With an eclectic range of both classic pastries and sweet creations mixing flavor and innovation, Asian desserts reflect deep cultural roots that celebrate traditions passed down through the generations. Traditional Asian desserts often feature rice flour, beans, fruits, and herbs, with mochi, red bean soup, and green tea ice cream now recognized the world over as household names among the key ingredients. Modern takes, such as bubble tea, shaved ice, and egg waffles, continue to offer fresh twists on these desserts.
Hailing from Taiwan, bubble tea is by far the best known Asian dessert in the world. Despite its highly debated origins, it’s believed the sweet drink originated in Taiwan in the 1980s and quickly became a sensation across Asia, before spreading to other regions around the globe. A sweet, milky tea-based drink served with chewy tapioca balls known as boba, bubble tea is also highly customizable. Classic tea flavors include green tea, black tea, and milk tea, as well as fruity options like strawberry, mango, and passion fruit, while milk-based drinks range from almond to soy. Popular bubble tea toppings include tapioca pearls, grass jelly, and popping boba.
There are several bubble tea shops to check out around Atlanta, with more opening every year. But bubble tea is just the tip of the Asian dessert iceberg in Atlanta. Here are five Asian desserts to try from bakeries and cafes throughout metro Atlanta, beyond bubble tea.
Pandan kaya roti at Sweet Hut Bakery and Cafe
Buckhead, Midtown, Doraville, Marietta, Duluth
With multiple locations around Atlanta, Sweet Hut Bakery and Cafe is the quintessential Asian bakery experience. With a vast selection of sweet and savory buns, cookies, doughnuts, and Swiss rolls to choose from, people should also put the pandan kaya roti on their list of desserts to try at Sweet Hut. This sweet, fluffy treat features a creamy coconut kaya (jam) wrapped in a soft, pillowy bun infused with pandan — a tropical plant commonly used in Southeast Asian cooking with a subtle vanilla-almond flavor.
Bao bing shaved ice at Meet Fresh
6035 Peachtree Boulevard, Doraville
Tucked away in the corner of the H Mart complex, Meet Fresh is a Taiwanese dessert shop popular for its shaved ice desserts known as bao bing. The signature black sugar boba milky shaved ice is a mountain of delicious decadence packed with indulgent toppings, including sweet and chewy boba, creamy caramel pudding, earthy red beans, and vanilla ice cream. It’s drizzled with lashings of brown sugar syrup.
Dan ta egg tarts at Hong Kong Bakery
5150 Buford Highway, Doraville
Hong Kong Bakery in the Asian Square Plaza on Buford Highway is known for its delectable egg tarts — an iconic Cantonese pastry originating from Guangzhou, China, that became popular in Hong Kong during the mid-20th century. These baked tarts boast flaky, buttery crusts filled with smooth, velvety egg custard. Most often consumed to signify the end of a dim sum brunch, egg tarts at Hong Kong Bakery are baked fresh in the morning and are available for purchase, from 9:30 a.m. to 6 p.m., every day the shop is open.
Tong sui sweet dessert soup at Sweet Spot
6035 Peachtree Road, Doraville
Neighboring Meet Fresh in Doraville is Sweet Spot — a Hong Kong-style street food restaurant serving a selection of classic Cantonese desserts, such as tong sui or “sugar water”. Believed to offer various health benefits, including aiding digestion and boosting the immune system, tong sui is made with ingredients like fruit, beans, and grains simmered in water or milk. Sweet, but not overly saccharine, tong sui is enjoyed as both a hot or cold dessert, making it a perfect treat for any season. Try the black sesame tong sui or the tofu pudding in ginger syrup at Sweet Spot.
Ma-cha red bean honey toast at Snowflake Tea House
2180 Pleasant Hill Road, Duluth
Located next door to Great Wall Supermarket in Duluth, Snowflake Tea House is another popular place for Taiwanese desserts, and the monstrous ma-cha red bean honey toast is as much a feast for the eyes as it is for the taste buds. This dessert consists of a brick of thick slices of toasted bread covered with sweet red bean paste and honey topped with scoops of matcha ice cream and delicate whipped cream. The combination of the sweet, creamy, and crunchy textures from the toast make for a pretty indulgent dessert experience that’s definitely best shared with others.