• Ines Han

Traditional Sweets and Desserts

Happy Valentine’s Day!

What crosses your mind when you think of Valentine’s Day? You may think love, smooches, and roses but for me always chocolates and candies pop up first.

For our first international article, and to celebrate Valentine’s Day with you all, I would like to introduce traditional sweets from our backgrounds.

USA Baked Alaska

Baked Alaska may not be "traditional", but it still has a long history! This is a cake, classically combining 3 layers: sponge cake, ice cream, and meringue topping which is applied in decorative swirls, covering those layers underneath. It is then baked in a hot oven, like its name, until the meringue is golden brown, all while keeping the ice cream frozen still. The meringue acts as an insulator around the ice cream so it won't melt, but it should be set in the freezer long enough beforehand. There are many stories on how it is invented and why it is named "Baked Alaska", but it is said that American classic Baked Alaska originated from Delmonico’s Restaurant in New York City in 1876, and was created in honour of the newly acquired territory of Alaska.

China Yue Bing Yue bing, mooncake in English, is a Chinese bakery traditionally eaten during the Mid-Autumn Festival, which is about lunar appreciation and moon watching. Yue bing is offered between friends or family gatherings while celebrating the festival when the moon is supposedly at its fullest and brightest. Most of the traditional mooncakes are round which symbolizes completeness and reunion. Yue bing can differ from filling to crust. Typical sweet fillings include lotus seed paste, sweet bean paste, or red date (jujube) paste that covers one or more mini salted and cured duck egg yolks. Another traditional filling is mixed nuts and dried fruit. Some popular savoury fillings include ham, Chinese sausage, roast pork and radish.

India Gulab Jamun

Gulab jamun is one of Indian's favourite desserts. The word ‘Gulab’ was derived from the Persian word ‘gol’ and ‘ab’ which respectively meant flower and water which referred to rose water scented syrup. It is made mainly from milk solids, traditionally from khoya, which is milk reduced to the consistency of a soft dough. It is fried golden, dipped in saffron induced sugar syrup, and often garnished with dried nuts such as almonds and cashews to enhance flavour. Gulab jamun is a dessert often eaten at festivals, birthdays, or major celebrations such as marriages, the Muslim celebrations of Eid ul-Fitr and Eid al-Adha, and the Hindu festival of Diwali. There are various types of gulab jamun and each has a distinct taste and appearance.

Korea Yugwa

Yugwa is a traditional Korean dessert mixing glutinous rice four with honey, water, and cheongju (rice wine) to make a dough. The mixture is commonly made into ladyfinger bread-like shapes that are steamed, deep-fried and then coated in jocheong (grain honey), honey, sesame seeds, pine nuts, cinnamon, or puffed rice. These crispy treats were once reserved only for the nobility and were a traditional dessert served on Seollal (Korean New Year). Yugwa is originally white, but natural ingredients such as mugwort, sweet pumpkin, and black rice are often used for variations in colour. In the process of making yugwa, spices like ginger are also added to enhance its flavour.

Japan Daifuku

Daifuku is a small round mochi (glutinous rice cake) stuffed with sweet fillings, most commonly anko which is a sweetened red bean paste made from azuki beans. It's a popular traditional Japanese confection and often served with green tea. There are various fillings such as whole pieces of fruit, mixtures of fruit and anko, or crushed melon paste, and some of them are covered with powdered sugar or cocoa powder. Ichigo daifuku is one of the popular choices among them which is stuffed with sweet bean paste and strawberry, which may also include whipped cream that gives a creamy texture. One interesting way commonly eaten in Japan is to toast it in the oven before serving it with soy sauce and sugar.

Mexico Nieve de Garrafa

Nieve de garrafa is a Mexican sorbet that refers to the big wooden tub it's traditionally made in. Nieves are considered an artisan, hand-churned ice-cream prepared in a stainless- steel cylinder properly known as “garrafas”. This is made from fresh fruit mashed together with sugar, water, salt, and ice; no dairy in sight! They come in an infinity of flavors such as mamey, pitaya, and flor de Jamaica since there are no limits in ingredients. Nieve de garrafa relies solely on its traditional methods and tools for the peculiar texture. This means that large-scale production is impossible without the use of preservatives which would result in losing its characteristic texture. This is why Nieve production is considered in danger of extinction.