Tong sui

Tong sui (Chinese: 糖水; lit.'sugar water'), also known as tim tong, is a collective term for any sweet, warm soup or custard served as a dessert at the end of a meal in Cantonese cuisine.[1] Tong sui are a Cantonese specialty and many varieties are rarely found in other regional cuisines of China.[2] Outside of Cantonese-speaking communities, soupy desserts generally are not recognized as a distinct category, and the term tong sui is not used.

Tong sui
TypeSoup or custard
Place of originChina
Tong sui
Literal meaningsugar water
Tian tang
Literal meaningsweet soup
Black sesame soup
Sweet potato soup
Egg tong sui
Mung bean soup with extra kelp

In Hong Kong, Macao and Malaysia, a large variety of tong sui is served in tong sui specialty stores. Tong sui stores have also gained prominence in overseas Chinese communities, and are found in various parts of Canada, Australia and the United States.


Assorted bean tong sui

Tong sui shops in Hong Kong mainly originated from the postwar period. Chinese migrants brought their hometown sweet soups to Hong Kong, such as red bean soup from Guangzhou and tang yuan from Shanghai. Newcomers sold tong sui in newly opened street side food stalls and Chinese tea house.

During the 1980s to 1990s, Hong Kong's economy developed rapidly and living standards rose. Western desserts and sweet soups were imported to Hong Kong by Western hotels or cooks who had studied in the West. Under Western influence, people started using fresh fruits to create new-style tong sui such as tapioca pudding. Many Chinese herbal tea shops like Hui Lau Shan transformed into tong sui shops.[3]

In the 21st century, chain tong sui shops have become more prominent and recommended as tourist attractions by The Hong Kong Tourism Board.

Traditional tong sui

One of the chain tong sui shops in Hong Kong

Historically, the basic ingredients of traditional sweet soups are beans, milk, and fruits.[4] The desserts and sweet soups provided in the menus of the traditional tong sui shops are mainly the Chinese-style sweet soups. Staples like red bean soup and sweet almond soup are common types of sweet soups sold in the ordinary tong sui shops.[5]

Common varieties

English name Chinese name Description
Black sesame soup芝麻糊; zi1 maa4 wu4*2Ground black sesame seeds are traditionally cooked with water and rock sugar. Chinese herbs are sometimes added to enhance the flavor and aroma. The instant black sesame powder sold in Asian supermarkets is usually sweetened. It requires the addition of hot water and mixing in the serving bowl, after which it should be left for 15 minutes before serving.
Doufuhua[6]豆花; dòuhuā or 豆腐花; dau6 fu6 faa1Tofu pudding, add a small amount of salt or gypsum condensed into soy milk to form a more tender semi-liquid tofu with sweet syrup served in a separate bowl
Egg tong sui鸡蛋糖水; 雞蛋糖水; gai1 daan2 tong4 seoi2popular in Hong Kong and southern China
Got fan soup葛粉汤; 葛粉湯; got3 fan2 tong1kudzu soup
Guilinggao龜苓膏; gwai1 ling4 gou1made from three-lined box turtle
Hasma雪蛤; syut3 gaap3A dessert made of dried fallopian tubes of the frog with supposed health benefits.
Purple rice porridge紫米露; zi2 mai5 lou6A dessert made of thick boiled black rice mixed with coconut juice. Sago, red beans, and taro are often added on top.
Red bean soup红豆汤; 紅豆湯; hóngdòu tāng or 红豆沙; 紅豆沙; hung4 dau2 saa1Cooked and served exactly like mung bean soup & paste. Red bean soup is normally pre-boiled to soften the skin by leaving in hot water for one hour. Then cook in water for 20–30 minutes until the beans rupture. The adding of sugar or rock sugar is lastly added to cook for another 20–30 minutes until the bean texture becomes sandy. As for red bean paste, the skin is removed before cooking. Chinese herbs may be added to enhance the flavor and taste.
Sai mai lo or Sago西米露; sai1 mai5 lou6A dessert soup of pearl tapioca, coconut and evaporated milk
Mung bean soup绿豆汤; 綠豆湯; lǜdòu tāng or 绿豆沙; 綠豆沙; luk6 dau6 saa1Made from mung beans and cooked exactly like red bean soup/paste, sometimes also served with seaweed
Six flavors soup六味汤; 六味湯; liùwèi tāngA sweet curative soup made for hot summer, one of many "numbered" medicinal soups
Peanut paste soup花生糊; huāshēng húLike black sesame paste, peanut paste is a ground peanut powder cooked with syrup and water. Instant peanut paste powder sold in Asian supermarket are usually sweetened roasted peanut powder or flour, that only required to be served with hot water.
Steamed egg custard炖蛋; 燉蛋; dan6 daan2
Steamed milk custard炖奶; 燉奶; dan6 naai5
Sweet potato soup番薯糖水; faan1 syu4 tong4 seoi2Peeled sweet potato, normally cut into smaller pieces cooked/ boiled with syrup and water.
Sweet almond soup杏仁糊; hang6 jan4 wu4Ground almond powder that cooked with sugar and water. Instant almond powder sold in Asian supermarket are usually sweetened raw almond flour or powder, requires minimal cooking with boiling water or to be served after mixing with hot water for 15 minutes.
Sweet walnut soup核桃糊; hat6 tou4 wu4 or 合桃糊; hap6 tou4 wu4Ground walnut powder that cooked with sugar and water, sometimes milk. Similar to Sweet almond soup, instant walnut powder is sold in Asian supermarket as well.
Tofu skin egg tong sui腐竹鸡蛋糖水; 腐竹雞蛋糖水; fu6 zuk1 gai1 daan2 tong4 seoi2Made of four ingredients: tofu skin, eggs, sugar and water. Soften the dry tofu skin by soaking it in water first, boil it with sugar and water, add boiled eggs before serving. Sometimes, boiled ginkgo nuts are added.

See also


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