slices

Chinese cake slices

7. Rainbow Cake

It is one of the most nice-looking Chinese pastries ever. For the rainbow effect, food coloring is usually employed. In addition, the cake also features fresh fruit. The picture shows some slices of a rainbow cake, together with mango, chocolate, and matcha cakes.

8. Mooncake

Mooncake is the symbol of one of the most relevant celebrations in China: the Mid-Autumn Festival, a festival entirely dedicated to the celebration of longevity and family.

The mooncake is usually filled with red bean paste, jujube, lotus seed paste, matcha green tea, or chocolate. It is stamped with a specific decoration representing the Moon (especially when eaten during the traditional festival), even if it is not unusual to find other kinds of stamps. In addition, like tangyuan, mooncakes can also be savory, even if they have a different shape.

9. Milk Bunny Jellies

This rabbit-shaped dessert has been the absolute protagonist of a trend featured on Douyin, the Chinese TikTok. The trend consists in giving a little pat on the butt to the rhythm of a sound.

10. Bingfen

Bingfen is a refreshing dessert made from an iced flavored jelly topped with food like sesame or goji. Outside China, you can find this dessert in many Chinese hotpot restaurants.

chinese-dessert
Two variations of the vanilla fruit jelly cake

Two variations of the vanilla fruit jelly cake

11. Vanilla Fruit Jelly Cake

There are several variations of this dessert. This, in particular, features two layers of sponge cake and cream inside. On the top, you can find fruit jellies. This cake is commonly served in some restaurants in Macau, even if you can also find it in other parts of China.

Red beans pudding

Red beans pudding

12. Red Beans Pudding

This dessert is made in different ways and shapes and is shared among different traditions. It is popular street food in Hong Kong and Macau and can also be eaten for the Chinese New Year. Finally, you can also find a similar recipe in Japanese cuisine: Mizu Yokan.

Chinese Pastries Deserve To Be Discovered and Tried

Chinese desserts are often particularly spectacular. The same Chinese cakes eaten on birthdays are almost works of art, from how complex their decoration is. They are also delicious: just be prepared to experience a different level of sweetness. If you are already used to lower levels of sugars in your desserts, maybe you are already one step near to appreciating Chinese pastries.

Top 12 Chinese Pastries to Try Poll

© 2022 Alessio Ganci

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