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Jul 2, 2010 09:03 PM

Chinese desserts

I was in China last year and fell in love with these glutinous-type dessert dumplings they serve...honestly, not even sure if they are really dumplings or what the right term is...anyway, is there anywhere in Quincy area that serves these types of dessert foods? If not Quincy, anywhere particularly good in Boston? Apologies for being so inarticulate on this matter, but I'm just not sure the right names for what I'm looking for -- though I'd definitely know them when I saw them...

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    Most places serve boiled-up frozen ones that you can buy cheaply at a place like Kam Man. I'd be interested to hear if anyone has a recommendation for freshly prepared ones.

    Also, if anyone can recommend a good HK-style dessert restaurant (serving various puddings, dessert soups, tong yuen, shaved ice) that would be great. I recently had some fantastic Chinese-style fruit/whipped cream cake and a spectacular "Portuguese" tart at Great Taste in Chinatown (open til 11 F/Sa) but their dessert is limited to pastries and teas.

    1. For some reason, no one has seen the need to open up a Chinese or HK dessert-snack cafe here in Boston area. I would love one. They even had a nice place in Philly when I was there at college that made terrific homemade tofu pudding and taro/sago/red bean soups.

      As suggested, there are frozen kinds that you can buy at the local Chinese markets. Outside of that, then bakeries are your best bet for a some Chinese sweet pastry or buns. No one though, outside of what you get at the end of the meal at some restaurants, do the sweet soups, tangyuan, or the double-steamed milks/custards you'll find in there.. These are actually not difficult to make, if you're adventurous. Most ingredients are available at the local markets, and can be made at home.

      9 Replies
      1. re: kobuta

        i am a big fan of chinese food, but while i like chinese desserts, i can live without them. i think that is the opinion of most chinese food afficiandos.

        1. re: cambridgedoctpr

          "i can live without, i think that is the opinion of most chinese food afficiandos."

          Not really.

          I actually find them different, but often wonderful. Subtle, not as sweet, focusing on textures that are unusual to a Western palate, but I love many of them.

          1. re: StriperGuy

            Exactly - one of the reasons why I favor Chinese desserts. More often fruit based, lighter and much much less sweet. I do not crave chocolates, and generally not much of a sweets person, but a nice Chinese dessert or snack is often refreshing after a meal or as a late night snack.

          2. re: cambridgedoctpr

            You are wrong. Especially because we are talking about popular desserts from HK, where dessert is much more popular than in other Chinese cuisines.

          3. re: kobuta

            Cool, thank you. Any particular bakeries that you know of or would recommend? I'd have no chance at actually making any of these things myself :)

            1. re: jhartz

              You'd be surprised at how easy many of the dishes are, especially the sweet soups. Often involving nothing more than a few ingredients that you boil and then serve hot or cold. I like a number of bakers for different things - I don't think there's a one bakery that does everything better than othersl. Off the top of my head some of the things I like:

              - Crown Royal for their wife cakes. They used to have THE best egg tarts in the city, but the zero transfat move kind of nixed that unfortunately. Their flaky crust is no longer as flaky and light. They're still good, but not as good. Good overall bakery for a lot of things. Also makes nice Western style fruit cakes.

              - Great Taste for their Portuguese egg tarts, for something different. Also pretty good overall, but I don't like their thin wife cakes here.

              - Eldo - I enjoy their ham & egg sandwich. Ok, not sweet, but a good savory item. I find their baked goods ok overall.

              - Mei Sum (by the dilapidated garage) - I really like their pineapple buns and coconut jello/agar agar tarts ("boot jai go" in Cantonese).

              There are others like Hing Sing, Bao Bao (more Western and "modern"), and the new 101 (haven't tried this) in Chinatown. There's also Yi Shun in Allston, which like 101, is actually a Taiwanese style bakery.

              Great Taste
              201 Main St, Milford, MA 01757

            2. re: kobuta

              Because you'd have a small customer base? They're so ridiculously cheap (under a $1???) in chinatown that I'm not sure a snack cafe be popular enough to pay the bills.. :-P

              1. re: Spike

                Why would everything have to be under $1? Tofu pudding at dim sum is a few dollars, and that's just scratching the surface of what might be on the menu. Boba tea is a good $3-4 a pop (a lot of the dessert places also serve drinks). Most items I recall in HK/Taiwanese dessert places are roughly $3 - 6 dollars each. Heck, there are even a few dessert/drink places in NY that seem to do well enough.

                If you can get non-Asian people to enjoy boba tea, why wouldn't someone be able to attract them to try snacks and desserts? With the exception of hashima, most desserts have far more innocuous ingredients than an authentic Chinatown dinner IMO.

              2. re: kobuta

                The steamed egg custard isn't hard to make at all. I experimented a bit and this is how I do it now:

                For one serving (scale up as needed, you'll need one covered teacup per serving), beat together well:

                1 egg
                1/2 cup milk
                1 tbsp maple syrup (or other sweetener)

                Steam on medium-high heat in a covered teacup or those little covered chawan mushi bowls for 10 minutes. You may need to tinker with the steaming time to get the texture just right. Let stand 5 minutes and eat. My kids ask for this over and over. I haven't tackled the ginger steamed milk yet, but plan to I understand it, all that needs to be done is to add fresh ginger juice to hot sweetened milk and to let it stand. I've just been too lazy to extract ginger juice from the root.

              3. Actually these glutinous rice "dumplings" aren't that hard to make. We don't make them that often because my family don't really eat them only Mom and I. We make them sweet and savory depending on the holiday.

                I do love these dessert/snack bars in Hong Kong and is one of the few things I miss after visiting 6 yrs ago. We went there quite a lot during our 3 wks stay. Not only were there, hot sweet soups, cold sweet soup; there were even pastries and fried to order dessert snack items. Pretty inexpensive. Most items were in the $3-4 range.

                Honestly, I think this type of Chinese snack bar would do well in the college areas. I would be game to open up shop but need to open my bakery first that specializes in vegan and diabetic desserts.

                1. I love Chinese desserts, and I think they are an important (if often neglected) part of Chinese cuisine. Fortunately, Boston has some terrific Chinese desserts in various restaurants:

                  Fuloon has three excellent desserts. wan1 dou4 huang2 (pea-flour cake), ba1 bao3 fan4 (eight-treasure rice), and ba2 si1 shui3 guo3 (caramelized apple). The pea-flour cake is my favorite, and is often served complimentary after a meal. It's hard to describe, but is a moist cake made from white peas. It's only very slightly sweet, but definitely tastes like a dessert. Eight-treasure rice is a dessert with a base of sweet-sticky rice and topped with a variety of sweet "treasures", including red bean, jujube, peanuts, and usually a variety of other dried fruit, nuts and spices. The caramelized fruit involves the delivery of extremely hot deep fried fruit pieces topped with molten sugar to the table along with a bowl of ice water. You quickly dip the fruit into the ice water and then bite it --- the outside becomes hard and crunchy while the inside is hot and moist. I think the late New Taste of Asia got the topping and temperature a little better, but Fuloon's version is just as fun. Fuloon also has tang1 yuan2 (glutinous rice balls) and they are fine, but nothing super-special. From time to time (and perhaps you can special order this) they have jiu3 niang4 tang1 yuan2 (glutinous rice balls in a kind of fermented rice wine) which is something really extraordinary.

                  In general, for tang1 yuan2 I find that Chili Garden does the best version. Anise, the ill-fated Sichuan restaurant the Friendly Toast's current location in Kendall Square, used to do even better tang1 yuan2, with a variety of flavors (usually sesame and peanut) in the same bowl, along with miniature rice balls that had no filling. Sichuan Gourmet also does a refreshing rendition of this dish.

                  Shanghai Gate in Allston makes an unusual yu4 mi3 lao4 (sweet corn pancake), which involves kernels of sweet corn fried together in a matrix of sugar. It's wonderful.

                  Shaved ice is a common Taiwanese dessert, and both Jo Jo Taipei and the Blue Asia Café in Allston make excellent versions. For just shaved ice, I'd choose Blue Asia, which also has a variety of different topping choices, many which include fresh fruit.

                  I was not so impressed by the food at Wing's Kitchen in Chinatown, but I really did enjoy the red bean porridge they served after the meal. Wang's in Somerville also has very good red bean porridge, although they don't always have it available.

                  Dim Sum Chef, in the Super 88/Hong Kong Market food court in Allston has a wide variety of Cantonese desserts available. That's the closest thing that Boston has to a Hong Kong style dessert house, since Anna's Dessert House in Chinatown closed several years ago. The big Dim Sum places in Chinatown also have a variety of Cantonese desserts available on their carts. I haven't been to Gitlo's in a while, but surely they have a variety of sweet Cantonese desserts as well.

                  On weekends only several restaurants make some delicious desserts:
                  - Wang's make a fantastic dou4 sha1 xian4 bing3 (sweet red bean pie), a flat pie stuffed with sweetened bean paste. The red bean buns they have during the week are good too, but nothing like this fantastic freshly make pie.
                  - Chung Shin Yuan makes a wonderful dou4 hua1 (tofu jello in light syrup). Other restaurants do this as well, but their's is my favorite version.
                  - Green Tea 2 in Newton makes a deliciously translucent ma3 ti2 gao1 (water chestnut cake).

                  Finally, I think it would be hard to call bubble tea (good versions at Infusions Tea Spa, Lollicup, Boston Tea Stop and Bobalicious) anything other than Chinese desserts. In addition to the various fine bakeries in Chinatown, the Juice Bar makes excellent fresh juice smoothies and has several other desserts, and the Eldo Cake House has a similar variety of dried fruits as did the Aji Ichiban branch, which used to occupy the same site.

                  Boston Tea Stop
                  114 Mt Auburn St, Cambridge, MA 02138

                  Shanghai Gate
                  204 Harvard Ave, Allston, MA 02134

                  Chung Shin Yuan
                  183 California St, Newtonville, MA 02458

                  Sichuan Gourmet
                  502 Boston Rd, Billerica, MA 01821

                  New Taste of Asia
                  1393 Beacon St, Brookline, MA

                  164 Brighton Ave, Allston, MA 02134

                  308 Watertown St, Newton, MA 02458

                  Infusions Tea Spa
                  110 Brighton Ave, Allston, MA 02134

                  Green Tea Restaurant
                  24 Elliot St, Newton Highlands, MA 02461

                  JoJo Tai Pei Restaurant
                  103 Brighton Ave, Boston, MA 02134

                  Eldo Cake House
                  36 Harrison Ave, Boston, MA

                  Ichiban Restaurant
                  146 Gansett Ave, Cranston, RI 02910

                  The Friendly Toast
                  1 Kendall Square, Cambridge, MA

                  1095 Commonwealth Ave, Boston, MA 02215

                  Dim Sum Chef
                  1095 Commonwealth Ave Ste 214, Boston, MA 02215

                  Blue Asia Cafe
                  113 Brighton Ave, Boston, MA 02134

                  5 Replies
                  1. re: lipoff

                    Whoops, I meant to upload some photos too. Pea-flour cake, eight treasure rice and jiu niang tang yuan at Fuloon. Sweet tofu jello at Chung Shin Yuan. Shaved ice ("bow bin") at Jo Jo Taipei.

                    Chung Shin Yuan
                    183 California St, Newtonville, MA 02458

                    JoJo Tai Pei Restaurant
                    103 Brighton Ave, Boston, MA 02134

                    1. re: lipoff

                      Does Fuloon make their own Ba-bao-fan? It looks like it from your picture. Do you know, is it always available, or does it have to be ordered in advance?

                      1. re: qianning

                        Yes Fuloon does make their own ba bao fan. It is listed on the menu, but I only ordered it once, so I can't say whether it always available or not but I would assume that it is.

                    2. re: lipoff

                      You guys had an Aji Ichiban?! Lucky :(

                      Ichiban Restaurant
                      146 Gansett Ave, Cranston, RI 02910

                    3. thanks for starting this thread--would love to check out some of these places too

                      i always look forward to some yummy chinese desserts at the end of the meal and i agree with many other posters here that i prefer asian desserts in general since they're more fruit oriented and lighter and not as sweet