For North American diners, dessert typically represents the chef's triumphant finale, his last chance to perform before a captive audience. Chinese cuisine is a little different. Mention the words Chinese food to most people and they tend to think of an assortment of stir-fried dishes, usually accompanied with rice and the ubiquitous cup of tea. While frozen ice concoctions may have originated thousands of years ago in China's snow covered peaks, desserts do not feature prominently in Chinese cooking. There are several reasons for this. First, while westerners traditionally end their evening meal with a fancy dessert, the Chinese prefer to eat fruit (a much healthier custom). Not that the Chinese don't ever crave sweets. A frequent complaint from westerners is that the few sweet Chinese desserts that do exist are too sweet. However, they normally prefer to indulge their sweet tooth between meals, especially when entertaining company or celebrating special occasions such as the Moon festival. Second, chilled desserts have never been overly popular in China, since until recently most homes lacked a refrigerator. (Ovens are also rare in Chinese a kitchen, which is why cake recipes often call for the cake to be steamed rather than baked). Finally, Chinese restaurants - even those in the west - tend to avoid offering fancy desserts. This is understandable when you consider that many desserts have a lengthy preparation time and Chinese dinners normally consist of several fast-cooking, stir-fried dishes. This is a sweet dish made up of lychees, which are those fruits that look like eyeballs and you can find them in a can in most supermarkets and Asian stores. ALMOND MILK JELLY WITH LYCHEES INGREDIENTS 5 tbsp water oz gelatin 1 cup milk 1/4 cup brown sugar 1 tsp almond essence 14oz canned lychees in syrup METHOD Mix together the water and gelatin and heat gently over a bowl of warm water until the gelatin dissolves. Bring the milk to the boil the stir in the sugar until it dissolves. Stir in the gelatin mixture then the almond essence. Remove fro the heat and continue to stir until all the ingredients are well mixed. Pour into a dish and cool then chill until set. Cut into cubes and arrange in dessert bowls then top with the lychees and syrup. AND FINALLY... LEARN TO SPEAK CHINESE... Ai Bang Mai Ne: I bumped into the coffee table. Ar U Wun Tu: A gay liberation greeting. Chin Tu Fat: You need a face lift. Dum Gai: A stupid person. Gun Pao Der: An ancient Chinese invention. Hu Flung Dung: Which one of you fertilized the field? Hu Yu Hai Ding: We have reason to believe you are harboring a fugitive. Jan Ne Ka Sun: A former late night talk show host. Kum Hia: Approach me.
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