Top 30 Irresistible Asian Desserts
Asia is commonly known for its large rice and noodle culture, but there is so much more that must be experienced. Some of the most delicious and well-known desserts can be found throughout Asia.
Whilst some of the desserts may include rice, many Asian countries make use of other local ingredients, as well as traditions to make desserts to die for. Let’s get into the 30 most popular Asian desserts!
1. Baklava – Turkey, Middle East
Baklava is a sweet dessert comprised of various layers of filo pastry with crushed nuts, sweetened with honey or syrup.
Traditional Turkish baklava uses filo pastry, finely crushed pistachios, butter, and syrup, but there are many other variations. Syrups are often scented with lavender or rosewater, whilst the pistachios are sometimes replaced with walnuts and sprinkled with cinnamon, like in Greek baklava.
2. Pisang Goreng – Indonesia & South East Asia
Pisang Goreng is a delicious and highly popular dessert in Indonesia and South East Asia. Pisang Goreng are bananas coated in a light batter and deep-fried in hot oil. Once deep-fried, the outside is deliciously crispy and the inside irresistibly sweet and tender.
Whilst it may seem simple, the dessert takes practice and skill to perfect.
Bananas at their peak ripeness are key to Pisang Goreng, as they will increase in sweetness as they are deep-fried. Street vendors typically sell them as is; however, upscale cafés and restaurants will add toppings such as sugar, cinnamon, and ice cream.
3. Mochi – Japan
Mochi is a sticky rice cake made from short-grain rice called mochigome. The rice is, traditionally, steamed and pounded in a small mortar in a ceremony called mochitsuki.
Eaten by itself, it tastes like rice, but what distinguishes it is its texture. Sticky, elastic, and chewy, mochi can be enjoyed in various different ways. Zenzai is a traditional way of enjoying mochi, consisting of mochi served in a sweet red bean soup.
4. Mooncake – China
Mooncake is a Chinese delicacy that is typically consumed during the Mid-Autumn festival. This sweet, or sometimes savory, cake is eaten whilst gazing at the moon during this festival, which is held on the fifteenth day of the eighth month, following the Chinese lunar calendar.
The sweet dough, made from golden syrup, lye water, vegetable oil, and plain flour, is filled with a lotus paste.
As these cakes have become more commercialized, various other fillings are used, such as red beans, fruit, and chocolate, which can be found all over the world.
5. Kulfi – India
Kulfi is a traditional Indian ice cream that is made by simmering milk with sugar. It is much denser than traditional ice creams but has a delicious, creamy texture and is one of the most popular desserts in summer. Typical flavorings include saffron and cardamon along with chopped nuts.
6. Ma’amoul – Lebanon
Ma’amoul are delicious Lebanese cookies filled with fruits and nuts, typically dates, walnuts, and pistachios. The dough consists of either semolina, farina, plain flour, or a combination of these.
Depending on the filling, each cookie is shaped differently to distinguish the flavor. The walnut flavor is usually shaped into a dome with a round top; the date ma’amoul is shaped into a dome with a flat top, while the pistachio has an elongated, oval shape.
Related: Most Popular Lebanese Desserts
7. Leche Flan – Philippines
Leche Flan is made up of eggs, milk, and a soft caramel on top and is one of the top desserts in the Philippines.
After celebrations or parties, it is the go-to dessert. Unlike Western flans, it does not use cream but mainly relies on evaporated milk and condensed milk for the creamy flavor.
8. Kheer – India
Kheer is an ancient Indian rice pudding dessert, with each region having different versions of the dish. Made with just rice, milk, and sugar, this creamy and aromatic treat is the quintessential dessert.
Flavorings such as cardamom, saffron, and rose water help to spice up this simple dessert. Alternatively, tapioca pearls can be used as a substitute for rice.
9. Khao Niao Mamuang – Thailand
One of Thailand’s most traditional and popular desserts, this sweet and sticky rice, served with slices of mango, is the perfect way to finish off any meal.
Steamed glutinous rice is dressed with sweet coconut milk with refreshing mango to help cleanse the palate. This simple dessert can be found at food stalls, served in bamboo baskets, or in many restaurants and cafés.
10. Kunefe, Knafeh, Kanafeh – Middle East
Originating in the South of Turkey, Kunefe is made from a luscious cream cheese that is sandwiched between buttered kadayif dough noodles and then drenched in syrup. It’s a delicious and very popular dessert throughout the Middle East and can be found under different names such as Knafeh or Kanafeh.
It is often flavored with orange zest and cardamon and then topped with crushed pistachio nuts.
11. Vietnamese Ché – Vietnam
Ché in Vietnamese describes sweet desserts that come in liquid form, like drinks, puddings, or even types of ‘soup.’
The sweet soup beverage consists of a variety of sweet lychee bites, jackfruit slices, and chewy jellies finished with cold coconut milk. Each component is made up of different flavors, such as lychee and canned longans. The distinct appearance is created by various food colorings.
12. Daifuku – Japan
Daifuku consists of a small round rice cake stuffed with a filling, most commonly anko, a red bean paste.
Whilst there are many varieties, the anko daifuku is one of the most popular and is traditionally served with green tea. Other variations include azuki beans, mugwort, or even fruit, which has become popular in recent times.
Various fruits such as mikan (small Japanese satsuma), strawberries, and grapes are delicately wrapped in a thin layer of mochi. In some shops, in between the mochi and fruit, a thin layer of anko is added.
13. Egg Tarts – Hong Kong
These delicious egg tarts are small and flaky pastries filled with sweet egg custard and are one of the most famous desserts in Hong Kong.
Typically, they are found in dim sum restaurants and bakeries. They are thought to be a cross between British egg custard and a famous Portuguese tart, called pastéis de nata.
Macau also has a similar version of the egg tart but with a crispier pastry and a scorched and caramelized exterior.
14. Rasgulla – India & South East Asia
Rasgulla are prepared from curdled milk that is drained of way to make chenna, a sort of cottage cheese. This is then kneaded with semolina flour or plain flour and cooked in syrup until light, fluffy, and deliciously sweet.
15. Japanese Cheesecake – Japan
Japanese cheesecake has wonderful tanginess, sweetness, and sourness with the texture of soufflé. Similar to soufflé, egg whites are incorporated into the mixture to help it rise and give it its cloud-like texture whilst cooking in a bain-marie (water bath).
16. Gaz – Iran
Gaz is the Iranian version of nougat, made with egg whites, sugar, and nuts, but the true original is slightly different. Raw gaz is the exudate of an insect, which is found and collected from wild tamarisk trees.
This is melted, sieved, mixed with nuts, then flavored with rose water and saffron. After being shaped into logs, it is then cut into bite-sized pieces.
Related: 15 Irresistible Persian Desserts
17. Tong Sui – China
Directly translated as “sugar water,” Tong Sui is a type of sweet soup with a base of either water or coconut milk.
It is typically topped with ice cream, fresh fruits, and bittersweet herbal grass jelly; however, there are many different possible combinations. Chewy, glutinous rice dough balls, “tong yuan,” are also popular additions to add more texture.
18. Lokum (Turkish Delight) – Turkey
Also known as Turkish Delight, lokum are small sugary cubes made from starch and sugar.
It is one of the most famous confections in Turkey and comes in a variety of flavors, including orange, lemon, and rosewater. The Turkish favorite, however, remains lokum with plain jelly combined with pistachios.
19. Palitaw – Philippines
Palitaw is a sweet rice cake that was originally made from pounding sticky rice. However, nowadays, rice flour is used, which is mixed with water and molded into balls and then flattened.
These are then boiled in water until they start to float and are then coated with a sugar and sesame mix.
20. Manju – Japan
Manju is a thin fluffy bun, which can be baked or steamed and filled with different paste flavorings such as red bean, sesame, chestnut, and matcha. The bun is made from wheat flour and brown sugar, resulting in a light and fluffy texture balanced with the not overly sweet filling.
21. Youtiao – China
Youtiao are often referred to as Chinese fried dough or Chinese crullers and are a breakfast delicacy. A sweet donut-like batter is fried and served alongside porridge or can be enjoyed with a sprinkling of sugar. They are popular in restaurants as well as with street vendors.
22. Shrikhand – India
A delicious and simple dessert made from thick yogurt flavored with sugar, cardamom, and saffron. Traditional shrikhand is made using hung curd, a homemade yogurt that is drained of any whey. The result is a thick, tart cheesecake-like filling that is dense and indulgent.
23. Taiyaki – Japan
Taiyaki is best known for its fish-shaped appearance. It is a cake that is, traditionally, filled with red bean paste; however, other variations include custard cream, chocolate, and even sweet potato. The cake batter is baked in a cast-iron mold shaped like tai, or sea bream, creating a crispy exterior and a warm, fluffy interior.
Taiyaki is an interpretation of the Japanese sweet imagawayaki—a popular snack made by wrapping red bean paste in flour skin. During the Meiji era, tai was one of the most expensive fish and was mostly eaten during celebrations, so instead, one café mimicked the shape of the fish to create taiyaki, which soon became one of the most popular desserts in Japan.
24. Dondurma – Turkey
Dondurma is the local take on ice cream. The main difference, compared with Western ice cream, is that this Turkish version is sweet, creamy, stretchy, and chewy because of a starchy root of wild orchids called salep that is used in the recipe. Dondurma comes in many flavors, with the most popular being plain, pistachio, and chocolate.
This popular Turkish dessert is often eaten with baklava to create a treat even more decadent and rich. Famously, dondurma street vendors entertain their customers and by-standers by moving a scoop of ice cream from cone to cone while the buyer’s hand eagerly tries to catch it.
25. Kaju Katli – India
Kaju Katli is a traditional Northern Indian sweet made from cashew nuts, sugar, and cardamom powder. Boiled sugar syrup is combined with cardamon powder and blitzed nuts to create a dough, which is lightly kneaded to form this indulgent sweet.
The result is a rich, delightfully decadent, melt-in-your-mouth texture that is served on special occasions in India.
26. Dango – Japan
Dango are small and chewy dumplings made from rice flour. They are usually skewered and served three or five on one stick. The most popular dango is Mitarashi dango, which is covered in a sweet soy glaze.
These chewy, sweet, and sticky dumplings are loved by people of all ages and are popular during festivals. Other flavorings include azuki red bean paste and a more savory version using soy sauce.
27. Pineapple Cake – Taiwan
Taiwanese pineapple cake is one of the most popular desserts and enjoyed all year round. A crumbly and melt-in-your-mouth pastry encases a deliciously subtle sweet pineapple jam. It’s also enjoyed during festivals, as it is said to bring good luck, translating to “good fortune arrives” in Chinese.
28. Fıstıklı sarma – Turkey
This Turkish sweet is made from a smooth pistachio butter called fıstık ezmesi. It is a pistachio-flavored marzipan that is wrapped in a single layer of filo pastry to help retain its shape.
29. Castella Cake – Japan
This delightfully light and sweet honey sponge cake can be found all over Japan. Unlike Western sponge cakes, castella cakes are raised solely by egg foam with no butter, oil, or any leavening agent like salt or baking powder.
The result is a light and pleasantly sweet cake, which is typically enjoyed with green tea or ice coffee.
30. Laddu – India
These traditional, spherically shaped sweets are a staple in Indian cuisine. They are primarily made from flour, a shortening agent, and sugar. A varied mix of flours is combined with water to create a loose batter, which is then deep-fried in small pellets.
These are then mixed with a shortening agent (typically ghee) and sugar, then formed into the classic, spherical shape. In India, there are many variations, with extra ingredients that provide more sweetness and texture, such as dried fruits and nuts.
Related: 30 Most Popular Asian Foods