The best Asian desserts in Sydney
Try the: Malaysian kuih
Kuih (pronounced ‘kway’) originates from Malaysia – it’s an umbrella term for snacks made out of glutinous rice. You can find them at Alice’s Makan, a cracking Malaysian cheap eat hidden in the food court opposite the KFC at Town Hall Station, but they’re usually all gone by 4pm, so order them with your char kway teow at lunch. The coconut and pandan kuih lapis (literally ‘layered cake’) is rainbow-like with its stripes of pink, green and white that alternate between the coconut and pandan flavours that are a staple in Malaysian cuisine. Firmer than jelly but not as chewy as mochi, it delivers different types of sweet in one bite before it all melts together.
Order the: Thai mango and sticky rice
Tawandang is a super popular Thai-German brewery in Thailand. In Bangkok, the location hosts nightly singing and dancing performances. The Sydney location retains that exciting atmosphere even without the shows, with loud background music and colourful décor. They put nearly half a fresh mango on sticky rice dressed in coconut milk so you get that see-saw effect between sweet and salty, cold and hot, and soft and firm.
Order the: Barfi
This square sweets doesn’t get as much attention as other Indian desserts like kulfi and jalebi (thanks, Lion) but it’s the one thing you’re sure to find at any Indian restaurant. Little squares of hardened condensed milk come sprinkled with metallic leaf called vark. Barfi comes plain or flavoured with almonds, pistachios, peanuts, coconut and rose water. The plain barfi at Jaipur Sweets is cheaper than most places ($1pp for plain barfi, $2pp for other flavours). We’re told the most popular of their barfi selection is the pista (pistachio) and if you’re new to the crumbly Indian snack, be aware that it can be very fragrant with Indian spices like cardamom, so it’s not for vanilla palates.
Order the: Matcha soft serve
No summer dessert list is complete without a soft serve – and no country owns it quite as well as Japan. At Chanoma, you can deep dive into the specifics of matcha and grab a genmaicha soft serve. Genmaicha is green tea that has been combined with roasted brown rice. Because the rice dilutes the tea and adds sugar and starch, historically it has been consumed by the poor. The result is a soft serve that is not too sweet and perfectly creamy.
Order the: Egg waffle
People have been getting those Emperor Puffs off of Dixon Street for decades, but did you know that they have a cousin around the corner in the form of egg waffles? Hong Kong Day Dessert – a two-minute walk from Emperor Puffs – turns egg waffles (which they call egglets) into cones to take on the go or served flat on wooden boards. They come with mango, vanilla ice cream and whipped cream, or as matcha-flavoured egglets with matcha ice cream and sweet red bean paste. Go all out on a chocolate egglets served with cookies and cream ice cream, fresh strawberries and chocolate sauce.
Order the: Vietnamese iced coffee
Coffee was introduced to Vietnam by the French in 1800s and has since become the world’s second largest producer of the stuff. District 1 HCMC (for Ho Chi Minh City) in Macquarie Centre is a little hideaway of colourful lanterns and dark wooden décor. They use Vietnamese coffee beans by Trung Nguyên to create a drink that is half coffee, half condensed milk – a thick concoction that starts out strong and bitter and ends on a sweet note. The barista will stir it down for you over ice – that’s where the refreshment lies.
Order the: Baobing at Meet Fresh
It's no surprise that baobing, a shaved ice dessert that’s been eaten in China since seventh century AD, is extremely popular in summer. Toppings include fruit, red beans, mung beans, peanuts, and taro. Grass jelly is the most popular topping at Meet Fresh, which they’ve titled Signature Herbal Jelly. The black jelly comes in large flat slices, paired with tapioca pearls and some purple and orange chewy jubes made out of taro. Underneath is a bed of ice and a small side of milk in one of those packets you’d get on a plane. There’s an option for a hot version should you could come back in winter.