Sure, we can lay claim to the Cronut (croissant donut) and Milky Bun (ice cream stuffed donut) as some of the craziest desserts to hail from the United States in recent memory. While our country is churning out fantastic and bizarre sweets week after week, our neighbors to the East have also been crushing it for centuries.
Check out some of the most unique desserts enjoyed in Asia that you may not even have heard of.
A classic Thai dessert, Khanom Chan literally translates to “layered dessert.” Similar to Woon Bai Toey (sweet coconut milk and pandan jelly), Khanam Chan boasts a gelatinous taste. Made from pandan leaves, sticky rice flour, and coconut milk, the dish is steamed and stacked together in multiple layers. Nine, a number of prosperity, is usually the amount of layers seen in the dessert.
The process of making Luk Chup is a bit tedious: grinding steamed mung beans into a paste, molding them into the shape of fruit, coloring them, and finally glazing them in gelatin. Still, once you’ve accomplished all those steps, you’re left with a plateful of vibrant desserts that look like candy versions of the real thing, each complete with different layers of flavor and textures originally intended for Thai royalty.
A classic Chinese dessert that can most commonly be found during the Mid-Autumn Festival, Mooncakes are pastries filled with red bean or lotus seed paste. Each mooncake is imprinted with a variety of Chinese characters that stand for either “longevity” or “harmony.” You can also find the name of the bakery inside each cake.
Cathedral Glass Jello
Also known as Broken Glass Gelatin, this vibrant dessert in the Philippines is made from condensed milk and a variety of colored Jello. Once it’s finished, it resembes “Broken Glass” or the stained windows of a majestic cathedral.
Woon Bai Toey
Made from the aromatic pandan leaf and coconut, Woon Bai Toey is a Thai gelatin dessert that boasts a creamy and nutty flavor with a chewy texture. The dessert typically follows a spicy Thai dish to help refresh the palate. FoodTravelTVEnglish shows you the step-by-step process to create this dessert.
Che Ba Mau
A dessert soup or pudding that’s found in Vietnam, che is made from mung beans, black-eyed peas, kidney beans, tapioca, jelly, and aloe vera. Che Ba Mau is a variation of the dish that is comprised of three main ingredients as Ba Mau translates to “three colors.” Choice of beans vary as long as the three colors are distinct.
In the Philippines, leche flan is a celebrated dessert that originated as a Spanish dish. Made with condensed milk and egg yolk, the sweet dessert is steamed over an open flame. Unlike the Spanish variation of flan, the one served in the Philippines is much more rich — featuring more egg yolks and sugar.
A deep-fried Korean pastry, Yagkwa is made with wheat flour, honey, and sesame oil. Yagkwa originated as a medicinal cookie that’s soaked in honey. Because of how much honey it contains and being deep fried at low temperatures of 248-284 degrees F, the pastry is both moist and soft when you bite into it. ARIRANG CULTURE did a recipe video for those curious.
Patbingsu, or “red beans shaved ice,” is a Korean dessert made of shaved ice, ice cream, condensed milk, red beans, and fruit. The earliest known variation of the dessert dates back to the year 1392. Today, you can find the cold dessert at most Korean restaurants and dessert spots specializing in the icy treat, adorned with chopped bits of fruit and plenty of syrup.
A type of wagashi (a Japanese confection), higashi is made with rice flour. Featuring intricate designs, the sweet and starchy dessert can typically be found during tea ceremonies. The creation of wagashi desserts came after China began producing sugar and traded it with Japan.
A highly popular dessert that started out in Japan, the Raindrop Cake became immensely popular among social media stateside once it debuted at New York food market Smorgasburg by Chef Darren Wong. Made from water and agar, a vegan sort of gelatin, the cake resembles a giant raindrop. Typically, raindrop cakes are served with a roasted soybean flour and molasses or honey to add flavor.
Uncle Tetsu’s Cheesecake
Known for their fluffiness and distinct jiggle, Uncle Tetsu’s Cheesecakes started in Japan over 30 years ago. These cheesecakes are made up of flour, eggs, cream cheese, sugar, baking powder, honey, butter, milk, and a special Australian cheese. The result is a super soft, rich, and flavorful cheesecake that’s got as much moves as a bowl of Jello! Uncle Tetsu’s Cheesecakes became so popular that multiple franchises have sprouted all over the world to cater to the popularity of these moist wonders.