And now for something a little bit different. Are you bored with biscuits, fed up with fruitcakes, and tired of tiramisu? Well, it sounds like you need a little inspiration? Why not go global, a new continent perhaps… Like, say, Asia! Asian desserts are really tasty and tend to be a little lighter (sometimes) and pretty easy to make. Here is our list of 25 Asian desserts!
25 Asian Desserts You Should Know About
1. Castella Cake
Catella cake originates from Japan. It is a mix of whipped egg whites and the sweet taste of honey. The cake isn’t particularly moist. Some would actually say it was dry, but what we do know is that it goes fantastically with a coffee. You could always use the excuse that it is dry to pour over a little cream? The key to this recipe is beating your egg whites until they are meringue-like in quality. This leads to a smoother and lighter sponge.
2. Korean Sweet Rice Cake
It stands to reason that rice will feature heavily in Asian dessert recipes. After all, they are the biggest consumers of rice in the world. This recipe is a little specialized both in the ingredients you need to use and the techniques. You’ll definitely need sweet rice flour and roasted soybean powder, both of which can be bought at Asian supermarkets. We promise the end result is worth it. They are slightly chewy and really sweet.
Kulfi is an Asian dessert that is consumed throughout India and up into Central Asia. A kulfi is an ice cream made from condensed milk before being garnished with Asian spices, such as cardamom and saffron. This is then topped with a crunchy layer of pistachio nuts. With a little patience, you’ll be able to make up a huge batch, ready to be scooped and served on any occasion. If you want it to be slightly lighter, you can incorporate a cup of heavy cream into the mix before freezing.
4. Korean Tea Cookies
We are always a fan of no-bake dessert recipes. When they look and taste as good as this, then it is easy to see why. The bulk of the recipe is made almost entirely from sesame seeds, so make sure that you buy a big bag. Honey acts as the ‘glue’ to keep the seeds together, and you’ll also find just a hint of saltiness in this recipe. You probably won’t be able to get the Korean flower shape, but even as regular-shaped cookies, they should taste the same.
5. Fried Rice Dumplings
If you’ve done your research, you’ll see that red beans feature heavily in lots of Asian desserts, don’t be put off! They aren’t considered savory and are mashed into a paste. While the beans aren’t sweet-tasting, the pastry around the filling is made from sweet rice flour. They are like little folded pancakes! When you have fried the dumplings, the outer layer turns a little bit crispy. It’s a really interesting texture.
6. Banana Fritters
Fried bananas are mouthfuls of heaven. We don’t know what it is, but when bananas are cooked, they take on a really sweet banana flavor. Cooked bananas are good. Deep-fried bananas wrapped in a layer of crispy, savory batter is even better. If you leave the fritters for a few minutes, the crispy batter steams and takes on a little softness, perfect for soaking up a drizzle of syrup or honey.
7. Chinese Nougat
Don’t think that all Asian desserts are complicated or require exotic ingredients. Here’s a great example of a dessert that is really easy to make. And with just 4 ingredients. Some coconut oil, a little milk, and a generous helping of marshmallows are all that is needed. Oh, and don’t forget the peanuts as this dessert is fairly soft, so it relies on them for a little bit of crunch.
8. Chinese Almond Cookies
Here’s another Asian dessert recipe that you can make without any ‘Asian’ ingredients at all. These cookies aren’t quite as sweet as traditional ‘western’ cookies. But they are still totally delicious. We really like to add a good helping of almond extract. Almonds are naturally a little sweet, so this goes some way to making them much less savory.
9. Chinese Five Spice Peanuts
Did you know that peanuts are not actually nuts at all? They are, in fact, a pulse, which is a classy name for a bean! This is about as simple as it gets. Combining butter, salt, and sugar with Chinese five-spice powder makes for an excellent marinade. Stir them in a pan and let them cool. We guarantee these won’t last the evening!
10. Chinese Puff Pastry Egg Tart
These Chinese puff pastry egg tarts are very similar to the Portuguese pasties de nata. This is interesting as the Portuguese sailors used to trade frequently with China during the 1700s. The key difference is the pastry. Chinese pastry is a little heavier and is much more layered. You combine and fold oil dough and water dough to create a layered sandwich that puffs up in the oven. This is filled with a standard custard.
This dessert comes from the opposite side of Asia and is Turkish in origin. It’s a pretty easy dessert to make that consists of cake pieces topped with a rich (and really heavy chocolate sauce). As with many Asian desserts, you’ll often find it topped with chopped pistachio nuts. The green shards really work well against the dark chocolatey background.
12. Korean Steamed Pears
These steamed pears are great as the fruit forms the dessert and the bowl all in one go. It looks really impressive when served warm with a blob of ice cream alongside. The center of the soft, sweet, stewed pear is filled with a mixture of honey, ginger, and pine nuts. Because the pear is soft, the honey gradually soaks into the flex, creating a really tasty dessert that can be eaten hot or cold.
13. Black Sesame Soup
Well, you did say you were looking for something different. This is about as untraditional as it gets. When you think about the flavors, it isn’t all that unusual. You’ve got a nutty taste from the black sesame seeds and a hint of sweetness created by adding sugar. It isn’t the most visually appealing dish, but if you having an Asian night, it might very well be a talking point.
Let’s head back on over to India. Khaja is one of the most popular desserts. It looks impressive but is surprisingly simple. You won’t need to buy anything exotic to make them either. These layered doughy fritters are made from plain flour, butter, and water… That’s pretty much it. This dough is flattened and rolled into flowers before being deep-fried and coated in simple sugar syrup. Crispy and sweet, just how we like it.
15. Chinese Steamed Sponge Cake
Ok, so you probably won’t win any prizes for ‘best cake presentation, as this cake might look a little bland. But it tastes wonderful. Steamed puddings and sponges are great as they don’t tend to become overbaked and dried out. There’s quite a bit of sugar in this sweet sponge too! It makes a great accompaniment to lots of things such as fresh fruit and ice cream… Or you could just have a large slice with a nice cup of tea!
16. Matcha Green Tea Cookies
Matcha is a type of green tea found in Japan. It’s great as an ingredient as it creates a vivid green color in any recipe. Consider it a little like ‘red velvet cake’… except it’s green. Provided you can find matcha, the rest of the ingredients are standard baking fare. They are really crunchy (mind your teeth) and perfect for dipping into a hot drink like a coffee (or maybe a naughty hot chocolate).
17. Japanese Custard Pudding
Mmm, ‘ Japanese’ custard pudding looks (and tastes) very similar to regular custard pudding to me. It’s made in pretty much the same way with pretty much the same ingredients. You make a loose egg custard that is then left to set in a bain-marie. From there, you make a sugar syrup which you cook until it turns a deep golden color. Shake your pudding onto a plate and top with delicious and sweet syrup.
18. Chinese Almond Float
This is an easy one, provided you have few special ingredients. A Chinese almonds float is a little like a trifle without the sponge or cream. It is flavored with almond extract and thickened with gelatine before being served cold. We find that the recipe is best if you use canned fruit. Make sure to incorporate the syrup too for added flavor and sweetness.
19.Vietnamese Iced Coffee
The Vietnamese were introduced to coffee by the French and Dutch, who occupied Vietnam from the 1700s onwards. It gets pretty humid over there—no wonder this recipe is iced. The main difference from regular iced coffee is that this is made with condensed milk. As you’ll already know, this is much sweeter than regular milk. We dare you to try and drink two!
20. Chinese Mango Pudding
Did you know that mango is the most consumed fruit in the world? No wonder when it tastes like this. This dessert is essentially pulped mango mixed with a little gelatine, some cream and milk, and maybe a hint of sugar… From there, it is left to set. It is a great make-ahead dinner party dessert. This is one of the many Chinese desserts we’ve highlighted in our best of list.
21. Japanese Butter Cookies
We love desserts that can be made with few ingredients. This is a prime example. Flour, butter, eggs, baking powder, and a large helping of sugar make these cookies into something special. If you want to go all Japanese, shape them into doves, as that is how they are traditionally served in Japan.
22. Mango Sticky Rice
Mango sticky rice is out of this world. Chunks of juicy mango work perfectly with rice that has been cooked until it is plump and thick before being soaked in super thick and sweet coconut milk. It’s a breeze to make, which is why it is so popular in most of the beach shacks you’ll visit in Thailand. Just make sure to use a ripe mango!
23. Matcha Green Tea Mochi
Imagine making a Brownie that uses sweet rice flour instead of sugar… Then make it green (does that make it a Greenie?) The color comes from matcha powder, a vivid, verdant tea from Japan. This is a super moist cake that has lots of Asian influence. The included coconut milk makes it super sticky… So use a paper napkin.
Here’s another Indian dessert that shares some common traits with Chinese dim sum. Modak is a steamed dumpling made of rice flour. It is filled with sugar and sweet coconut and then spiced with Asian flavors like cardamom and nutmeg. If you want to be authentic, add a small amount of saffron to the top of each dumpling before steaming. This creates vivid orange lines along the outer side of the dumplings.
25. Black Sesame Cookies
Sesame seeds actually pack a lot of flavors, considering their size. When they get all toasted, they begin to release a deep and nutty-tasting oil. If you don’t have black sesame seeds, regular will do, but your cookies will look slightly different. Apart from the sesame seeds, there isn’t anything too exotic in this recipe. You’ll easily find all the ingredients such as eggs and flour in any store.
You may be surprised to learn that most of these desserts can be made with regular store-bought ingredients. If you are struggling, most Asian stores will be able to point you in the right direction. We think it is amazing that many use the same flavors as what we’d consider ‘regular’ desserts. Whether that’s by cross-cultural influence or a fluke, we don’t know. What we do know is that they taste amazing. Why not try something different and give one of our 25 Asian desserts a go?