Thai ice cream rolls -- colorful, photogenic and loaded with eye-candy toppings -- are taking over Instagram and popping up in dessert shops across the U.S.
While the dessert is relatively cutting-edge in the States and is harder to come by than American ice cream, other delicious Asian desserts may be more accessible than you think. Have you ever tried boba, pat bing soo or mochi? The nearest sample is likely a short drive away.
Here's a short and sweet list of popular Asian desserts and how they're made.
Thai Rolled Ice Cream
To craft rolled ice cream, chefs pour a chilled ice-cream base over a cold stone surface, moving the liquid around with a pastry scraper until it forms a flat, more solid shape. They then push the ice cream into individual rolls and arrange them like roses in a bowl. Toppings like condensed milk, cookies, candy and fruit give the dessert its final Insta-worthy touches.
Patbingsoo is a Korean take on shaved ice, topped with sweet bites like fruit and red beans, and drizzled with condensed milk and fruit syrups. Even sweeter garnishes include sugary cereals, ice cream and whipped cream.
The dessert is made by cooking red beans with sugar and vanilla, lining the bottom of a bowl with the resulting sweet product. Next comes a mountain of shaved ice. After that, a colorful pile of chopped fruit like strawberry, kiwi and banana and a light shower of condensed milk. Add on any other desirables and serve right away.
If you haven't tried it, you've likely seen it: a cup of tea with tapioca balls sitting at the bottom and a large colorful straw poking out of the top. It's customizable; try a simple iced green tea with boba (the chewy tapioca balls), or go the adventurous route with a creamy taro (the root responsible for the tea's purple color) tea and fruit jellies. The Taiwanese drink is widely popular and accessible in the U.S., and the best part about it is that since the boba is chewy, it takes a while to finish, so you can savor the sweet beverage for just a few more minutes.
Mochi is made from a glutinous rice flour called Mochiko, plus sugar, coconut milk, condensed milk and a bit of food coloring. The result is a chewy rice cake that can be eaten on its own, dipped in savory soups or eaten with wasabi and soy sauce. But it gets really fun as a dessert: when it's wrapped around ice cream.
Mochi ice cream is a small, round ball of ice-cream-mochi wonder and comes in flavors such as green tea, chocolate, strawberry and red bean. The balls are dusted with potato to keep the ball from sticking to your fingers, but, hey, dessert is always worth a bit of a mess. You probably don't have the equipment needed to tirelessly pound mochi the traditional way, but, fortunately, mochi ice cream is available in many freezer aisles.
Fried Sesame Balls (Jian Dui)
Like mochi, these bite-sized treats are made with glutinous rice, but they're then rolled in sesame seeds and deep fried to a golden brown, often filled with red bean paste. The soft, chewy bites are usually served between savory courses of Chinese dim sum. Find the nearest dim-sum restaurant to give these pillowy sesame balls a try.
Hong Kong-style egg tarts consist of a pastry crust (either shortcrust or puff) filled with a custard that is more eggy than creamy. The few-ingredient dessert is best enjoyed right away, while the buttery crust and rich pudding are still warm. Compared to other Asian desserts, this one is pretty approachable for a home cook. Check out a recipe here.
Did we hit you in your sweet tooth? Scour Yelp to find the best spots for tasty Asian desserts near you, and thank us later.