Dessert is a concept strange to the Chinese cuisine. In fact, the entire idea of applying some kind of premeditated order to the dish serving process doesn’t really exist. The order is usually first made first served with simple dishes arriving at the beginning and the more complicated ones arriving a bit later. This actually works out quite well because it means you usually first get the light dishes which are kinda like refreshments while the heavy stuff comes out after you’ve had a little warm up. In any case, since all the dishes are shared and passed around the table the order in which they arrive doesn’t really matter.
The concept of dessert is not only strange to China order wise, it is also strange here flavor wise. Whether it’s a cake, ice cream, pudding, pastries or even fruit, desserts are meant to be sweet. In China however, sweet is not the prevalent flavor to say the least. As a matter of fact the Chinese had to create a new word to correspond to the western notion of dessert. This word is 甜点 (tiándiǎn) which literally means ‘sweet spot’ or ‘something sweet’.
So, you had a nice meal and you really feel like closing it with something sweet, but what can you do? Chinese menus have no dessert section. Well, one option is to get your sugar fix some place else. Maybe find a food stand with sweet street-snacks. If you are in the city you can certainly find a decent dessert in local cafes, bakeries or even MacDonald’s and KFC. The other option is to be savvy, stay put and order a dish which could very well fall under the category of dessert as you know and love. Here are a couple of suggestions:
There’s something about bananas which just makes them sugar’s or chocolate’s best friend. If you are trying to keep it healthy this dish is probably not the best way to go. Don’t try and convince yourself it’s technically good for you because it’s fruit. The banana slices are deep fried and covered with half melted sugar. While it is delicious it is also bad not only for your body but also for your teeth.
This dish is serve with a bowl of water for you to dip in the bananas and cool down the hot sugar. Eat it fast, before the sugar gets hard and make it virtually impossible to separate the banana slices without a chainsaw.
Buns and Condensed Milk
The best way to describe this dish is little doughnuts which are served with the filling not inside but on the side as a dip. It’s ten or twelve little mantou buns (xiǎomántou), half of them are deep fried (the golden ones) and the other half is steamed, all arranged neatly around a little bowl of condensed milk.
Most people prefer the deep fried buns (no big surprise there) but the steamed ones are okay too, as long as you don’t run out of condensed milk. They tend to be very stingy with the milk so running out of it before the buns are finished is definitely possible.
That’s it. Don’t forget to brush your teeth