In a gladiatorial contest of global cuisines, the Chinese, I reckon, have to be able to win quite simply in maximum categories except — in reality — dairy meals and — relatedly — puddings. There is no dessert path in full Chinese meals; sparkling fruit is probably served.
Across China, food is mainly savory, with candy tastes woven in many salty or observed in snacks eaten at outdoor mealtimes. In Sichuan, the sauces clinging on your pork ribs and Gong Bao hen can be pro with sugar, but you’ll likely finish dinner with soup, rice pic,kles, and perhaps a few sliced pears.
The human beings of Suzhou, close to Shanghai, have a notorious candy enamel. However, it’s as likely to show itself in an appetizer of cooked ham tossed with toasted pine nuts and granulated sugar as in a western desert. An old-style taro-and-jujube sweetmeat made by the Hui Muslims of Beijing pays homage to English Christmas pudding — but is commonly served along with scalded mutton hotpot and different savory dishes.
In my early days in China, I became amazed when an apple tart I’d cooked for a party split through my hosts and served alongside sliced pig’s ear and spicy seaweed salad. Much later, my tastes fairly sinicized; I inadvertently stunned a few English buddies by using cucumber slices to enhance a birthday cake.
The relative lack of division between sweet and savory meals is the makes the Chinese regularly make candy dishes with elements considered vegetables in the West. While Americans do bake desserts with carrots and pies with pumpkins, such “vegetable” desserts are exceptions in preference to the rule; in comparison, the Chinese make candy desserts, pastries, and puddings from taro, mung beans, adzuki beans, soybeans, kidney beans, candy potatoes, mushrooms, lotus roots, water chestnuts, and dried string lettuce seaweed (to name but some).
One of my favorite Shanghainese snacks is an incredible puff pastry stuffed with sugared cashew nuts and dried string lettuce. I can’t have sufficient rich, lardy tian shaomai, a Sichuanese pudding made from glutinous rice, purple bean paste, and fatty red meat.