Key Ingredients of Sweet Foods

Appears in

Oxford Companion to Sugar and Sweets

Oxford Companion to Sugar and Sweets

By Darra Goldstein

Published 2015

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One of the most striking differences between Chinese and European sweet food traditions is the general absence in China of the dairy foods and chocolate that are so important in European sweets and desserts. In traditional Chinese sweet pastries and cakes, lard or pork fat often plays the part of butter in other cuisines. Chocolate has so far made few inroads into Chinese cooking. There are some exceptions when it comes to the use of dairy, including the delicate milk custards of the Cantonese south and the imperial palace sweetmeats of Beijing. In the old neighborhood around the Drum and Bell Towers in Beijing, there are small shops specializing in imperial dairy foods, including gently baked junkets seasoned with fermented glutinous rice wine (nai lao), and “dried junket” (nai lao gan), a caramel-dark, fudgy mass of sweetened, dehydrated junket. See junket.