13 week cooking course

Receive aemail containing the next unit.

World Cuisine: Asia

Traditional Asian Desserts: A Journey of Unique Flavors and Techniques

paste made of red beans

Paste made of red beans.

Asian desserts are a delightful blend of unique flavors, textures, and cooking techniques. Unlike Western desserts, which often center around chocolate, cream, and other rich ingredients, Asian desserts tend to incorporate elements like beans, rice, and tea. This unit will explore the role of desserts in Asian cuisine, the ingredients commonly used, and how to prepare some traditional Asian desserts.

The Role of Desserts in Asian Cuisine

In many Asian cultures, desserts are not typically eaten as a final course after a meal, as is common in Western cultures. Instead, they are often enjoyed as snacks throughout the day. Many Asian desserts are less sweet than their Western counterparts and often incorporate savory elements.

Common Ingredients in Asian Desserts

Red Bean

Red bean, also known as adzuki bean, is a staple ingredient in many Asian desserts. It is often boiled, sweetened, and turned into a paste, which can be used as a filling for pastries or a topping for shaved ice.

Green Tea

Green tea, particularly matcha, is another common ingredient. Matcha is a type of powdered green tea that has a slightly bitter, yet sweet flavor. It is used in a variety of desserts, including cakes, ice cream, and mochi.

Sticky Rice

Sticky rice, also known as glutinous rice, is used in many Asian desserts. Despite its name, it does not contain gluten. It is named for its sticky, glue-like texture when cooked. It is often used in desserts like mango sticky rice and rice dumplings.

Preparing Traditional Asian Desserts


Mochi is a Japanese dessert made from glutinous rice flour. It has a unique, chewy texture and can be filled with a variety of ingredients, such as sweetened red bean paste or ice cream. Making mochi involves cooking the rice flour with water and sugar, then kneading the dough until it becomes smooth and elastic.

Mango Sticky Rice

Mango sticky rice is a popular dessert in Thailand. It consists of sticky rice cooked in sweetened coconut milk, served with fresh mango slices. The key to this dessert is the balance between the sweet, creamy rice and the tartness of the mango.

Gulab Jamun

Gulab Jamun is a dessert common in India, made from milk solids that are kneaded into a dough, shaped into balls, and fried until golden. These balls are then soaked in a sweet syrup flavored with rose water and cardamom. The result is a sweet, syrupy dessert that is often served during festivals and special occasions.

In conclusion, Asian desserts offer a unique and exciting culinary experience. By understanding the common ingredients and techniques used, you can start to explore and appreciate the wide variety of desserts that this region has to offer.