Although Chinese people tend to shy away from sugar-filled foods in comparison to Western culture, the Middle Kingdom is home to a wide variety of sweet treats that are fun to eat for both kids and adults.
Of course, the treats on offer are a little different from the ones you may be used to. That does not mean you should be afraid to try them! Here are some of our favorite sweet treats and candy in China:
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Traditional bingtanghu is a sugar-coated fruit on a stick – while the fruit can vary (to include kiwi, strawberry and orange), the most authentic version uses Chinese hawthorn fruit which can be eaten raw.
This fruit is believed to have health benefits such as lowering cholesterol, but the sugar gets in the way of that! Found in Northeast China, you now have a good reason to visit Beijing where you’ll be sure to find them. There’s nothing quite as fun as wandering the old hutong alleys of the capital with a sweet bingtanghulu in hand on a winter’s day.
These citrus fruits look like tiny, oblong oranges and, apart from the seeds, you can eat every part. Kumquats are actually native to China, and the name Kumquat comes from the Cantonese gam-gwat meaning “golden orange”
During Chinese New Year, kumquats are often displayed in local houses and in shops. Often, people will give them as gifts during this season to symbolize prosperity. Kumquats can be very sour and tart to the taste, so they are often candied, and cooked in a syrup of sugar and water, to make them into sweet treats.
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These are associated with the Mid-Autumn Festival in China which is usually in September or early October. Like it’s counterpart in America, Halloween, the Mid-Autumn Festival is a historic holiday to celebrate a good harvest (and of course, eat sweet treats).
Mooncakes can be found all around China, but in big cities like Hong Kong and Shanghai, five-star hotels like the Rosewood will put together their own special boxes of exclusive gourmet mooncakes made by their master bakers. Not all mooncakes are sweet, of course, some contain ingredients like egg yolks and minced meat. That being said, even the savory ones taste like a treat to the mouth. Plenty of choice for prices and fillings – time to say fly me to the mooncake!
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Talking of full moons, Tuckahoe Pie is a nourishing dish in the shape of a full moon, paper thin and snow white. Also known by its Chinese name, fuling jiabing, Tuckahoe Pie is a traditional sweet treat in Beijing that has also been an important part of the capital’s culture. The crust is made of Tuckahoe powders and refined flour. The stuffing that is sandwiched between the crusts is a mixture of honey, granulated sugar, confect, pine cones and crushed kernels. The “fuling” part of the pancake comes from fuling, a medicinal mushroom from Yunnan province used in Traditional Chinese Medicine to help urinary and digestive track issues. Or as they say in TCM, “remove dampness from the spleen.”
During the Qing Dynasty, this snack was served to the royal family with beautiful patterns carved into it. Now, you can find the treat at traditional Chinese bakeries dotted around town.
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Thanks to the rising popularity of bubble tea around the world, many people are becoming more familiar with grass jelly. Grass jelly is popular all around Asia, but Mainland China, Taiwan, and Hong Kong are the main areas it is consumed. Does the name “grass” throw you off? Fortunately, there is no grass present, and this jelly is made from leaves similar to the mint family.
Grass jelly is served in a variety of ways including with fruits, milk, or sugar syrup. Chinese people love to eat it as a snack on a warm day, and it’s very good for cooling you down when it gets hot. Like many other of our sweet treats, grass jelly is also believed to cure colds in Traditional Chinese Medicine. There’s no special occasion to eat grass jelly; it’s a special treat you can have year-round!
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Dragon’s Beard Candy
Dragon’s Beard Candy is also known as Chinese Cotton Candy and is a handmade traditional Chinese sweet, similar to spun sugar. The art is believed to date back to the Han Dynasty 2000 years ago, where an imperial court chef entertained the emperor by making it, and its thin, sticky threads resemble a beard.
The Han Dynasty capital of Chang’an, know today as Xi’an, is a great place to check out this ancient treat. Dragon’s Beard Candy will be a great compliment to your halal meal in Xi’an’s Muslim Quarter.
Has all this talk tantalized your sweet tooth? Our local guides know exactly where to find the sweetest bingtanghulu and the tastiest mooncakes. Start planning your sugar-filled journey with our trip designers today.