I’m beginning to realize that, if I wanted to, I could write a blog devoted solely to the bizarre and often delectable Chinese dessert creations to be found across the city.
I’m not talking about traditional, old school snacks, sold off the back of somebody’s motorbike. I’m talking about fancy desserts, over the top concoctions of flavor and food coloring. Dessert as practically an art form. Dessert as a window into the Chinese psyche and the aspirations and whims of its most well-to-do members of society.
I don’t think I will turn this blog into a Chinese dessert blog. I like the off-the-back-of-a motorbike snacks too much myself to stop eating and thus, writing about them. But I stopped at the chi chi bakery near our house last night and couldn’t help myself from sampling one of the more fancy dessert varieties in the place.
To be clear, to call a bakery “chi chi” in China, is to be a bit redundant. If it’s a bakery, its chi chi, relatively expensive, and likely to be done up in fantastic pastel shades of purple, pink and green.
This bakery breaks the mold slightly in that the interior is a soothing mix of browns and golds. It’s dimly lit and the only neon to be found is in the bread itself. There’s a whole assortment of goodies and small loaves of decently delicious “wheat bread”. What really caught my eye though on this maiden voyage was a small round loaf of tea-green bread. I couldn’t pass it up.
I paid approximately 4 kuai (75 cents) for the mysterious green bread and gently carried my bundle home with the intention of letting it sit on the counter, unopened, until Chris and I could try it together. Unfortunately, or perhaps fortunately for Chris, I couldn’t wait that long.
It turned out to be a sponge cake, perfectly moist with a bizarre ring of whip cream implanted within its fluffy interior. Whip cream is big here-I had an insane mochi experience at dim sum last Sunday that left me completely bewildered, exhilarated, slightly dirty feeling-as well as a converted devotee to the way Chinese have adapted our favorite dessert topping to their own culinary whims.
More on that dim sum later though. For now we are talking green-tea sponge cake. The texture was fantastic-sponge cake at its finest. At first, I found myself disappointed with the green tea flavor but upon further “investigation” (or as some might call it: second helpings) I realized there was a green tea flavor to the sponge, it was just subtle. So subtle and so lightly sweetened, my American taste buds couldn’t appreciate the sponge for what it truly was-a fabulous little desset-snack.
The experience left me wanting more, more experiments in green-tea dessert land. Luckily, in the world of Chinese bakeries and coffee house, there is always a new green-tea flavored dessert fantasy to try. I hear there is a smashing green-tea pudding at the coffee shop next door that I don’t think I’ll be able to pass up…