East Asian food has long been popular in the West. Dim sum, sushi and fried rice are all household favourites. However, Asian desserts are much less known. They tend to rely much more on fragrant spices and delicate flavours, with plays on texture and temperature that can surprise the western palate. Here are seven of the flavours at the heart of East Asian desserts, many of which have now been incorporated into western cuisine, producing incredible fusion results.
Many people in the West have enjoyed Jasmine tea. However, this delicate blossom is also the perfect addition to many desserts. In particular, Jasmine goes extremely well with chocolate and has been used to create many an amazing ganache by skilled chocolatiers.
Commonly known as an ingredient in savoury dishes, ginger is also often used to flavour syrups, soups and milk based puddings, balancing the sweetness of those dishes with its powerful, zesty profile.
The pandan tree is native to South East Asia and its leaves have a sweet, fragrant flavour. Pandan is often used in desserts that use heavier bases, such as glutinous rice or coconut milk, uplifting them and bringing a delicate air to the dish.
Red Bean Paste
Adzuki Beans are boiled and made into a paste which also has sugar added to it. The sugar gives the paste its sweet taste, whilst it retains a chewy texture that is perfectly complemented by a doughy base such as buns, pancakes or mocha.
Known for being a superfood, matcha has many excellent properties that can help you fight heart disease and even cancer. However, its popularity is also linked to the fact that it can help boost your metabolism, thus helping with weight loss.
As well as being used for tea, Matcha leaves are now often prepared into a powder and used to flavour items such as cookies, lattes and much more!
Lychee is a fruit with pink to white flesh, which has a light, floral taste. It is a very versatile flavour that complements a lot of desserts and also works on its own. Examples include lychee ice cream and the popular lychee martini.
Sesame seeds can be either black or white, with both used in desserts and for savoury foods. Black sesame tends to have a stronger, more aromatic flavour than the white seeds, although this is a subtle difference.
They tend to be used on the outside of fried desserts, such as sesame rice balls. These are fried glutinous rice balls with red bean paste that have sesame seeds on the outside. Likewise, fritters can be made, with a honey and sesame coating, using the sesame to balance the sweetness of the honey.
Sesame seeds can also be manipulated into different forms, with sesame flavouring used for ice cream and sesame paste being a popular filling for pancakes and other baked items.