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Chinese Dessert Houses? "Sugar water" @ P-Mall + Photos

I have always relied on my tried, tested and true favourite of Pacific Mall for my "sugar water" (literal translation) sweet Chinese Dessert fix. I was wondering if anyone had any recommendations for Chinese dessert soups in the Scarborough, Markham or Richmond Hill areas?

For those unfamiliar with these dessert soups, "Tong Siu" (sugar water is the direct translation) is often served at the end of a Chinese meal. Often times it comes free (in Toronto), but at higher-end restaurants, one usually has to order it specifically. There are several different kinds of Tong Siu, namely:

- Red Bean Soup
- Sweet Coconut Tapioca Soup (Sai Mai Lo)
- Purple Rice with condensed/coconut milk
- Sweet Walnut Soup
- Sweet Almond Soup
- Sweet Black Sesame Soup

Other popular Chinese desserts include:
- Guilinguo
- Sweet Tofu (Dow Foo Fa)

I have had really nice desserts in HK, but I have had trouble finding a place that specializes in it in Toronto. The one I sampled in HK (guilinguo) had a fabulous minty flavour that I really appreciated. The desserts come in both hot and cold versions. They are not overly sweet, but have a nice texture to them that gives it nice variation. It's a pleasant departure from cakes and other sugary-sweet goods. I find them to be less of a shock to the sweet tooth for the times I feel like something more mild. The purple rice version is reminiscent of rice pudding, but with a more "soup-like" consistency. The rice is similar to a wild-rice, making them firm to the bite.

Here is a photo-journal of my more recent samplings:

HK:
Guilinguo: http://www.flickr.com/photos/28531775...
Intercontinental dry-ice presentation: http://www.flickr.com/photos/28531775...

Toronto:

Purple Rice: http://www.flickr.com/photos/28531775...
Rose Jello: http://www.flickr.com/photos/28531775...
Honeydew Tapioca: http://www.flickr.com/photos/28531775...

Does anyone have any favourites? I want to expand my horizons beyond the one found in Pacific Mall. Of all the ones I've tried around the city, theirs has the best consistency amongst the desserts and the best selection. A good go-to place to satisfy my cravings.

TIA

Cheers and Happy Eating!

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  1. Have you tried the dessert place behind Pac Mall? Not certain of the name but I think it's beside the JCY House store. They have great coconut sago. I haven't tried the Guilinguo b/c I'm not a big fan.

    6 Replies
    1. re: leelei

      Hi leelei and red_dragon,

      That's actually the PMall dessert place I was talking about (the one in Market Village). But thanks anyway everyone.
      I will try out kerwintoronto's suggestions. So the one that you recommend there is the guilinguo and not the others. If only there could be a one stop shop....

      1. re: BokChoi

        Was the purple rice from the place in Market Village (right by the back entrance) and has the chinese style stools? Just wondering if that particular dessert was sweet? I've had several of their dessert soups and found them too sweet.

        1. re: red dragon

          Yes, it was the one in Market Village with the stools. It was a sweet dessert, but IMO not overpoweringly sweet. But then again, I like fudge... It was not amongst the sweetest type of "tong siu" (the tapioca one I find to be the sweetest of the bunch) if that means anything.

          1. re: BokChoi

            Thanks for your feedback (once again).

            I like desserts with taro as well. Had a dessert soup at Nguyen Huong (I know it's not Chinese), but it wasn't that great.

            If I had more time, I would try to make some at home; I've only made red/green bean soup.

            1. re: red dragon

              Thanks for reminding me about that dessert place. I bought one as well (only $1.50), but forgot to eat it! It must still be in my fridge right now...must remember to toss that. red_dragon, do post your longer Mengrai Thai review on my new thread as you have photos to go with your review. Cheers

              1. re: BokChoi

                Yikes, please throw away before you get sick, coconut milk doesn't last very long. I've posted my review, but it's very long. I just couldn't leave a thing out. It was fantastic!

    2. Can't remember the name of the place but I still like their Guilinguo...it is pretty strong on the herbal ingredients (wouldn't call it minty). Called Dessert Something I think.

      It is the dessert place on Kennedy Avenue just south of Hwy 7. It is in the strip mall portion to the north side of the complex. They have other Tong Siu but nothing that really jumped out at me.

      4 Replies
      1. re: kerwintoronto

        I think you are refering to Sweet Culture. I like the fried milk there, the desserts are solid. Nothing innovative though. There is another dessert place over in the Silver Star plaza. I haven't been there, but I am sure it is worth exploration.

        1. re: sweetie

          Thanks sweetie...that's it.

          BokChoi...I like the guilinguo there. Last time we tried desserts it was the fried milk .. on the firmer side but who can get good fried milk anymore. Like sweetie said ... solid but nothing adventurous.

          The guilinguo has always had a good strong flavor to it over a lot of other spots.

          The place in Market Village that red dragon referes to is decent too...their guilinguo is always a little milder than the one on Kennedy (Sweet Gallery). The name eludes me too.

          1. re: kerwintoronto

            Thanks kerwintoronto. Lotus Pond vegetarian restaurant makes a very soft deep fried milk dish. I personally don't really like it - but maybe you can check it out and see if it's to your liking.

            1. re: BokChoi

              Thanks for the tip...will keep it in mind.

      2. There is a small place that sells dessert soups inside Market Village - right by the doors that lead out to the back of PMall. Can't remember the name but they have stools in the Chinese furniture style (dark colored). I find the ones that I've had anywhere are all too sweet. I've made my own red bean and green bean soups at home with better results.

        1. More of a variation on Vietnamese dessert, but I like the ice-dessert bar at the AYCE make-your-own stirfry place in the Pacific Mall Plaza (can't remember the name of the restaurant?? Maybe Mongolian Grill?). The actual food there isn't great, but i love the do-it-yourself take on those thai/vietnamese desserts with shaved ice, red beans, jellies, and other fruits.

          On another note, my mom used to make a variation on the coconut tapioca, adding taro to the mix. Yum!

          7 Replies
          1. re: Sinfulia

            That's the Mongolian Grill alright. I love the shaved ice, herb jelly and red bean mixture for dessert. Sometimes with strawberries if the mood strikes.

            1. re: Pincus

              yeah, I've tried that before at Mongolian grill - would say I'm not a huge fan of it though. I am not a fan of jellies perhaps.

              The Taro version of the Tapioca is actually served in Market Village if I am not mistaken - if you wanted a quick fix instead of waiting for your mom to make it next, Sinfulia.

                1. re: BokChoi

                  Bokchoi - I saw this article and thought immediately of you. It lists some places for chinese desserts/soups!!

                  http://www.tasteto.com/2008/01/30/sna...

                  1. re: red dragon

                    Thanks red_dragon. I'll definitely check it out.

                    1. re: red dragon

                      Oh man, those look good. Like the TasteTO writer, I like my desserts not too sweet. Thanks for posting this, I am definitely going to check some of them out.

                      1. re: red dragon

                        mmm those desserts look amazing. Have you happened to try any of them?

                2. Can you guys recommend some dessert houses that are fun to hang out at with a nice atmosphere?? I'm new in town and looking for some places to hang out at with the girlfriend.

                  17 Replies
                  1. re: szw

                    It depends on which area you are in, but if you are looking for decent bubble tea, look no further than Go For Tea. It is one of the nicest BBT places I have been to in the city. The BBT themselves are not the best, but they are decent. They also offer some snacks and traditional Chinese teas. Personally, I find it very hard to get good BBT around T.O., as much of it is watered down, but this one has great decor to make up for it.

                    http://www.gofortea.ca/

                    Cheers and Happy Eating!

                    1. re: BokChoi

                      Thanks for the recommendation, I will add it to the list. I'm in the danforth area, so no matter where we decide to check out it will be quite a trek!

                      1. re: BokChoi

                        Have you tried Destiny Tea on Hwy 7? It looks very large and shi shi ...lol. Niece goes there often, but then again, her tastes and mine are not always in sync.

                        1. re: red dragon

                          I have been to the one on Steeles - it was okay. Not the greatest. Tell her to try Go 4 Tea. It's much better. I only go to BBT very infrequently - only to catch up with old friends after work. Go 4 Tea is near the highway so it is easily accessible by everyone and has a nice atmosphere for only $5. Cannot go wrong.

                          1. re: BokChoi

                            Thanks I will, her boyfriend is also a foodie like us and always looking for good eats! I told her she met her soul mate ...lol

                            1. re: red dragon

                              Food does unite the world, I do agree! Cheers

                          2. re: red dragon

                            The plaza of Destiny Tea on Hwy 7 is hottest spot for hang out in that area these days. It is even bigger than Go For Tea. Hard to find a parking spot even on weekday. The food menu is very comprehensive as I see they also got some fusion sushi in there,etc. Service is extremely slow, even worst than Go for Tea. But I mean, they are all the same, either Destiny Tea or Go for Tea.

                            1. re: skylineR33

                              Go For Tea was never a hot place to hang out IMO. It has always been quite empty every time I go. I prefer that as it is much quieter, with better service (less rush out the door).

                              1. re: BokChoi

                                Go for Tea was extremely busy like a year or so ago, everytime I go on Friday night or Saturday night, there is a line up. But the new Destiny takes away quite a lots of business I believe,

                                1. re: skylineR33

                                  Would you say Destiny Tea is for a younger crowd? I ask because my niece frequents the place and always asks me to try it out.

                                  1. re: red dragon

                                    From what I see, there is a wider age group at Go for Tea (maybe part of the reason is more people knows about it as it has been around for a longer time). Destiny is newer, so people (especially younger ones) like to go there more.

                                    1. re: red dragon

                                      BTW, I would like to clarify the new Destiny Tea is on Hwy 7, in the same plaza as Marlowe, Keg, Nava, Jack Astor ...

                                    2. re: skylineR33

                                      Really? I have been going for a few years now since it opened (not frequently though, I must admit) and I have never had to wait for a seat. I guess I was just lucky!

                              2. re: BokChoi

                                Hi Bok Choi,
                                Although I prefer richer desserts (you can never go wrong with French bakery goods afterall!), recently, I've developed a strong interest in trying more Asian desserts (I blame the Moon Cakes, haha. My tastebuds were never partial to this delicacy as a child.. guess it's a sign that my palette has evolved!).
                                What would you recommend for a rookie chinese dessert eater at Go For Tea or any of the other Asian dessert places you've tried?
                                Thanks!
                                Sugarcube

                                1. re: sugarcube

                                  Hi sugarcube,

                                  To be honest, I have only ever had the bubble teas at Go For Tea, so I cannot say if their other desserts are good - but judging from their BBT, I would say they probably aren't the best at what they do, but the space is amazing for the price you pay.

                                  I would head over to the originally posted location at Market Village, just east of Pacific Mall on Steeles. There is a small Chinese Dessert place there that serves very good Chinese desserts. The mango sago is a classic and good 'beginner' dessert to try. Quite sweet, so be prepared. If you were in the mood for something more subtle, the grass jelly or more herbal "Gui ling guo" are good bets.

                                  If you want to do a combo of dim sum and great Chinese desserts, I would head over to Lotus Pond Chinese Restaurant at Midland, just North of McNicoll (South of Steeles). They have great vegetarian dim sum (I have a post elsewhere on CH with photos: http://chowhound.chow.com/topics/532998 ) and great Chinese desserts - their mango dessert (tong siu) is great, as is their red bean dessert soup.

                                  Hope this is of some assistance!

                                  Cheers and Happy Eating!

                                  1. re: BokChoi

                                    Thanks BokChoi, I've made note of these places and will try them out in the near future. I appreciate the sugestions :)

                                    Cheers
                                    SC

                                    1. re: sugarcube

                                      Please do let me know how you enjoy them - I will keep you posted once I try some of the other suggestions on this board, just did not have a chance yet. Tried to try leelei's suggestion yesterday, but the timing didn't work out.

                                      Cheers!

                            2. Have you tried the place at First Markham? Not inside the actual mall, but outside along the strip - sorry I forget the name. I really like their mango tapioca pudding when mangos are in season along with their zi ma wu (black sesame pudding).

                              1 Reply
                              1. re: jeannieh20

                                I have seen it, but have never tried it. Must put it on my list. Thanks for the tip jeannieh20.

                              2. "sweet culture" at Hwy 7 and kennedy use to be my go to place for chinese desserts/snacks, but it's too far away from me!

                                i usually go to "Sugar" in the plaza at Finch and Leslie now. Doesn't have as many snacks as sweet culture, but it's closer and the ambiance is nicer to hang out in.

                                i also still prefer the atmosphere at "go for tea" (but i never get the BBT, just the mango yoghurt drink) compared with the new destiny (where I ordered a slice of cake once and instead got a sliver.....)

                                6 Replies
                                1. re: tweenietoes

                                  Thanks, a bit out of the way for me, but I will hopefully stop by to check it out sometime. Cheers!

                                  1. re: BokChoi

                                    Went to Hong Fook today and had the black sesame dumplings....they were delicious. It's in Commerce Gate plaza on HWY 7 at the very end of the building.

                                    1. re: leelei

                                      Thanks leelei for the tip. Will try to keep that in mind the next time I am in that area - which may actually be tomorrow!
                                      Cheers

                                        1. re: leelei

                                          Will try to leelei - I am glad you have enjoyed them. Cheers!

                                  2. re: tweenietoes

                                    I like Sugar better than Go For Tea - although called sugar, their desserts and drinks are not as sweet as the ones at Go For Tea. I've always considered Go For Tea as the diabetes factory of the GTA.

                                  3. Recently I had a purple rice/coconut milk one from Simon's Wok on Gerrard, West of Logan. I've never had it before, but I thought it was really yummy. It looks different from your photo though. I think they used a more purple type of rice. Simon's Wok is a vegetarian restaurant, I'm not vegetarian but I thought they had a lot of options and what I ordered was pretty yummy. It's also inexpensive as most Chinese restaurants are. This is obviously quite a while away from the PMall area but I thought I'd just put it out there anyway.

                                    1 Reply
                                    1. re: lily.violet

                                      Thanks for the post lily.violet. It's a bit out of the way for me, but will hopefully aid other CHers from the area. btw, was it a good vegetarian restaurant? Cheers!

                                    2. I live in Mississauga, and our default Asian dessert source is a Vietnamese tofu place in the Chinese centre at 888 Dundas. I don't know what it's called -- the sign says TOFU, in red on yellow background. Besides fresh tofu and soymilk, they sell tofu fa (regular and pandan flavour). They also have tapioca & coconut milk concoctions, and yummy sweet cassava/shredded coconut desserts. So so good. Everything there is really fresh! It's just a takeout counter though, no tables for lingering.

                                      1 Reply
                                      1. re: mogo

                                        Thanks for the report - a bit out of the way for me, but hopefully some fellow Mississauga residents will appreciate the suggestion.
                                        Cheers!

                                      2. 1) Sweet Culture (Peachtree Plaza, 7 and Kennedy)
                                        2) store at First Markham (in the corner, beside Congee Wong I think?)

                                        The new, gigantic Ten Ren is also great for dinner and desserts.

                                        3 Replies
                                        1. re: ayl

                                          Thanks ayl - any notable menu items at the aforementioned places?

                                          Cheers

                                          1. re: BokChoi

                                            At sweet culture, I get the zi mi lu, which is sticky purple rice with white mini tapioca. However you can never go wrong with white mini tapioca in coconut milk.

                                            The best shaved ice I've had is the mango one at Go 4 Tea, but it's also the most expensive compared to other tea shops. Somewhere around $8?

                                            The Destinys at Steeles and Midland has great popcorn chicken rice. Their rice plates come in this boat like vessel. The portion is quite big! The drinks are terrible though. Watered down and powdery. The waitresses are also really rude. But it was one of our favourite high school joints, only because of the large space. So beware of the much younger crowd.

                                            At Ten Rens, they have these combo deals where you get a meal and drink, which is not too pricey at all. I find that it's an older crowd though.

                                            1. re: ayl

                                              Thanks for the rec, ayl. I don't remember Go 4 Tea being that pricey, but it has been a number of months since my last visit.
                                              Cheers!