The traditional European dessert served at the end of a meal is not known in Chinese cuisine. Sweets on a Chinese table usually appear between meals - as a side dish for the balance of flavours or as a traditional holiday dish.
Sweet flavour is not a favourite of the Chinese. Despite the variety of Chinese cuisine, cakes and other sweet dishes do not take a special place on those tables. In China, a popular sweet snack is fresh fruit, such as longan or lychee, called Chinese plum, or heat-prepared fruit, e.g. deep-fried apples, toffee apples or sesame seed-dipped and rice-stuffed cooked pears. During the hot summer, so-called watermelon bowl is often served. Hollow watermelon is used as a bowl for mandarins, peaches and pineapples. These fruits are combined with watermelon pulp and sugar. Watermelon bowl is served chilled.
The Chinese prefer eating sweets during their traditional holidays. During the Chinese New Year, ravioli with vegetable or meat filling appear on the table , and in the middle one can find candy or cake. This is fortune-telling, and means the coming year will be sweet, which means rich in pleasant events. Moreover, traditional rice balls with sweet filling are related to the celebration of the New Year – the Feast of Lanterns. They are a symbol of family happiness. Moon Cookie is a mandatory sweet in the Mid-Autumn Festival and also an obligatory gift for family members, friends or co-workers with wishes of happiness and prosperity. The most traditional filling of the Moon Cookies is a date-nut-almond stuffing. The Chinese, however, like to experiment with flavours and fill them with white or red bean stuffing as well. Some are also stuffed with boiled and salted duck egg yolk.
Rice plays the main role
Rice is essential in Chinese cuisine. It is also served `sweet` e.g. combined with dates in a form of filling in leaves of sugarcane or in lotus root. One of the most popular Chinese sweet dishes is called the Eight Treasure Rice. It is specially prepared sweet rice with nuts, dried fruit and candied fruit such as figs and cherries. Cookies and rolls are baked from rice flour similar to European dumplings known as `knedle`.
Not only sweet
Chinese specialty is to mix flavours. Food ingredients, which in Europe make you think of dessert, are combined in the local cuisine with `dry` dishes and vice versa. In China very popular is ... pea cake or dessert made of steamed – potato-like – jams. Sweet fruit such as pineapples are also added to meat dishes and mushrooms.
Perhaps the most widespread in the world Chinese cookies are fortune cookies. They are not only tasty, but above all they provide great fun.
To bake 45-50 fortune cookies you need:
- 45-50 cards, on which you need to write a fortune-telling, a quote – one fortune-telling for one cookie,
- 30 grams of flour,
- 3 tablespoons of sugar,
- 3 eggs,
- 2 tablespoons of oil,
- a pinch of salt,
- almonds or nuts (one almond for one cake) – they do not need to be added, but this will enrich the flavour.
Optionally, you can add a tablespoon of vanilla sugar and a few drops of vanilla fragrance to the dough.
Add eggs, sugar, oil and salt to the flour. Knead and roll the dough well. Then, using a glass or cup, cut out circles. In each of them, put a piece of paper with a fortune, almond or walnut. Fold and form a hook. Bake in a preheated 180-degree oven for about 15-20 minutes.
One can insert in the fortune cookies Chinese proverbs, wisdoms and quotes or ... one can play in coming up with one’s own or simply write tips and jokes on the pieces of paper.
Sample quotes for fortune cookies:
`You cannot look at each other and forward at the same time`
`What you see is what you can see`
`Be patient, the Great Wall was not built in one day`
`Lack of knowledge is not stupidity same as darkness is not blindness`
`Glow of a small candle can help you find a great thing`