Susan Johnson (more chengdu)|
We are just beginning to discover how amazing Chinese bakeries can be. Though the Western style cakes these places turn out may not fit our ideas of what cakes should be, the more traditional Chinese sweets and snacks are a too often overlooked local treat.
The Gong Ting bakery has a sign proclaiming a hundred years of history and is one of the best places to go for the more traditional snacks. Their most famous product is tao su, or walnut cookies. They usually have sweet or 'salty' versions available. We passed up the sweet kind since we wanted to try the typically Sichuanese salt and pepper flavor (椒盐桃酥) which melt in your mouth all too easily, with whiff of pepper. They cost a whopping 6RMB per pound.
Gong Ting also has typical delicacies like dragon eye pastry (龙眼酥), named for its rolled shape and filled with various sweet fillings. We had to sample the rose-flavored dragon eyes and were rewarded with a very fragrant rose filling that reminded us of Middle Eastern nutty and floral sweets. We also loved their chewy liang gao (凉糕) made from red bean and sticky rice. There are various pastries and nibbles filled with red bean, winter melon, and sesame paste. They also have peanut brittle (花生糖) and crunchy rice (酒米花生糖) nibbles. Dark, rich, date cake (枣糕) is something that Chinese bakeries tend to do very well and Gong Ting's version is no exception. The sweet puff pastry cookies are known as thousand layer cake (千层饼).
The Gong Ting bakery has several branches in town and they will not all have the same goodies, but the tao su is standard. If you are wondering what local treat to pack with you, or what gift to bring back from Chengdu, this is a good place to stop. Some of their branches have lines that seem to go on forever if you go on a weekend morning.