Top 10 International Desserts

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Cakes, breads, muffins, pie, puddings, ice cream – it seems like every country enjoys something sweet after a meal (or any other time of the day, for that matter). This list describes ten outstanding desserts from around the world. If any are unfamiliar, I encourage you to go to a specialty store or restaurant and try them out. Nothing in your area? That’s a great incentive to travel the world and taste the local flavors!

10. Sopapillas (U.S.)

The name “sopapilla” most likely stems from a Spanish word sopaipa, meaning “sweet fried dough”. They are probably cousins to a vast family of fried and oil dipped breads which have sprouted all over Latin America. After some intense scrutiny, it appears sopapillas originated in New Mexico around 200 years ago. Yes, this is part of the U.S. but it still foreign enough to be put on this list and its family is certainly more Latin than American. Sopapillas can be eaten alone but their spectacular tastes comes when they are drizzled in some honey or the honey is actually poured inside the hollow bread. Cinnamon may be sprinkled on them to compliment this delicious dessert.

9. Churros (Spain)

Churros were given to us from the Spanish. They are now worldwide, even in Korean movie theatres and American baseball games. Churros are sticks of soft dough, made from wheat flour and other particular ingredients. They are extruded through an object that appears to be a star but it is a molded curve which comes in assorted sizes. They are usually made with no-cholesterol 100% vegetable shortening. They are best eaten on winter days when the warmth of this cinnamon flavored bread is digested. They are powdered with cinnamon and sugar. The exterior is crispy but the interior is softer and this dessert just electrifies the tasty sensation in one’s mouth. This is a dessert that has staying power and has been adopted by cultures the world over.

8. Tiramisu (Italy)

There is a pseudonym for this; it is called “Tuscan Trifle.” It originates from Siena, a northwestern Italian province of Tuscany. It is a cool, spectacular feeling that has won the satisfaction from people on all continents. This is the antitheses of the heavy American pie; this dessert is light, similar to light tapioca pudding. Even lighter, more like whipped cream. Tiramisu is made from eggs, mascarpone cheese, ladyfingers, cream, liquor brandy, marsala, a little sugar, some rum, shaved chocolate or cocoa. Mascarpone is a triple-crème cheese. Ladyfingers are sweet little sponge cakes. This dessert is like tasting a bit of heaven, a dessert that floats: it does not drape around one’s tongue. It just hovers through one’s system. The slight taste of some liquor, I am surprised this is not served in every bar but the delicate steps involved to make this precious dessert may exceed most establishments.

7. Almond Cookies (China)

Originally from China, many ethnic communities have adopted these almond cookies. These cookies are found all over America and are so good it is not uncommon for customers to walk into a Chinese restaurant just to buy a box… and that says something since Chinese food is spectacular. They are often served complimentary after a large or expensive Chinese meal such as suckling pig or lobster. Do not mistake these cookies with the dry and stale fortune cookies, those are scrub cookies compared to these spectacularly flavored ones. With milk, there may not be a better dessert around.

6. Fruit Salad Dessert (Central Africa)

Nothing healthier than a fruit salad: and what is better than a dessert that is better for the body than perhaps the main course? There is not any one type of salad that predominates in this region, but they all feature watermelon. In fact, watermelon feeds the entire animal kingdom in this area. Wherever you are, watermelon is absolutely essential to a fruit salad.

5. Castle Pudding (England)

England is not known for its delicious food. In fact, people in England have left that island to seek tastier delights (and possibly better weather). But the English got it right in terms of this dessert. I am sure it is not uncommon for some people in England to just skip dinner to get to this warm, strawberry jelly sauced, scrumptious plate all the more sooner. What separates this pudding from the rest is the topping. The pudding is not what marvels one’s senses; it is the strawberry jam that is cascading down the sides of the pudding. These two textures were made for each other. Usually this type of pudding is baked in a dariole mold. This translates into the French verb “dorer” which means “cover in gold.” Sounds enticing! Photo: greatbritishpuddings.com

4. Pavlova (Australia and New Zealand)

This is a dessert preference in Australia, New Zealand and England. England takes a backseat here since it seems to be enjoyed a little more in the southern hemisphere. There is not any one kind of pavlova and it is not something sold on the street corner or in a convenience store. It is found in prestigious restaurants and some cake stores are known to carry this sweet delight. This is not a high caloric dessert so even Nicole Kidman can enjoy it. It is made from egg whites and sugar and, when cooked by someone who knows what they are doing in the kitchen (not me), the outside of the meringue shell will be crunchy. Whipped cream envelopes this dessert while the inside has a marshmallow like texture. It is served with any of these luscious fruits: strawberry, kiwi, raspberry or peach.

3. Baklava (Turkey)

This ambrosial dessert is now linked to Greece and Greek food settings, but it was first concocted in the Ottoman Empire inside Turkey. During this period, the Greeks and the Turks shared foods and ideas, including, but not limited to, this spectacular dessert known as Baklava. Kitchens should be kept humid and the cook needs to be prepared because Phyllo dough is used in the recipe. It can be tricky to manipulate: it is fine and dries very quickly. Honey, sugar, lemon juice, and orange water are used to make a syrup, which is poured over layers of phyllo dough and melted butter. Nuts are placed on top, usually pistachios, and the result is a thick but savory dessert. Photo: Ultimate Guide to Greek Food

2. Chestnut Kintons or Cream Candy (Japan)

Typically I would think that candy is more suitable for a movie theater, not dessert. However, I will make an exception for Japanese cream candy because it is so tasty. Chestnuts are the staple here, with sweet potatoes, sugar, mirin sauce and some vinegar. This chestnut is from a chestnut tree that is only found in Japan and South Korea. It is quite small, reaching only about 15 cm tall at the largest. This is a deciduous tree and the Japanese have taken advantage of Mother Nature’s offerings by creating a dessert candy that is delectable.

1. Gulaab Jamun (India)

Corn oil is preferable for this tasty dessert. Powder, regular milk, and perhaps some raisins or pistachios are most of the ingredients. This dough is divided into small balls and they will increase in size like donuts. These are not unlike the donut holes in the U.S., but instead of powdered sugar, sweet syrup is drizzled onto the soft dough. The syrup’s taste is indicative of where it is made in India. Some areas have a proclivity towards rose water, others lean toward saffron or citrus juice. This is not something that needs to be eaten quickly: Gulaab Jamun can be stored over night to absorb more syrup.  Wow, how much sugar can one take? It depends on how strong the dough recipe is. This dessert, like pumpkin pie, can be served or eaten hot or cold. This dessert can also be delivered with even additional syrup layered on it. This is a traditional Indian dessert served on the holidays when firecrackers and celebrations are popping all around.

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by Benjamin Roussey, who also reviews movies at his blog movieops.blogspot.com.


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22 Comments

  1. Actually Sopaipillas did not originate in New Mexico like you said. They originated in South America. Research shows that they were being eaten in Chile for at least 300 years.

    • AlphaKnight on

      Yep, read about it some months ago, anyway, that it is from the USA?

      Dont make me laugh! What a deceitful claim.

  2. I do find it funny that people from a country whose entire culinary contribution consists of the hamburger can criticise British food, which is actually varied and excellent.

    • Actually the hamburger is from Germany… what are some truly American culinary contributions? Maybe clam chowders? Or the corn dog? Chili? I'm Canadian, so not too sure – anyone out there who can help? Now I'm hungry…

        • I researched this for an article i wrote a while ago and from what I could tell the first hamburger patties were made during the time of Genghis Khan, but they ate them raw. The citizens of the German city Hamburg started serving up a cooked version of them in the 1600’s or so (thus, ‘hamburger’). New Yorkers sold them to German sailors along the city harbor in the late 1700’s – so that is probably when they first appeared in the U.S.

      • American chef on

        some American culinary contributions. Since this website is about desserts, let’s start there. There’s the Funnel Cake, invented at the World’s Fair. Salt-water taffy. Rice Crispy Treats. If you want to get into American foods, you have to be more specific by region, there are many varieties, some were originally influenced by other cultures: French, Spanish, etc. But they were American creations and unique in their origins. America has a diversity of flavors, that any other country isolated only in it’s traditions would never arrive at such inspiration for new cuisine. I often find people fixated on defending their traditions rather than exploring the range of possibilities like “fusion” I feel this style of cuisine is definitely American, since it pioneers international cuisine at it’s best drawing on various flavors and influences, rather than remaining solely in the vein of tradition. I don’t like what most people stereotypically call American food: hotdogs and hamburgers; those really aren’t staple cuisine here either, just fastfood. America has a tradition of regional Barbecue, compared to many cultures, Americans use smoke to flavor meats and other things (apple, pecan, hickory, cherry, mesquite,) the concept of wood smoke seasoning meats or salmon are a culinary contribution. It’s a technique you would rarely find in Europe. As far as American cuisine goes, I would say regional ones have the least outside influence: Cajun, Creole, Southwest, Hawaiian, California. Cajun and Creole were originally French influence, but didn’t originate in France. The foods are spicier, include more local ingredients (seafood, alligator, crawfish; like in gumbo and jumbalaya.) Southwest cuisine draws from the influence of Spanish, Mexican, cowboys, and Native Americans many of it’s dishes originated locally, specializing in what was available on the ranch or prairie at the time. Hawaiian cuisine is a medley of Asian and indigenous flavors of the islands. Californian cuisine again i would say is a blend of many influences, but largely fusion is innovating this new culinary front. I wouldn’t say America has stolen or simply borrowed the styles of various traditions, it has been influenced by them but has adapted them based on their own palates. Originally many foods along the East Coast were British inspired, but I know Britain isn’t especially know for it’s food, that is why this region doesn’t really have as many well-known cuisines. I know many European cultures don’t use many spices or seasonings in their foods like American cuisine does, so the claim that most foods were originally European doesn’t always make the argument.

        • i could not have said it better myself. thank you for commenting though. i come from both a southern and Cajun/creole culinary inspired background as well as traditional french and German dishes/treats. i now live in California where i am experiencing what California cuisine is and while i haven’t exactly figured it out yet i know its here. haha. i guess what i am saying is that i have live first hand the varied “American” albeit internationally INSPIRED culinary contributions

        • RiceCrispyTreatsLOL on

          America is known for fast food. That is literally your culinary gift to the world. You may have some dishes that you think are good, but that’s not what you’re known for, no matter how much you wish it wasn’t true.

          The USA can’t touch Europe for cuisine.

  3. I would consider sopapillas a Mexican dessert, not an American dessert; I have only seen them at Tex Mex places. I've heard the phrase "As American as apple pie," but I'm sure apple pies were made before America existed, so that's out.

    My favorite is probably bread pudding and tiramisu! YUM.

  4. I’m English and have never heard of castle pudding. More famous English desserts would be sherry trifle, apple crumble, spotted dick or Victoria sponge.

  5. I lyk that u wrote about gulab jamun, i would suggest you to try other sweets too, eg rasgulla, nd sponge rasgulla, they seem to be relatd to gulab jamun, and are more sweeter nd delicous. 🙂

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