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Best Dessert Dishes in China

What are some of the best desserts that people have had in China?

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  1. I don't know that the Chinese have the same concept of "dessert" as we in the West, but often a sweet course will be served near the end of the meal but before the soup and rice.

    Along that line (and I don't have much of a sweet tooth), fried milk was the highlight of an otherwise dreary meal at Sun Ya in Shanghai and I've enjoyed luobo si bing (shredded daikon in a pastry shell) at a number of places. Mango pudding seems to be more of a Cantonese thing, but I've had tasty versions in Hong Kong and the US (SF Bay Area).

    4 Replies
    1. re: Gary Soup

      I had fried milk as a main dish. I never had luobo si bing which sounds interesting. There is a dessert/or sweet dish that is made out of milk I think that is served in shops that focus on that mainly. I saw one in Causeway Bay and one in the shopping area in Macau. I didn't get a chance to try any of it. I also like the seasame pudding served cold. Its suppose to make your hair shiny. I'm always curious to see what is still out there I haven't tried. I did come across some nice Thai desserts which I still think is the best in Asia.

      1. re: designerboy01

        Was the fried milk served near the end of the meal? That's what I was talking about, there are sweet main dishes served near the end of the meal but not as dessert per se. You'll get the soup afterward, and maybe the rice (if you orderd rice).

        You may have encountered luobo si bing in one of its savory forms; there are both savory and sweet versions, and the savory version often is just a flat, pan-fried bing. The "dessert" version looks like this picture:


        1. re: Gary Soup

          The fried milk was served as a main dish and not part of the meal. I had this in NY a while back and I've seen it on menus here but I don't see it in a lot of places here. I use to eat this at Mandarin Court on Mott Street but the restaurant has changed hands so I'm not sure anymore.

          I had the savory form of luobo si bing and they serve it at many Northern Style/Shanghai breakfast places.

          I never saw the sweet one offered in NY before. Where did you have that dish? I travel to China at least once a year and I like to chow on the specialities of each province.

      2. re: Gary Soup

        I have had fried milk and daikon pastry but never considered either to be dessert. There are lots of Chinese desserts, most I have seen are served at dim sum. The iconic dan tart is perhaps the best known. At dim sum there are usuaully a whole cart of dessert selections. In addition there are the red and grean bean and tapioca soups, dragon beard candy, etc. etc.

      3. There is the fried bread (man tou) where you dip it in condensed milk.

        There is also fried bananas/apples ("ba si" style) coated with melted sugar that is stringy and you dip it in water or soda. This is popular in Beijing and really good.

        There is the rice balls in wine flavored soup for Shanghai.

        In Hong Kong, there is mango pudding. There is also mochis with sesame fillings you can get at dim sum places ("lui sha tong yun"). There is also the tofu dish, which is warm or cold tofu with sugar ("tofu fa").

        3 Replies
        1. re: WHills

          I use to eat bread with condensed milk and jam when I was a kid.
          Its more of a snack to me but I guess it can be made into a dessert. Almost forgot about that.

          I had the apples, bananas, and sometimes potatoes dipped in sugar and flashed in cold water in Beijing too. I even see it served in NY now. But I had that during the meal as it was offset my salty flavors. I never really thought of that dish as a dessert because it was always served during the main courses.

          I heard about the rice balls. I know how to make the wine at home and the rice balls, but for some reason never had them together. That is a dessert.

          Yep mango pudding is one.
          The mochis with sesame fillings are too. I sometimes get them frozen if I'm too lazy to make them.

          Yeah and tofu fa or almond tofu fa.

          I'm looking for something in China that I haven't seen here in the US.

          1. re: WHills

            I also had the Mantou with condensed milk when I was a student in Nanning. The bread we had was steamed and you would dip it into the sweet, thick, condensed milk. Yum. We always had a great cup of very black coffee with it. For anyone in Nanning the restaurant is located on Bailong Lake in Renmin Park. (White Dragon Lake in Peoples Park). May not be there anymore as I was a grad student there in 1994

            1. re: WHills

              a good basi apple is one of the best desserts i've ever had in my life and i don't even like hard candies. if anyone knows of a place in beijing that does it well (caramely, fully-melted sugar syrup without having been dusted in corn starch or flour), please post it here.

              i usually order it every time i see it and thus far, i haven't had a good one since at the beijing zajiang mian place near hongqiao ... more than 7 years ago.

              other that that, shaved or 'knife-shaved' ice with a spectrum of toppings is something that i couldn't get enough of while in taipei. there was this one stand at the tonghua that made their own taro balls and it was damn tasty ... the rice pellet-sized ice with candied pineapple and the super QQ taro balls -- now that's some seriously sweet and textural sensations.

              i've learned the hard way with the condensed milk manto gold-silver mantou - now i only order the gold mantou, which i didn't know was an option until much much later.

              as for not available in the states, the candied hawthorn kebob?
              guilin jelly? 龟苓膏
              what about 爱玉 and that black herbal jelly, both common with shaved ice and alone in sugary water with ice.
              pea cakes? 豌豆膏
              donkey rolling in the hay i've seen in alhambra, calif but not elsewhere in the states?

            2. "Ginger runs into milk" is a warm buffalo milk pudding that has a consistency softer than flower tofu. Sugar and ginger juice is put into a single serving bowl and then hot unpasteurized (raw) buffalo milk is poured in. I don't know if it's because of the ginger or something else that's put in, but the mixture sets up into a curd. Quite good.

              1. Long ago and far away, i had excellent bingshuang in beijing with fruit - snowcone-ish ice with fruit and a bit of syrup.

                also, there was a bakery that touted muslim butter cookies in beijing. They were fine.

                I never went to Tianjin, but i know that kiesslings (qishilin) is famous. Maybe somebody else has some experience there.

                the above things that i did have were snack food as opposed to desserts served at the end of a meal.

                1. Lots of good desserts in Xin Jiang, such as ice cream made from ice dragged down from Tian Shan, chopped dates and nuts inside pastry dough with cream, niu pi zi cake, fei bing with wild berry preserves, sweet yoghurt with pomegranite juice, etc.

                  1. in Beijing, at the old Noodle Resto near the Temple of Heaven we would get "san bu san", not sure of the pinyin, but it was roughly translated to mean "3 ingredients, no stick". It was a huge mass of yellow custard that was stuck to itself but not to the plate. The three ingredients were egg yolks, sugar and corn starch. It was served at the end of the meal, and eveyone loved it. Also eat-able with chopsticks!!!

                    peace, jill

                    1. I like Chinese desserts, although they are a bit different:
                      Milk-based puddings are common -- with ginger or orange essence -- sometimes these are also egg-based. Can take a while to cook.
                      Rice dumplings with sweet fillings -- including peanut, red bean, green bean, and sesame. I like sesame, don't be put off by the black color. Other people have mentioned this, in Mandarin they are Tang Yuan 汤圆
                      In southern china (Yunnan and Guangxi at least), people eat mango with sticky rice and condensed milk, similar to Thailand, as well as shaved ice with sweet toppings (8 treasures shaved rice with some beans, strawberry, pineapple, etc...)
                      Yunnan province has a sweet street food called "xiao er kuai" that involves a round sticky rice pancake that is cooked over some coals, then filled with a fresh youtiao (crispy fried bread similar to a donut) and some sweet sauce made from carmalized sugar and peanuts. Another common street food always advertised as "Thai Style" is a sweet crispy bread deepfried with mashed banana filling and covered in condensed milk.

                      1. I just came back from a trip to Shanghai and Beijing where I had two things that I would serve as a dessert here but that didn't necessarily come at the end of the meal. Both were dunked in sweetened condensed milk -- yum! One was called "gold and silver threads." I think they were rice flour dumplings. They looked rather like large marshmallows. The "gold" ones were deep fried and the "silver" ones were steamed. The other dish was called nangua bing: pumpkin fritters rolled in rice flour. We also had a version of nangua bing with a red bean paste filling for breakfast without the condensed milk. I could eat that breakfast every day!

                        1. 三大炮 (three big cannons) - not a dessert per se but a sweet snack...

                          1. What is your definition of 'Best'? If it is also the most expensive, then the 'double boiled papaya with coconut milk and bird's nest' must be way up there! Especially if blood bird's nest are used.

                            1. The best fried milk I have had is at the White Swan Hotel in Guangzhou. (It was served as a dessert.) That was about 9 years ago, so I don't know if they still have it.

                              I also second the fried mantou with condensed milk. Seems to be more of a northern thing.

                              Last night Yuxiang Renjia, a Sichuan restaurant in Beijing, I had sweet corn fritters that tasted kind of like they should be from the American South. It wasn't a dessert, but could have been.

                              Hong Kong's Times Square as a little shop that is famous for their steamed milk and egg custards. I liked the egg one, but not the steamed milk.

                              1. Interesting no one mentioned Hong Kong's most popular dessert, made famous by the 'Moon Kee dessert house' in Sai Gung - ''Yeung Ji Gam Lo' ( cantonese pronounciation )

                                1. came upon tthis old thread.
                                  Ba-si apples, and watermelon are both really good. the beijing duck places sometimes have it, had it years ago at quanjude.

                                  Also, in Suzhou, i had a lotus root, stuffed with sweet red-bean paste and sthen steamed and sliced relatively thin. quite good.

                                  1. i second (or third) the vote for almond tofu fa.

                                    and i can't remember what it's called, but the black sesame dessert soup....so good...