“You are what you eat.”
They say the food you eat can tell a lot about your culture, and desserts are certainly no exception. So, grab a spoon as we’re about to dig into the various sweet delicacies and pastries of countries around the world!
See if you’ve tried any of these absolutely sinful delights from the East to the West:
The baklava is an old Turkish sweet dessert pastry believed to have originated from the Ottoman Empire. It consists of layers of phyllo (thin sheets of dough) that are filled with chopped nuts and sweetly held together by honey or syrup.
This popular Middle Eastern shortbread pastry made with dates and nuts (e.g. walnuts and pistachios) is a typical holiday favourite for occasions such as Eid or Christmas. It can come in any shape including flattened discs, round balls or dome-shaped. It’s made a few days before the holidays and is served to guests along with Arabic coffee and chocolates.
#3. Gulab jamun
If you’ve been to an Indian restaurant, you must have seen this ball-shaped sweet delight. More than just a simple doughnut, gulab jamun is traditionally made by reducing cow or buffalo milk until only the milk solids remain. The milk solids are then mixed with a little flour and shaped into balls before they’re fried in ghee and soaked in cardamom seeds and rose syrup. One serving and you’re bound to have a sugar rush indeed!
A Chinese traditional pastry, mooncakes are used as offerings for family and friends during the Mid-Autumn Festival. A classic mooncake is round like the moon with a thin layer of pastry containing a dense filling of lotus or red bean paste and sometimes, a salted egg yolk in the centre. But these days, one can even find snow skin or jelly mooncakes with modern flavours like chocolate or green tea.
These cute round delicacies from Japan got its name from mochigome, a type of glutinous rice that’s mashed into a paste and then rolled into balls. While you may find them in Japan all year-round, these rice cakes are often sold during Japanese New Year and are available in an assortment of shapes, colours and flavours.
#6. Khao neow namuang
A trip to Thailand is incomplete without a sinful bite of this delicacy, better known as mango sticky rice. This sweet dessert comprises of steamed glutinous rice drizzled with coconut milk mixed with palm sugar and paired with freshly cut mangoes on the side. For an added crunch, crispy yellow mung beans are sprinkled on top. Aroi mak mak indeed!
#7. Seri muka
Yet another treat with glutinous rice, this is a 2-layered bite-sized Malaysian dessert (or kuih in Malay). Half of the kuih is a green layer of yummy pandan custard cooked with coconut milk for a creamy flavour and the other half is glutinous rice that’s also steamed in coconut milk. This dainty dessert is the definition of a perfect afternoon tea snack.
If you’re ever planning a campfire, s’mores are a must. S’mores (the contraction of ‘‘some more’’) are an American treat made popular by girls scouts during camping trips. The recipe, which can be dated back to the 1920s, is relatively simple. All you need to do is sandwich toasted gooey marshmallows (usually toasted over a campfire) and a piece of a chocolate bar between 2 graham crackers and tada, you have the ultimate camping snack!
This classic Brazilian dessert is a national truffle that came about during a presidential election in 1945. Due to a shortage of fresh milk and sugar, a candidate who held the Brigadier military rank sold candies made of condensed milk and butter instead. Typically shaped into small balls and covered in chocolate sprinkles, this dessert can be easily made at home and eaten with a spoon straight from the pot.
#10. Treacle tart
A favourite among British children including the famous Harry Potter, treacle tart is an unbelievably sweet dessert thanks to the star of the dish — treacle (golden syrup). This traditional British pudding was first found in the cookbook of Mary Jewry in the 19th century and is made of shortcrust pastry with a rich filling of golden syrup, breadcrumbs and lemon juice or zest.
Dubbed the fattiest pastry in Europe, kouign-amann (read: queen ahmahn) is a pastry from Brittany, a region of France. Its name is derived from the Breton language, which translates to butter and cake. This croissant-like pastry is a multi-layered cake that contains layers of butter and sugar folded and then slowly baked at a low temperature until the butter puffs the dough and the sugar caramelises. Ooh la la …
#12. Schwarzwälder kirschtorte
Better known as the Black Forest cake, this authentic German dessert is said to have originated from Germany’s southwest Black Forest region, which is famous for its sour cherry liquor called kirschwasser. Traditionally, the cake is filled with layers of chocolate sponge cake, doused with kirschwasser and topped with lots of cherries and a generous heaping of whipped cream and chocolate shavings.
Translating to “little tube” in Italian, the cannoli or cannolo (the singular form in Italian) is an Italian pastry from the island of Sicily. Historically found during the carnival celebrations at Palermo, these treats are made up of tube-shaped fried pastry dough filled with a sweet and creamy filling — usually ricotta cheese (yum!).
Explore the streets of Tanzania and you’ll find the kashata, an East African sweet sold in almost every corner shop and market. This golden brittle-like confection is a perfect concoction of crunchy caramelised sugar and peanuts or fresh coconut (or both). The all-coconut version resembles the Bounty chocolate bar — except without the chocolate! Served with a cup of black coffee, this treat will make an excellent tea time delight.
This traditional South African pastry, koeksisters (read: cook sister), got its name from the Dutch words “koek” and “sissen” which means cake and sizzle. It looks somewhat like a braided doughnut, except it’s sweeter, stickier and crunchier as the dough is first deep-fried and then immediately drenched and dipped in cold ginger syrup. It is sweetness in all its glory!
And there you go, 15 sinful desserts you’ll crave more once you’ve had a bite. Tell us your favourite sweet delicacy in the comment section below!