Regional Cantonese Desserts Roundup (SF Bay Area)

Cantonese Dessert

After an evening meal at a Cantonese restaurant, dessert may be served. In addition to just large restaurants, the bay area branches out a little bit by having a few dessert cafes around as well. Note, the phrase “tong sui” (literally sugar water) is used to describe the traditional sweet, warm dessert soup at the end of a meal, but newer dessert trends are seen as well that do not fit that mold. These dessert soups are commonly served hot.

Some common desserts:

  • Almond tea: This is an interesting dessert mainly since the English name is rather of a misnomer. The almond tea is actually made from ground up Chinese south almonds which are actually sweet apricot kernels and they are not the same as well… regular almonds. There are also such things as Chinese north almonds which are bitter apricot kernels (contains cyanide). The sweet almonds are ground into a fine powder, strained after soaking in water, and can be mixed with rice or egg whites for a creamier texture. This dessert can be served hot or cold.
  • Black sesame soup: This dessert soup is made of toasted black sesame seeds, rice, water, and sugar. The ingredients are ground/blended into a fine powder and then cooked resulting in a thick, sweet soup. Sometimes you see tang yuan (small balls of glutinous rice flour with possible fillings inside) added to the black sesame soup.
  • Pomelo, mango, sago: A rather more contemporary dessert made in the early 80s, the dessert base is chilled mango blended made with coconut milk, milk, and evaporated milk that is topped with pomelo fruit, sago pearls, and fresh mango. There are a lot of variations in this combination including ice cream and pudding forms, but also mixed with other chilled desserts.
  • Red bean soup: This dessert consists mainly of red beans (Adzuki beans/red mung bean), water, and sugar with possible additions of tangerine peel or lotus seeds; variations include additions such as sago, tapioca, or well pretty much anything they want.
  • Steamed milk pudding/Double skin/boiled milk (dun nai): This steamed milk pudding is made of milk, egg whites, and sugar and served either hot or cold. The milk custard should have a very soft texture, similar to panna cotta. There is another variation with whole eggs rather than whites which has well, a more eggy taste.
  • Tofu Pudding (Fa): The tofu pudding is made with using soft tofu and is usually served with granulated brown sugar, brown sugar syrup, or ginger syrup. The tofu should be silky smooth. This dessert can be served either hot or cold.
  • Turtle shell jello (gui ling gao): The turtle shell jelly is typically a dark brown/black jello in appearance. Although true turtle shell jello is actually made from powdered shell, they are more expensive and thus, usually omitted. The blend of herbal products minus the turtle shell is used to make the jello. It is not sweet, but slightly bitter, but sweeteners such as syrup or honey can be added to make the jello more palatable.

Where to eat?

San Francisco:

  • Sweet Mango Dessert Cafe
  • Kowloon Tong Dessert Cafe


East Bay:

Check out all the other topics on the regional Cantonese cuisine

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I have been doing some comparisons of tofu pudding over the past year. Here are the current favorites:

Meet Fresh:

Flavorful tofu taste. Smooth. Good amount of soup. And Meet Fresh is everywhere.

Sogo Tofu:

I like their tofu pudding, which has good flavors. But they are really skimpy with the sugar syrup. So you will have to add some sugar at home to supplement. Despite the syrup short comings their tofu is still very nice. They sell the tofu pudding in a big tub to go.

Oooh, I haven’t been to Sogo. Tempted to give that a try if I’m ever around SJ next time. I think I’ve passed by the place a few times when I was around the area but didn’t have an ice chest with me.

And if I’m ever less lazy, I really should go updating all these wiki’s… I think dim sum is the most organized so far lol. I will add a little blurb here though!

I checked out STEEP Creamery & Tea recently though.

Went with four flavors this time: Lemon Black Tea, Ying & Yang, HK Milk Tea and Bun, and finally fine aged puer tea ice cream.

Out of those four, the lemon black tea was a sorbet. It does remind me of a frozen block of Vita lemon tea though I thought it was a little heavier on the tea scent and less sweet than Vita.

The HK milk tea and bun is similar to cookies and cream. The pineapple bun top is blended into the ice cream which was a pretty fun texture I suppose. The tea scent is strong as well.

The Ying and Yang flavor is a mix of tofu-fa and black sesame ice cream. The only down side for this flavor combination is that the sesame overpowers the tofu flavor. Its hard to taste the tofu sorbet, so I suggest if you like these two just get the pints separately.

Lastly the puer-tea was also strong in tea scent. I dunno, after trying all three I found all the frozen tea treats to be pretty similar in taste haha. The puerh is stronger than the rest in tea taste but mmm… its a little odd for me to have it be sweet as that isn’t one tea I associate with sweetness.

Anywho, I found Steep to have some fun choices that are a little different than your typical ice cream places (or in SF, a different direction than bi-rite, humphry slocombe, etc.)

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