Xizhou Food Guide / Huajuan

Huajuan is a Chinese steamed roll that is named after its shape; “flower twist.” The dough itself is plain – just water, flour, yeast, and a touch of sugar – but sometimes it can be rolled with other ingredients such as brown sugar or minced meat.

Plain huajuan

I like to affectionately think of the sweet huajuan as the Chinese cinnamon roll. They are essentially the same thing: a sheet of yeast-leavened dough rolled with sugar. The only difference is that huajuan is steamed, and missing cream cheese frosting.

Otherwise, it is the same idea: a gooey, warm, sweet, sticky roll!

Xizhou Food Guide / Rose Cookies

Welcome to another post from my Xizhou Food Guide series, where I highlight different specialty foods from Xizhou, Dali, Yunnan.

A very popular dessert or snack here are rose cookies. Unlike the gooey, buttery, sweet cookies that we have in the US, Chinese rose cookies are made of a rather bland, flakey pastry with a rose jam filling. To be honest, they are not my favorite, but almost all shops throughout Yunnan sell them. They make for a great gift because they make for a beautiful presentation and they keep for a while (even without preservatives, they keep for about a month!)

I am including rose cookies in my Xizhou Food Guide not only because no guide is complete without them, but also because I recently had the chance to visit a local rose cookie factory, Adaxia. It was interesting to see that even though they are produced in a factory with sterile, large-scale equipment and hair nets galore, the rose cookies were still handmade. Adaxia also produces its own brown sugar and rose jam, all of which are used in their cookies.

Bottled rose jam

Making rose cookies with matcha pastry

Rose cookies usually come in three pastry flavors; original, matcha, and lavender. The flavors are very subtle, but the colors are striking.

I have also watched my favorite Muslim bakery make rose cookies, and (no surprise) their process is almost identical. I love the contrast between the two photos below; the flour-dusted Lao Tou hunched over his messy work desk, and the anonymous young lady dressed in a white sterile uniform at the factory.

While I won’t be bringing any rose cookies home for friends and family, the rose jam itself is delicious on its own and would make a great gift. I have been dreaming up all sorts of recipes that highlight it, all of which use a lot more butter and sugar! Rose scones? Rose coffee cake? Rose jam has a wonderful unexpected flavor that pairs well with so many baked goods.