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Chinese pastry guide

This page shows some of the most popular, most common or most interesting Chinese pastries.

As this is a work in progress (WIP) list and more pastries will be added.

To be updated of the latest news, stories and events, join Chinatownology mailing list.

pastry sign board in yangon chinatown

Ang Gu Kueh 红龟糕
Bean paste pastry豆沙饼
Burmese Chinese sweet cakes (甜糕)
Dough Tortoise (Migu) 米龟
Dragon Phoenix Pastry 龙凤饼
Green bean cake 绿豆糕
Horse hoof biscuit (Matisu) 马蹄苏
Husband Cake 老公饼
King Pastry 大砰饼

Longevity buns 寿桃
Moon cake月饼
New Year cake (nian gao) 年糕
Prosperity cake (huat kueh) 发糕
Sponge cake 鸡蛋糕(baked)
Sponge cake 鸡蛋糕 (steamed)
White cake 白饼
Wife cake (sweetheart cake) 老婆饼

 

Ang Ku Kueh 红龟糕

Ang ku kueh 红龟糕is small round pastries shaped to resemble a tortoise shell, an animal associated with longevity.

It has a skin holding different types of filings.  The most common or immediately associated skin color is red although other colors such as yellow, gray, and green are available. The color of the skin usually indicates the flavor or type of filings. It can indicate filing ingredients such as bean paste, sesame or peanut or flavors like durian. This is another popular item that is available all year round.

See main article Ang Ku Kueh
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ang ku keuh honggui gao singapore chinatown

Bean paste pastry豆沙饼

Bean paste pastry is a baked pastry containing bean paste. It is one of the most popular pastries and is consumed throughout the year. Its filings can be made from different types of bean paste and can be sweet or savory.

Being a popular pastry, it is segmented to meet the needs of different customer profiles or use functions. This differentiation is achieved either with a change in ingredients or simply by being printed with different motifs.

See main article Bean Paste Pastry
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bean paste biscuits tao sa singapore chinatown

Burmese Chinese sweet cakes (甜糕)

Burmese Chinese sweet cakes (甜糕) are round, sweet and sticky cakes made from glutinous rice and either white or brown sugar.

These cakes are available all year round but especially popular during the Chinese New Year season when they are consumed for good luck. During this period, almost every store in Yangon Chinatown offers both varieties of these cakes.

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burmese chinese sweet cake

Dough Tortoise (Migu) 米龟

Dough tortoise or Migu is a tortoise shape dough cake used for ceremonial purposes. Migu comes in different sizes.

The large ones are often plain with no filing while small ones may have sweet filings. Migu is decorated with different colours and some auspicious or wishes may be written on the back of the tortoise. Notice the baby tortoises below the mother tortoise.

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migu singapore chinatown

Dragon Phoenix Pastry 龙凤饼

Dragon Phoenix Pastry 龙凤饼 is a baked pastry with lotus paste filling. The pastry is decorated with a pair of Dragon and Phoenix and is used especially by the Cantonese as gifts before their daughter's wedding. Dragon Phoenix pastry is one of the pastry used in the set of “pastries for daughter’s wedding”, 饼.

The Dragon Phoenix Pastry shows a pair of Dragon and Phoenix decorated around the name of the pastry shop "Tai Thong Cake Shop" 大同饼家.

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dragon phoenix pastry

Green bean cake 绿豆糕

Made of green bean power and glutinous rice, the green bean cake is round and embossed with Chinese character “an” . The character can refer to the producer’s name or as an auspicious character for safety as in 平安 “ping an”

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Horse hoof biscuit (Matisu)马蹄苏

Horse hoof biscuit has a flaky body with sweet filing and is one of the most popular pastries.

This pastry’s name derives from its resemblance with a horse hoof. Shops that produce and sell straight from the oven are very popular with customers.

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ma ti su singapore chinatown

Husband Cake 老公饼

This pastry is often perceived as the companion pastry to wife cake 老婆饼.

However, there are no definite stories on its origin.

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husband cake singapore chinatown

King Pastry 大砰饼

King pastry is made from wheat flour, sugar and cooking oil. The top is sprinkled with sesame seeds. King pastry is a popular item available all year round.

When someone is described to have consumed a King Pastry 吃砰饼, it often meant that he has just been lectured/scolded. 

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Longevity buns 寿桃

Longevity buns 寿桃are shaped into peaches and has lotus or red bean paste as fillings. Peaches traditionally associated with long life and immortality. Longevity buns can be presented as an individual peach or be combined into an elaborate display piece.

In the Ming dynasty novel, Journey to the West, 西游记, the immortal Queen Mother of the West, 西王母, held celestial peach parties for fellow immortals. Anyone who consumes such peaches is granted either a long life or immortality.

Consumption of longevity buns is an aspiration for long life and presentation of longevity buns to a birthday boy or girl is to wish him/her a long live. Longevity peaches are served during birthday banquet of the elderly especially those celebrating their 60th birthday. Longevity buns are also been used in corporate birthday parties to create an East-West fusion birthday party.

See main article longevity peaches

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longevity buns singapore chinatown

Moon cake月饼

Pastry consumed during Mid Autumn Festival. Moon cakes are major gift items in Chinese social circles and businesses have responded to this need with a wide variety of moon cakes.
See main article on moon cakes, mascot moon cakes and ice cream moon cakes.

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moon cake

New Year cake (nian gao) 年糕

The New Year cake is made of glutinous rice and usually round. It is available throughout the year but exceptionally popular during the lunar New Year. The New Year cake is used for personal consumption and also as gifts to friends and business associates. During Lunar New Year, the cake is made into special shapes such as a carp or god of wealth to symbolize prosperity. These are very popular as corporate gifts. 

See main article Nian Gao, 年糕, New year cake

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Prosperity cake (huat kueh) 发糕

Prosperity cakes or steamed cup cakes are usually light or dark brown in color. Leavening during its production process produces a “bloom” that symbolizes prosperity.

It is commonly used for offerings during ceremonies and during Chinese New Year celebrations. The size of the “bloom” is an indicator of the degree of prosperity in the coming year. Customers prefer large “blooms” so some producers have responded by adding generous dosages of baking power to ensure their Prosperity Cakes have a big “bloom”.

Prosperity cakes are also used as props during a lion dance performance.

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prosperity cakes singapore chinatown

Sponged cake 鸡蛋糕 (baked)

Baked sponged cake are usually golden brown in color and comes in various sizes and shaped. The larger may have red bean fillings.

See main article Sponge cake

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sponge cake

Sponge cake 鸡蛋糕 (steamed)

Sponge cakes do not have any filings but vanilla is often used as a flavoring. They come in different sizes and in different colors. Large sponge cakes can have a circumference of a plate while medium ones are about the size of a child’s palm. Small sponge cakes are bite size and usually come in a pack and in several colors. Medium and small sponge cakes can be white, green, blue, pink, orange, brown and yellow. Large sponge cakes are usually white.

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White cake 白饼

White cake has a sponge cake like body and generously powdered with flour. It is almost always offered in a stack of 3 gently sitting on top of each other in a transparent plastic bag sealed with a strip of red tape.

It taste sweet and powdery and very very soft with a pleasant fragrance.

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Wife cake (sweetheart cake) 老婆饼

The key ingredient for Wife cake is winter melon. There are several stories surrounding its name. Most versions revolved around the theme of a man selling the cake to raise funds to pay for his marriage or to redeem his wife from slavery in order to be married.

A common companion pastry to husband cake 老公饼   is the husband although there is no known story on its origins or if it is related to wife cake.

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wife cake singapore chinatown

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