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7 Must-Have Desserts in Southeast Asia

Zoom in on seven Southeast Asian treats that promise to leave you with a sweet aftertaste—and even sweeter memories.

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7 Must-Have Desserts in Southeast Asia

Zoom in on seven Southeast Asian treats that promise to leave you with a sweet aftertaste—and even sweeter memories.

There is no denying the love that Southeast Asian people have for desserts.

From Malaysia to Thailand to Vietnam, desserts constantly hold a special place in the hearts—and on the dining tables—of Southeast Asian households. They have become an integral part of the region, be it cuisine-wise, socially and culturally. One might even call a dessert-free trip to Southeast Asia both blasphemous and ridiculous!

Here, we close in on some of the region’s defining desserts and explain why missing out on the chance to have them would be a big mistake. These dishes are famous and loved dearly in their respective countries too, so you will not need to worry about having difficulties finding them either.

But before we dive into the heart of this sugary gallery, allow us to tease you with a brief taste of the Southeast Asian passion for desserts. Here’s an exclusive look at some of the region’s most popular sweet treats, along with fun facts about each of them. This list was crafted as a part of the GO LIST segment of GOTravel, which is GOASEAN’s flagship television show!

Now that we have your attention and your appetite has been whetted, let’s get started on this sweet, delectable ride through Southeast Asia!

1. Khao Niaow Ma Muang

WHERE: Thailand

WHY: Known otherwise as mango sticky rice, this classic Thai favourite unites the chewiness of sticky rice and the juicy tenderness of mango slices with a syrupy coconut milk sauce, creating a rich parade of flavours and textures. Some serve the dish with coconut milk ice-cream instead of the sauce, giving the dessert a cooling kick—and making it even more sinful.

2. Cendol

WHERE: Malaysia

WHY: Revel in the sensation of chilled coconut milk and palm sugar syrup trickling down your throat; take delight in the playful textures of rice flour jelly slugs and velvety red beans. Brought together by delicately shaved ice, this frozen dessert is best enjoyed on sunny afternoons, providing cooling relief from the notorious Southeast Asian tropical heat.

3. Ice Cream Sandwich

WHERE: Singapore

WHY: If the sight of blocks or scoops of colourful ice-cream sandwiched between cookies or slices of bread or cake—which can be just as colourful as the ice-creams—does not excite you, the rustic simplicity of this all-time Singaporean dessert favourite will. Think of it as being a basic ice-cream cake, where the fluffiness of the cake, cookie or bread component complements the creamy flavours of its ice-cream counterpart.

4. Chè

WHERE: Vietnam

WHY: Chè refers to a collection of Vietnamese sweet soups that is often considered to be the country’s national dessert. It is made up of various ingredients—which differ in combination depending on the variation of chè being enjoyed—that are served in a glass with ice. Popular forms of chè include chè ba màu, which features a range of beans, and chè hoa quả, which uses fruits as its main ingredient.

5. Nom Krok

WHERE: Cambodia and Thailand

WHY: Nom krok is both a famous dessert and street food in Cambodia, where it is made with a special pan to give the snack its signature size and appearance. These coconut pancakes proudly showcase the flavours of coconut, and often carry a unique filling of green onion slices, giving them bursts of fresh flavour. It is best described as being a rich treat that is sweet and salty at once.

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