When it comes to dessert, most people in the UK think of a squidgy sticky toffee pudding or a crumbly fruit tart drowning in custard. These options are fine for a post-pub lunch sugar rush, but they pale in comparison to the glorious puds of Southeast Asia. Loaded with fresh fruit, fragrant ingredients and incredible textures, the desserts of Indochina are must-tries for anyone looking to satisfying their sweet tooth.
It's no surprise that many of the fruity desserts in Thailand are relatively simple; the country's flavourful fruit needs little accompaniment to create delicious puddings. The high quality of Thailand's fruit is showcased in one of the country's most popular desserts—khao niew mamuang is a combination of coconut sticky rice, coconut cream and sliced mango. Its simplicity allows the fresh tropical flavours to shine, with the sweet, slightly acidic mango cutting the richness of the coconut.
If you've never tried Indochinese sweets before, you may encounter some ingredients that are unfamiliar to you. Though beans are typically reserved for savoury dishes in Western cooking, many Southeast Asian countries make desserts out of red beans. Sometimes, they are used to make a sweet paste that is used as a pastry filling, as in this Malaysian dessert; this Vietnamese pudding blends red beans into a sweet soup.
Another common ingredient is pandan, a herb that is beloved for its unique fragrance and floral notes. Its often used in Indochinese puddings to impart an aromatic, earthy sweetness. The Vietnamese dessert banh bo nuong is a pandan-infused coconut tapioca cake that is often sold in Vietnamese bakeries. Seri muka is a famous dessert in Malaysia that pairs pandan with coconut milk in a chewy glutinous rice cake.
Want to try pandan for yourself? At Banana Tree, we showcase pandan in our Coconut Stuffed Thai Green Pancakes. We fill the pancakes with nutty, caramelised roasted coconut, sesame seeds and melting coconut ice cream. The pandan in the pancake batter gives the dish a vibrant green colour. They’re pretty enough for a photo, if you can wait that long to dig in!
In Bali, Pulut Hitam rice pudding is a stunningly beautiful and delicious traditional dessert. Not your average rice pudding, Pulut Hitam contains black wild rice that has been simmered with sugar so that it is soft, chewy and caramelised. It’s often paired with coconut milk, creating a gorgeous dark purple colour in your bowl. Give this moreish dessert a try at Banana Tree—we cook our Pulut Hitam Rice Pudding with fragrant pandan leaves and top it with rich coconut ice cream. It’s the ideal way to finish a spicy meal.
If you’re in the mood for sweets but want to change it up from your typical banoffee slice, consider digging in to a pudding infused with the flavours of Southeast Asia—you don’t have to travel far to give them a try! For a full range of Indochinese-inspired desserts, stop by one of our Vietnamese, Thai and Malaysian restaurants in Soho, Clapham Junction, Angel and beyond. After all, no meal is complete without a little something sweet.