This practice generally persists today in Asian baking, and unsurprisingly, desserts with a “not too sweet” profile are trending and gaining global popularity. In East Asian and Asian diaspora cultures, “not too sweet” is neither merely descriptive nor critical — it’s the ultimate compliment that the baker has achieved a nuanced balance of flavors.
In contrast to Western culture, bread and pastries are more often enjoyed as treats than everyday meal staples. And desserts are considered an integral part of the meal, which brings balance to the other courses rather than being treated as a course of their own. Hence, when you enjoy dim sim, you can have an egg tart or sesame ball at any time, not just after the meal.
This cultural perspective is another reason for the unique flavor profiles observed in Asian baking, like savory bread, such as sausage and pork floss buns, carrying a hint of sweetness, while sweet desserts, like mochi, err on the side of being “not too sweet.”
The mooncake is another signature example of a “not too sweet” dessert. This Chinese specialty often features a dense and subtly sweet lotus seed or red bean paste filling balanced by a savory salted egg yolk in the middle for a small, full-moon-shaped treat meant to be shared.