Keeping Your Cool with Some Asian Desserts

By Sophia Hsu

As the heat and humidity rises, the city teems with desserts that keep you cool. Here are a few my my favorite Asian sweets to help you keep your cool all summer long.

1) Kyauk Geor or Coconut Agar Jelly is like your favorite gelatin dessert but all grown up. Typically a Burmese dessert, Agar, made from seaweed, replaces the need for gelatin, making this jiggly dessert vegan-friendly.

2) Burbur cha cha is a sweet and creamy Malaysian dessert that can be served hot or cold. In this colorful dessert, you will find little cubes of sweet potato and taro served in coconut milk with tapioca pearls.

3) Bao bing or Taiwanese shaved ice can be found in almost all five boroughs. The Japanese variation is kakoguri. The Filipino version in Tagalog is halo halo. The Korean version is called bingsu. Malaysians and Singaporeans call theirs ice kacang, and in Thailand, they have nam kang sai. In the Taiwanese version, a brown sugar syrup, or condensed milk, is drizzled over a mountain of snow with toppings like sweet red or green bean, tapioca pearls, taro, or fruits like passion fruit, mango, or strawberry. I like mine made from milk ice where the vendor has mixed condensed milk in with the water which creates a finer, creamier snow.

4) Zhen Zhu Nai Cha or pearl milk tea (aka bubble tea or boba milk tea) originated in Taiwan in the 1980s. Having spread throughout East Asia and finally making it to the North American continent, we can enjoy this dessert drink in all five boroughs. Large tapioca pearls are boiled and sweetened with a bit of honey before being plunged to the bottom of a bold tea blended with milk or non-dairy creamer. Other variations include fruit-flavored teas where you choose the base tea of black or green. Sometimes, you can also add little cubes of fruit-flavored agar jelly. The experience is like trying to find fun, little gummy bears with your straw at the bottom of a refreshing and filling drink.

5) Faluda is a popular dessert drink in India and throughout Southern Asia. Basil seeds, vermicelli, small tapioca pearls, rose syrup, and milk combine to make a texture rich dessert. I remember growing up eating the Burmese variant, which included a scoop of vanilla ice cream and ricotta in my glass.