The word “dessert” was first coined back in 1539, and is derived from the French word “desservir,” which means to “clear a table.” Today, 500 years later, dessert is universally loved, regardless of the country or culture.
Check out these 10 desserts from around the world:
1. Alfajores in Uruguay and Argentina
Alfajores are soft sandwich cookies filled with dulce de leche that are readily available in supermarkets, bakeries (panaderias) and cafés throughout Uruguay and Argentina. Dulce de leche is caramelized condensed milk and is used as a spread for bread and baking. There are chocolate and jam alfajores, and alfajores coated in dark or white chocolate. Some are covered with shredded coconut or powdered sugar.
It’s best to have alfajores with coffee, local yerba mate or tea during merienda (afternoon tea time) just like the Argentinians and Uruguayans. It’s an important snack time before the customary ultra-late dinner.
I was surprised that even a McCafe in Montevideo, Uruguay carried alfajores. The dessert is a major part of the region’s culture.
Havanna Café, a trendy café chain in Argentina and Uruguay also makes excellent alfajores. If you’re looking to buy alfajores as gifts or to bring home, I suggest alfajores made by Punta Ballena in Uruguay and from the Havanna specialty stores in Argentina. I have visited Punta Ballena’s alfajore factory in Montevideo.
2. Pastel de nata in Lisbon, Portugal
Pastel de nata are Portuguese custard tarts made of sugar, eggs, and almonds. The most famous place to have these custard tarts is in Belem’s iconic Pastéis de Belém. Per the bakery, they started making the original pastel de nata (pastel de Belém) in 1837 using the ancient recipe from the monastery located next door – Mosteiro dos Jerónimos. This guarded recipe is still used today at the bakery.
Stop by Pastéis de Belém when visiting Belem and enjoy the taste of the original pastel de nata. Then compare it with those made by Confeitaria Nacional, an old bakery started in 1829 in Baixa. And check out Manteigaria, a relatively new kid on the block compared to Confeitaria Nacional and Pasties de Belem. There are two Manteigaria bakeries, one in Mercado Da Ribeira and the other is in Chiado.
3. Pain au chocolat in Paris
In Paris, there are soufflé, crème Brulee, macarons, mille-feuille, crepe, and éclair but there is nothing quite like the French pain au chocolat. Have it for breakfast, lunch, snack or as a dessert; it sure will satisfy your sugar cravings. It is readily available in all boulangerie (bakeries) and cafés in France.
Go to the iconic Patisserie Stohrer, the oldest boulangerie in Paris and Du Pain et des Idées.
4. Pavlova in Australia and New Zealand
It doesn’t matter where pavlova originated – Australia or New Zealand, it’s one of my favorite desserts when visiting both countries. Pavlova is a meringue based dessert that is coated with whipped cream and typically topped with fruits like kiwi and berries.
Here is one I made with my friend when I visited Auckland. We bought the meringue base from a supermarket, made the whipped cream and garnished it with cut fruits.
Read more about New Zealand’s pavlova on NewZealand.com.
5. Thai mango sticky rice in Thailand
Thai mango sticky rice is called khao neow mamuang. The traditional South East Asian dish is made of glutinous rice steamed with sugar and coconut cream and served with cut mangoes on the side. You will find this dessert in all food courts in Bangkok and Chiang Mai. Most hotels serve their version of this sweet treat too.
6. Sacher torte in Austria
In Vienna, every tour guide will tell you about their favorite sacher torte. Sacher torte is a chocolate cake thinly coated with apricot jam and covered with chocolate icing. Try one at one of the Sacher Cafés in Vienna, Innsbruck, Salzburg, and Graz.
I got a piece at Konditorei Heiner in Vienna.
7. Shaved ice dessert in Singapore and Malaysia
Shaved ice dessert or ais kacang is popular in Singapore and Malaysia. It is also known as ABC (ais batu campur) in Malaysia. It is a mountain of finely shaved ice with condiments like red beans, creamy sweet corn, peanuts, palm nuts and grass jelly serve in a bowl. And layers of colorful syrups, dark brown sugar and evaporated milk.
You can find ais kacang in most open air markets and mall food courts.
8. Apple pie in the USA
You must try apple pie when visiting America. Americans have apple pies during Thanksgiving and all the main holidays, and we eat it with whipped cream or a scoop of ice cream.
9. Gelato in Italy
Italy is home to gelato – Italian ice cream. Made of ingredients like sugar, milk, and cream, Italian ice cream comes in many flavors. There are many gelaterias (gelato shops) that sell factory made gelato with artificial colorings and preservatives. So, look out for those that are artisanal – made with natural ingredients.
Read CN Traveler’s article on How to Spot the Fakes, before leaving for Italy.
10. Bread and butter pudding in England
This classic English dessert is made with leftover bread, butter, raisins, milk, cinnamon, sugar, and eggs. Try it at The English Restaurant on Brush Street in Spitalfields and Comptoir Gourmand in Borough Market in London.