There are more than a few a misconceptions about Chinese desserts floating around. There’s the completely wrong-headed notion that Chinese civilization was exposed to sugar later than its Western counterpart and therefore its desserts are simply not as good. Another perhaps less foolish notion, of which I am personally guilty, is that all Chinese desserts are either heavy and buttery like egg tarts and jindui, the fried Chinese “doughnut” filled with red bean paste.
As I’ve learned from experience with the wonderful dou hua or flower tofu from Soybean Chen, these Western misconceptions are just that. Last week Jayson Chong, owner and creator of Kulu Desserts, helped me to further dispel these lao wai misconceptions by introducing me to his more modern, lighter take on Chinese sweets.
He started me off with something called sawdust pudding ($4), or mu kang bu din. It is infinitely better than it sounds. Rather than sweepings from a woodworking shop, the cup contains layers of creamy caramelized milk pudding alternating with the “sawdust,” strata of crushed cookies. When asked where he got the idea, he told me sawdust pudding’s a specialty of his homeland, Macao, where it goes by the name serradurra. I also tried the durian milk pudding ($3.50), which like the shop’s other milk puddings, comes in a teeny milk bottle.
The durian flavor in the milk pudding was subtle. It paled in comparison with the coconut pudding in shell with fresh durian ($13.95). Chong prepares only a limited amount of yuen zi ye ching bu din pei liu lian, surely the most luxurious durian dessert to be had in Flushing’s Chinatown. Fragrant Malaysian durian flesh sits atop creamy cool coconut pudding. If you dig durian it’s a great combination.
Chong says the shops name Kulu, is an acronym for “keep your life unique,” and is also the sound of swallowing. One dessert he offers that I might not be swallowing so soon is coconut pudding with xueha paste, a medicinal product made from frogs. Then again I’ll try anything once.
Kulu Desserts, 37-06 Prince St, Flushing, 718-886-3302; 806 62nd St, Dyker Heights, Brooklyn, 718-680-2818