Every time we return from a trip to Beijing, we bring back a shoebox filled with pastries and delicacies. (We always cross our fingers at customs.) These are all typical, traditional Beijing-style pastries that are popular throughout northern China too. Though many more Chinese have developed a taste for Western style pastries, I still crave these delicate cakes and snacks, made with very traditional asian ingredients. They are often characterized by a flaky crust, with fillings of red and mung bean pastes, taro, chestnut, sesame, salted duck egg yolks, lotus paste, dates, and all sorts of nuts. These are also typical fillings for yuè bǐng, or moon cakes.
Jiang mi tiao– small, fried glutinous rice crullers, coated in a light sugar glaze. Crunchy, these are insanely addictive, and one of my mom’s vices.
Honeycomb cakes. Chewy, dense teacakes, flavored with honey, and oftentimes almonds.
Zao ni yuan bing– date paste filled pastries, with a cookie crust.
These pastries are lighter in fat, cholesterol, and sugars than their Western counterparts. They remind me of holidays when I was a little girl, when such pastries were a treat and a real delicacy. Today, they’re sold in supermarkets and traditional pastry shops, by the kilo, all over Beijing and China.