Chinese Doughnuts

One food that foreigners miss while in China is doughnuts. Sure, Shanghai has its “Mister Donut” shop, but those small, hard doughnuts never impressed me. Then there are those that call Chinese youtiao (fried bread-like sticks) a “Chinese doughnut,” but I find that very suggestion laughable. A proper doughnut is a whole different animal. I was therefore pleasantly surprised to stumble across these yesterday near West Lake in Hangzhou:

Chinese Doughnuts

Fresh, soft, and dusted in powdered sugar. No glaze, and they were a bit heavy (not exactly Krispy Kreme), but they had the familiar taste of the authentic doughnut. The best part: only 1 RMB each.

I hope these make it to Shanghai! Has anyone else out there had true doughnut experiences in China? (I’m much more interested in this kind, pioneered by locals and sold cheaply, than in some kind of ridiculous luxury import scheme.)


John Pasden

John is a Shanghai-based linguist and entrepreneur, founder of AllSet Learning.


  1. I had these in Taiwan a couple years ago, not sure how long they’ve been there. They’re like donuts but “chewier” right?

  2. Guanzghou has a few decent donuts. One shop has a pretty good chocolate glazed with almonds.

  3. Not yet, occasionally there is a this five-star hotel that has donuts that ‘taste’ like doughnuts, I have yet to see any big fluffy filled with jelly hypertension producing varieties.

    Anyone else feel like the bread and various pastries in the small franchise bakeries all taste the same despite the multitude of twists and garnishes applied?

    Since we’re on food, I used to think American chocolate wasn’t so great, in comparison to European chocolates, then I tasted Chinese chocolate…yuck. It’s like they use something besides cocoa. Maybe some cheap glycerin-like fake toothpaste substance? ;p

  4. There are a couple of supermarkets in Sanya that sell doughnuts that are pretty much like you described above, although I believe some of them come with regular, not powdered sugar. They were ok, but not exactly Krispy Kreme standards. Cheap, though!

    I believe the Tiancheng supermarket (close to KFC and Mcdonalds) was the best bet, at least up until a few months ago, in case you are in Sanya and want to check it out.

  5. I agree with Mike. The entire PRD region is teeming with french style bakeries filled with cheesecakes, donuts, tiramisu, danta, etc.

    The donuts I’ve had here are from Kaisa bakery in Dongguan, Changping Zhen. They taste more like a deep fried sugared bread than a donut. The inside is more like a sweet bread.

  6. ‘”One food that foreigners miss while in China is doughnuts”!?!?!?

    Whatever gave you that idea???

    Apart from the fact that they have taste nor bite, who would want to consider a staple of donuts, bagels, McDo’ buns and Wonder Bread (variations of the theme) knowing what it did to the health of the one large country that tried?

    But cheese! Ah…

  7. mmm…Chinese doughnut…..Homer Simpson would approve

  8. When I was visiting Hangzhou for the weekend once, I think I saw a sign for the doughnust that you found near West Lake, but I was too skeptical to follow the arrows. It said something like doughnut cafe or something like that. I remember asking my friend, “Do you really think that they are doughnuts or just a word that the Chinese plucked from the dictionary?” My friend replied, “Probably just a word they plucked from the dictionary.” We veered another way and never went to check it out. Guess we should have gone, huh?

    Luckily, I found a bread shop here in Xiamen that makes sugar doughnuts and they taste almost exactly as I remember. They are pretty cheap as well. A few RMB I think. I tried going back one night but they were old out. I guess I have to get there early or all the locals eat them!

  9. Anastasia Says: June 6, 2007 at 5:11 pm

    Where exactly near West Lake? I was just there (Xintiandi area) yesterday complaining about donuts. The place Gabrielle mentions was never open when I visited. This time around, the sign posts didn’t have the name of the shop either.

    The closest thing I have had to a real donut in China proper (I hit both Krispy Kreme shops in Hong Kong) was in Qingdao at some small bakery. It had chocolate on the top, no hole, but no filling either, and was too light in terms of sugar and weight as far as donuts go.

  10. The Oz Donuts place in Hangzhou Xintiandi closed down some time last year…I think its been replaced by the Jamaica coffee house (haven’t been down that way for ages so can’t say for sure). It was run by a Chinese dude and his daughter who had lived in Sydney for a few years, but the service wasn’t the best, and if I remember correctly the donuts were pretty small and expensive.

  11. I remember this shop. It’s a little whole in the wall on or near Yan’an Lu. I only went twice as I was told you had to hit them very early in the morning and the only time I was in the area was if we were still out from the night before. Decent dounuts. However, I’ve found that the longer you live in China, the more you cease to crave the foods you left behind.

  12. Those doughnuts in your picture look a bit like Bagels.

    Doughnuts I don’t really eat normally. But the thing I really missed in China was nice sweets(US:candy) as I have a bit of a sweet tooth and with my lack of Chinese, I ended up buying what I thought were sweets in what looked like sweets packaging. Instead they were these sour dried fruits which still had the stone in……

  13. Yeah, Carl. I think we went there one morning when we were hanging out with Richard. I never could remember where it was though. They were a nice surprise.

  14. pharmine Says: June 8, 2007 at 12:30 am

    So the donuts in “Mister Donut”, which I have believed to be THE DONUT all my life (Japan has a lot of “Mister Donut” shops), are not “authetic” donuts. I’m so shocked.

    What’s the donut brand(s) you recommend when I travel to the U.S. (or any other countries)? One day I’d like to eat a donut that is “a whole different animal”.

  15. Mmmm, a generous dose of trans fats and cancer-causing acrylamides for breakfast! No, thanks. Donuts are ranked #2 behind french fries as one of the top five worst foods you can eat.

  16. David Marjanović Says: June 8, 2007 at 8:18 am

    What’s the donut brand(s) you recommend when I travel to the U.S. (or any other countries)?

    Other? Donuts are hard to get in Europe, at least. They are a US specialty.

  17. Pharmine:

    When in the Dirty, Dirty (IE, the Southern Part of the US) Krispy Kreme is a suitable option. It’s a North Carolina company, so I should be loyal to it. But I prefer Dunkin’ Donuts which was founded in Mass. Either is a good authentic donut option, but for truly great donuts I suggest you find a local run donut/coffee shop. As is the case with most things, local businesses simply do it better than large impersonal chains.

  18. pharmine Says: June 9, 2007 at 3:24 am

    David Marjanović,

    Europe has bagels, while the US has donuts. Is their similarity in shape a mere coincidence?


    Thank you for your kind advice. I’ll definitely try them!

    I hear Japan once had Dunkin’ Donuts shops, but not any more.
    (Wikipedia says they left Japan in 1998 due to poor sales.)

    Haruki Murakami (a famous Japanese novelist) often refers to Dunkin’ Donuts in his novels. Perhaps he likes them.

  19. They have Mister Donut in Taiwan, where it is ridiculously popular(there would regulary be 15+ minute lines). I personally love Mister Donut, but I have never tried the Mainland variety. In my eyes, Mister Donut is up there with Dunkin Donuts and perhaps even better. But I perfer the cakey-ier donuts like Dunkin and Mister to the airy melts-in-your-mouth Krispy Kreme style.

    Can anyone confirm that China Mister Donut is different from Japan/Taiwan Mister Donut?

  20. i think that chinese doughnuts taste so sugary. If I could have them for dessert every day I would!!! Also i think that they are so soft, and i love the sugar on them.( That is my favorite part.) And I have never had one that was hard.

  21. Its funny, when I was small maybe around 86, a guy on a motorbike used to deliver Dounuts to my house, those where the days. That was in Ireland in the 80’s so we had got dounuts in europe but I never even seen a bagel until the late 90’s, I always thought a bagel was one of those new York/Jewish American things(foods).

  22. Speaking of Chinese doughnuts, I visited Harbin in the far north of China and had some delicious little round pumpkin (I think) flavored doughnuts that were served with sweetened condensed milk for dipping. I’ve been looking for a recipe ever since–does anyone know what these are called or where I can find a recipe? I would be SO grateful!

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