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What Are the Different Types of Asian Desserts?

By T. Carrier
Updated May 16, 2024
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Desserts are typically understood as sweet foods consumed following a main meal. Nearly any sweet foods may work as dessert options. These types of desserts might include the following: cakes, cookies, pastries, custards, candies, and pies. Regional cuisines like Asian cuisines offer many variations of these desserts. Typical Asian food ingredients such as agar, bean paste, and durian fruit help create unique examples of Asian desserts: gao, ting, and tongsui, among others.

As the largest continent, Asia boasts many varieties of food from its diverse regions. The enormity of China marks it as one of the largest dessert producers. Japan also offers a sprawl of East Asian desserts. Middle Eastern regions add some sweet preferences to Asian desserts, as do portions of Russia.

Pastries are particularly popular Asian desserts. Rice-focused pastries dubbed gao are versatile and may have soft or firm textures, and glutinous rice cakes are also quite popular. In China, wheat flour pastries known as bing have prominence.

Subclassifications of bing range from sun and moon cakes to wife cakes. Sweet topping or fillings like glutinous rice and sweet red or mung bean paste populate many Asian pastries as well. Syrups infuse layered, nut-heavy pastries called baklava.

Honeys and syrups are also found in many other types Asian desserts. In fact, ting candies are sometimes comprised almost entirely of syrups made from malt or cane sugar. Syrup and milk-based sweet beverages and custards heavily influence some regions like India.

Other favored dessert ingredients are popular in Asian desserts. Nuts like chestnuts are common, as are fruits, particularly the durian fruit. Some regions such as Russia simply prefer chilled fruits covered in a sweet sauce. Strawberries Romanoff is one such example of a simplified fruit-based Asian desserts dish.

A few types of Asian desserts may possess the ices moniker. Many Asians fancy ice cream, and the frozen sweet may take on this shortened name. Ice creams made with green tea are especially popular in certain regions like Japan, where the confection may be covered with a rice-based dough. In addition to candied and custard-based Asian sweets, syrups may be combined with shaved ice for a sweet beverage-like dessert. Further, a gelatin-like material called agar is often used for creating Asian jellies, which are also referenced as ices.

Although individuals may not typically associate soups with the dessert course, various dessert soups are available in Asia. These common liquid confections consist of sweet, usually heated ingredients and spices. Many recipes further combine custards for a creamier soup. Collectively, these soups are often known as tongsui. Specific varieties include red bean soup, steamed milk custard, and sweet potato soup.

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Discussion Comments
By fBoyle — On Nov 25, 2014

I've noticed that jelly desserts are very popular in Asia. I follow a few Asian food blogs and I see gelatin desserts often. They all look so lovely with different shapes and colors.

My favorite Asian dessert of all time is Thai sweet sticky rice with mango. I'm always looking forward for mango season so that I can have the perfect sticky rice dessert at Thai restaurants with ripe mango.

By ddljohn — On Nov 25, 2014

@burcinc-- I know what you're talking about and I've heard this dessert referred to as a taro tapioca soup or dessert as well. My friend might have mentioned the Chinese word for it but I don't remember. It is delicious, I've had it a few times. The tapioca pearls are such a great ingredient. Do you also have rock sugar on your list? I believe rock sugar is preferred for this recipe.

If you get the chance, also try sweet red bean soup. It's a wonderful Asian dessert for the winter months. It's packed with nutrition and it's very comforting because it's sweet and eaten warm. I wouldn't mind having it for all three of my meals, I like it that much.

By burcinc — On Nov 24, 2014

I love learning about desserts in other countries and I love trying them too. For some time now, I've had my eye on an Asian dessert that goes by various different names in the Asian continent. It's made with taro, coconut milk and sago pearls which are a variety of tapioca pearls I believe. It looks very easy to make and very delicious.

I've got almost all the ingredients except the taro. But I will be checking a large Asian grocery tomorrow. I think they will have it.

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