These are a unique item. I only saw it once in all of my time in China, These are mantou dough which is a yeast dough that has been steamed. I believe they used some molasses and whole wheat to give these little bread bowls their distinctive color and sweetness.
Each person took a bread bowl and used a spoon to add some of the dark mixture in the middle. As far as I could tell there was ground pork, chilies, soy sauce, vinegar, sugar and some very interesting spices in that mixture. Very strong flavored and a perfect accompaniment to the bread bowls
It might have been a ravenous desire for a carbohydrate other then rice, but I remember eating about 4 of those in a dinner with 75 other dishes.
One of the main reasons Chinese meals tend to get a little fuzzy is because of Chinese Liquor. Chinese liquor is a sorghum based liquor, although smaller amounts of wheat barley and millet can be substituted for the sorghum.
Chinese liquor is anywhere between 40% - 75% Alcohol, compared to vodka's in the US which are usually 40%.
Chinese Liquor can cost anywhere between $1.00 for a 750ml bottle up to thousands of dollars for a 750ml bottle.When we would sit down for formal dinners the host would usually present 2-3 of these bottles to the table. Then the rest of the meal would be spent fighting off more.
The rules of civility in China are different then in the US. Every time you take a drink from your glass you have to cheers and drink with someone else at the table. This in the end encourages a lot of drinking and in turn, even more drinking. When you're drinking a straight spirit which is over 50% alcohol this can turn into some blurry nights.
Chinese liquor has a very wide range of flavors. Some of them, like this bottle, are heavily fragrant.
Drinking this is almost like drinking a bottle of perfume. There are also drier versions which are a little more palatable for the uninitiated.
One thing I will say, when you start paying more and more for a bottle of Chinese liquor the inevitable hangover quickly disappears. They are highly distilled and filtered to remove most of the toxins which cause hangovers. I have never tried a $1 bottle of Chinese liquor... and I don't think I will...