Southeast Asian desserts consist of small snacks made with local ingredients such as coconut milk or glutinous rice. Desserts are served similarly in Indonesia, Malaysia, Singapore and Thailand. Learn about what makes these desserts so special and how to make them.

If you’ve been to countries like Indonesia, Malaysia, Singapore and Thailand, you’ll notice the similarities in the cuisines especially when it comes to desserts. Desserts in the Southeast Asian region are however uniquely different when compared to those found in the western cuisine. If you are expecting cakes or brownies like desserts, be prepared to be surprised. The desserts stand out with their structure and shape. It could be made with glutinous rice, wrapped in banana leaves or coated with freshly grated coconut. Southeast Asian desserts may be unfamiliar to many but those who known them, love every bite!

Traditional Southeast Asian Desserts

They are made using simple cooking methods like steaming or pan frying. Usually, local ingredients like coconut milk, glutinous rice and palm sugar are required in the recipes. The beautiful colours are mostly from the natural pigments of their plants found in the garden.

For example, pandan leaves, known to be the ‘Asian vanilla’. These plants could be found growing wild or if you’re lucky, your neighbour would have the plant. That’s the spirit of community and real flavours of Southeast Asia! Vegan and gluten-free may be the recent hype but a lot of traditional desserts found in this region are designed to not contain any meat product or wheat. Take a look at Onde Onde. Pandan flavoured glutinous rice balls with melted palm sugar in it. Just like lava cakes but in little individual balls. It’s sweet, light, gluten-free and vegan.

Modern Southeast Asian Desserts

As time goes by, traditional recipes begin incorporating modern tools but still using local and traditional ingredients. Chiffon cake is said to have been developed in the U.S. during the 1940s. When the recipe settled in Southeast Asia, the natural colour and aroma of pandan are incorporated in the cake. The signature fluffiness and airy texture of chiffon cakes are still maintained in the recipe. Today, Pandan Chiffon Cake is one of the most loved cake in Singapore, Malaysia and Indonesia alike. Are you ready to make your own Southeast Asian desserts? Get playful with these dessert recipes and surprise your guests.