1) 喜莲酥（xǐ lián sū—”happy lotus shortbread”）
RMB 1.4 per round
I was pleasantly surprised by the burst of flavor I discovered in my first bite of this cake. This so-called shortbread tastes more like a lotus jelly danish. I was compelled to share this sumptuous pastry with a couple colleagues, both of whom devoured the cake with dreamy smiles on their faces. I would say the general consensus is positive…
Overall rating: Love it.
Lotus is both delicious and romantic:
The word for lotus root is ǒu (藕). A popular Chinese idiom that incorporates this character is “藕断丝连” (ǒu duàn sī lián), which describes a loving long-distance relationship: although two lovers are separated, they still remain in one another’s thoughts.
2) 麻酱酥条 (májiàng sū tiáo—sesame paste shortbread stick)
RMB 0.40 per twist
Daoxiangcun sure loves its shortbread. I suppose you could compare the taste of this old Beijing snack to a Nutter Butter cookie. Actually, as much as I love peanut butter and have been known to eat spoonfuls of it, I have never been jazzed by these peanut-shaped peanut butter-sandwiched cookies. As for these sesame paste shortbread sticks, I would probably prefer a bowl of sesame paste batter and a spoon…
Overall rating: Meh, it’s all right.
3) 自来红 (zìláihóng—”born red”)
RMB 1.9 per bun
I think the filling in this cake is the same sort of sweet and savory, crunchy and crumbly concoction that I’ve been searching for since my trip to a sweets shop in Xi’an‘s Muslim Quarter three years ago. Stupidly, I never asked for the name of this mysterious delight—it was a bar of probably pistachios, sugar crystals and mysterious flecks of red, yellow and green, and topped with a substantial layer of yellow-dyed sugar. All I remember is strolling away from the Muslim bakeshop, savoring each mouthful of this complex flavor and already mourning over the imminent last bite. I have never found this treat anywhere else until possibly now (its cousin, I’d say).
My love for this delicacy can be explained by the ingredients… White sugar, malt sugar, crystal sugar (rock candy)… Sugar, sugar, sugar. There’s also sesame oil, infusion of sweet-scented osmanthus, melon seed, walnut, and then some less familiar ingredients:
- 青丝 qīngsī, which translates into green bamboo strips (or the translation I found online: a lady’s black hair. Eegh)
- 红丝 hóngsī—red thread. Like sewing thread? I’m confused.
Another name for zilaihong is 丰收红 (fēngshōuhóng)，which translates into “red bumper harvest.” Why would one want to have a bumper harvest of red? In China, at least, the color symbolizes good fortune and joy. Moreover, I could be making an unsubstantiated connection, but perhaps this cake is made to represent a red egg… During the first month of a newborn’s life, it is customary for parents to hold a “red egg and ginger party”. Relatives and friends attend this celebration and offer red envelopes of money for boys or jewelry for girls. In return, guests receive red-dyed eggs to symbolize happiness and the renewal of life.
Symbolic or not, this cake is downright yum to the very last morsel.
Overall rating: Heaven!