Taiwan is a country of mixed traditions and influences. On one hand it has deep rooted indigenous practices such as in the making of cakes and tea snacks, while on the other hand it has drawn techniques and practices from various countries such as China and Japan. This intermingling of culinary staples has resulted in a variety of dishes that somehow, Taiwan has managed to produce as distinctly their own. Taiwanese desserts are no exception.
Traditional Taiwanese desserts are a far cry from Western sweets and pastries in that they do not use very much sugar and are by far healthier to eat. The desserts are characteristically fluid, fresh, and are very light on the stomach. Pies and cakes are not very popular desserts in Taiwan, although they do have their own version of pie called the Nut Chinese Dessert made from cherries cooked in their own juice topped with an almond extract. The pie has no added sugar and is a very light snack compared to the heavily crusted pies of the west.
The use of only fresh and plant based ingredients is a common theme in most of Taiwan’s desserts. An example is Douhua or tofu pudding and bao-bing. Douhua is made from fermented soy much like China’s tofu, but is slight different because it is sweet rather than savory. The Douhua is served with peanuts and syrup and is eaten cold during summer and warm during winter. Bao-bing is another popular fare during the hot summer months. It is Taiwan’s version of flavored shaved ice found in other Asian countries. The shaved ice is topped with taro balls, mung beans, and a variety of jelly toppings after which it is drenched with a sweetened syrup or with condensed milk. To make it more healthful bao-bing can be topped with fruits that are in season most popular of which is mango.
Desserts classified as jellies also abound in Taiwan most noted of which are xiancao or grass jelly and aiyu. Grass jelly is color black and is served with shaved ice and syrup while aiyu is color yellow and is eaten with honey or lemon juice.