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Asian Desserts

Asian Desserts

In Asian meals, desserts are not the big feature they are in Western meals. The sweets of South East Asia are usually between-meal snacks made from sticky rice; or cool refreshers of shaved ice sweetened with syrup and bits of fruit or beans cooked in sugar. The sweets of India may be dry or syrupy, and almost always the main ingredients are reduced milk, ground almonds, lentil flour, ghee and sugar. Indian sweet dishes are just as likely to be served at the start of the meal 'to sweeten the mouth' as at the end.

Colonized countries commonly adopt the customs of the conqueror. Thus we have custards such as Vattalappam in Sri Lanka and Kheer in India. In the Philippines, the Spanish influence is obvious in Leche Flan. In Thailand, a small bowl of cool, light syrup and coconut milk with interesting items such as tapioca, tender young coconut and basil seeds may be followed by Lum Chup, miniature fruit molded from sweetened mung bean paste - smaller and prettier than any marzipan fruits from the confectioners of Europe.

China, Japan and Korea would traditionally offer fresh fruits, sometimes cut decoratively into intriguing shapes, but often bow to Western preference and offer custard desserts or jellies based on seaweed. Many Asian really enjoy a custard which has become too firm by classic French standards but which is perfectly acceptable in Asian countries. The dissolved palm sugar fills the numerous little holes caused by over-beating the eggs and overheating the oven. So if you are served such a custard by your Asian host, they haven't ruined the dish - it is simply that expectations are different.

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