Sunday is right around the corner, so now's the time to stock up on your favorite sweets to celebrate the big day. Yes, another big day! We've already got you covered for Valentine's Day and Mardi Gras, so get ready to party down for Chinese New Year with some delectables from Celestial Bakery.
The tiny bakery resides on the north end of the Far East Center at Federal and Alameda and stays busy during the weekday lunch hours as customers pop in for dim sum and desserts to go. The glass cases are lined with buns, cookies and cakes that run the gamut from savory to sweet. In preparation for the Lunar New Year, the bakery is serving traditional sweet rice cakes (pictured above). Like many Chinese rice-based desserts, this one has a sticky texture that may not be for everyone, though fans of Japanese mochi and boba will likely be entertained by the cakes, which are made daily and can be eaten at room temperature, steamed or warm.
We were thrilled to see fresh sesame balls lining a tray on top of the pasty case. Sometimes referred to as a "Chinese doughnut," these little balls, made from a sticky rice mixture which is coated in sesame seeds and fried, are pure deliciousness. Ours was filled with a sweet red bean paste with a crisp-fried outer layer and delicately chewy inner layer with a soft red center. These are best when they're fresh, so grab 'em when you can and eat them within the day. While mooncakes are more often enjoyed during the Mid-Autumn Festival, they also pop up during Chinese New Year. The ones we picked up had a tender pastry shell and an Azuki bean filling. The gorgeous pucks are stamped with Chinese characters and glossed with an egg glaze. Last, we delved into a stack of almond cookies. The cookies are an orange creme color, and look nothing like those manufactured tan discs you might encounter at the end of an all-you-can-eat buffet. The almond flavor comes through nicely and is counterbalanced with a slight saltiness in the glaze. Crisp and light, this is one dessert from Celestial that you could polish off in multiples.
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Sweet rice cake $2.00 Mooncake $2.50 Sesame ball $.50 Mini almond cookies 4/$1.00