Stack of Chinese mooncakes
The Sweet Appeal Of 'Not Too Sweet' Desserts In Asian Baking
From sponge cakes studded with pork floss to buttery black sesame and matcha cookies to sweet buns enveloping hot dogs, East Asian baked goods balance sweet and umami flavors.
Since refined sugar didn’t make its way to Asia en masse until the late 1960s, desserts were traditionally made with less intense natural sweeteners like honey or fruits.
Today, calling a dessert “not too sweet” is the highest praise across the East Asian diaspora. These sweets are becoming popular worldwide with their appealing balance of flavors.
In contrast to Western culture, sweets are more integral to daily eating in many Asian countries and are often enjoyed throughout meals rather than as a final treat.
Classic examples of sweet and savory combinations include egg tarts with lard-infused pastry and Chinese moon cakes with subtly sweet lotus seed or red bean paste filling.
Not all Asian desserts are “not too sweet.” Those with an intense sweet tooth may prefer Indian gulab jamun (syrupy fried dough balls) or Filipino Brazo de Mercedes (custard roll).