Non-Chinese diners often complain that there are few decent desserts to end the day after finishing off a fabulous Chinese meal. While it's true that dessert is not the highlight on most Chinese menus, there are certainly lots of choices for modern and more traditional Chinese-style desserts available here, and now.
An American friend, Kim Murch, had this to say about the traditional Cantonese tongsui or "sweet soup".
"When you're not brought up eating hot soupy desserts, it's hard to get used to them. They are tasty, but they don't feel like you're eating dessert in the cake, pie or ice cream sense."
Still, they are a nice way to round off a good meal, or can be eaten as a snack. Some purport to have medicinal properties and health benefits, so maybe you're also doing your body some good by ingesting some of these sweet soupy creations.
On the menu at Lung King Heen, a Michelin three-star Cantonese restaurant in the Four Seasons Hotel, they have a walnut cream listed. Murch's husband, Tim, took this to mean that it would be some walnut-based dessert with whipped cream. He was a little surprised, and perhaps a bit disappointed, when the dessert was served in a small soup bowl and was in fact a hot bowl of creamy sweet walnut soup.
According to my mother, walnuts are thought to resemble the brain, and thus, good for nourishing the brain.
The popularity of tongsui in Hong Kong has not diminished in recent years. Take Ching Ching Dessert, opened in 1993 in a narrow shop space by Tin Hau MTR station. It has been serving classic Chinese desserts such as black sesame and sweet tofu (known as the "black and white"), glutinous rice dumplings filled with black sesame paste served in a sweet ginger soup, and more modern desserts such as the mixed fruit sago soup.
Ching Ching has grown to fill a much larger shop space now, but it is still incredibly popular with queues outside the shop late in the evening. My favorite is still the traditional sweet potato in sweet ginger soup. It's something I grew up with and crave every so often.
Nearby on Tsing Fung Street, the newer Auntie Sweet shop has also attracted a loyal following. I'm told that if you like durian, this is the place to go for durian desserts. The durian sweetened tofu comes highly recommended. I'm a big durian fan, but if durian is not your thing, there is a large selection of less odorous fruits available. A few people have said that the passion-fruit mousse with mango is something they didn't expect to like as much as they did. Sweet, tart, fruity, and creamy, it is definitely a hit.
Honeymoon Dessert was originally a small shop opened in Sai Kung by a group of friends. The most well-known dessert at Honeymoon is mango cream with sago and pomelo, but for many, this was the original place to go for durian desserts. In fact, the shop was divided into durian and non-durian eating areas. They now have shops located all over Hong Kong.
Expect to spend between HK$20-40 ($2.57-5.13) per person at any one of these dessert shops.