Street food fads never last long. One minute, matcha-infused desserts are all the rage; then before long, they've given way to the cheese tea craze. And now date cakes are the next snack to get 15 minutes of fame.

We remember 10 years ago when diào zhā bǐng (掉渣饼), a pizza-like dough with salty minced pork toppings, was overshadowed by the first date cake craze. This was especially true in Wudaokou. It was quite cheap then: only RMB 8.8 for 500g.

Now, the updated version of date cakes (枣糕 zǎo gāo) are the talk of the town at spots like Manman Yuanqi (满满元气) chains in the B2 of Hopson One. A block of date cake will cost you RMB 25 and let me tell you, the mixture of brown sugar, maple syrup, and flour is totally worth it. They taste almost like a Chinese version of cornbread, meaning it was moist, sugary, and spongy, and unlike cornbread, has a rich brown hue. Every bite is dotted with dried dates and walnut. These also remind me of sticky toffee pudding without the toffee sauce.

Manman Yuanqi also sells Chinese-style cakes, and fāgāo (发糕), which here is mixed with purple rice. We also tried their nǎilào bèi zi (奶酪焙子, RMB 20), which is a popular pastry from Northwest China made of wheat flour. Here they creatively use cheese fillings to make this snack stand out all the more, almost like a pasty that you might find in the UK, and has a moist but sturdy texture. Throw it in the oven at home for 2 minutes and the texture becomes fluffy and smooth, with a nice milky finish, and a thin layer of (not overly) sweet cheese in the middle.

Date cakes' current upswing can be attributed to many things – their sweetness, their tempting texture, and their moreish-ness – but what's more, according to traditional Chinese medicine, this is the best season to eat dates, so as to nourish your spleen and stomach. We also hear that they're good for your sleep cycle. Regardless of whether all that is true or not, it'll help temper the guilt as we continue to munch on them until the next fad comes along.

Manman Yuanqi Date Cake
Daily 10am-10pm. B2, Hopson One, Xidawang Lu, Chaoyang District (185 1310 0462)

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Photos: Tracy Wang


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