Desserts often end a tasting menu, a set course meal, or a scrumptious feast on a sweet note. Sugar, fruit, chocolate, decadent – these are words commonly associated with desserts. What if the conventional flavors and ingredients were challenged to create something different?
Taking unconventional savory ingredients and reconstructing them into dessert form is not new. In the quest for product differentiation, restaurants, patisserie stores and cafes have been upping their game – pouring investments into research and development to come up with unique flavors for discerning consumers. Japan, a country known for their innovative food products, is one good example. From novel KitKat flavors such as wasabi and green tea, to a range of sweet and savory cup noodle sodas, the Japanese are known for creating plenty of delightful treats that will blow your mind!
Experimental food takes its form everywhere and is a common food trend. From the adorably shaved ice to artisanal ice creams and pastries, anything goes when it comes to desserts. Unusual desserts, with unexpected awesome sweet, savory and salty combos have become ubiquitous and much sought after for a unique experience.
Pastry chefs in Asia have been reinventing Western recipes and creating new wonders with distinctive flavors for centuries, turning out finessed desserts that are as carefully thought-out, unique, and delicious as their savory counterparts. The desserts keep evolving with audacious flavors, enriched textures, and non-traditional ingredients. Here are some delicious lovelies that’ll win your hearts and taste buds!
Petai ice cream: How does a vegetable-ice cream combination sound? Yes, you heard it right! Malaysian ice cream boutique, Frozen has ventured boldly into creating a “stinky” ice cream flavor that the locals just can’t get enough of. They recently introduced Petai to their range of unusual flavors. Petai, also known as bitter or stinky beans, is a favorite among the consumers in Indonesia, Malaysia, and Singapore. It’s commonly used as an ingredient in shrimp and other savory dishes. The frozen dessert is created by infusing freshly chopped petai with vanilla ice cream. Oddly enough, this combination may just be what your taste buds are missing out on. Petai beans are rich in fibre, iron, potassium, and tryptophan, and can help lower blood pressure and blood sugar levels.
Chicken skin and ice cream: Ever thought about pairing your ice cream with a savory topping? Tenderbest Makcik Tuckshop, located at Jalan Kayu, Singapore sells Fried Chicken Aisi Kreme Cup. What’s in it? Scoops of vanilla ice cream, drizzled with caramel sauce made with chicken stock, a secret blend of herbs and spices, and topped with crispy chicken skin that’s akin to a wafer. These ingredients come together nicely to form a blend of flavors that is crispy, crunchy, creamy and sweet all at the same time!
Porridge Sorbet: What chicken noodle soup is to Americans is what rice porridge is to Asians – a soothing comfort food for the soul. In Thailand, the JingJing’s Ice Cream Bar and Cafe’s version is guaranteed to cool you down on a hot day. Their Porridge Sorbet comes with real pickled Chinese olive leaves, and mushrooms braised in sesame oil. And if you’re feeling a little adventurous, you may want to go for the Sriracha Sauce Sorbet. Made from spicy Sriracha sauce, this sorbet comes with a sweet omelette to balance the spice. The café offers many other savory flavors on rotation for customers to discover, such as their Ponzu Sorbet that comes with a slice of pork, and Carbonara Ice Cream that’s topped with crispy bacon.
Salted Egg Ice Cream: All things ‘salted egg’ are sure to be a hit with Asian fans and ice cream is no exception. At the peak of its popularity in 2015, salted egg yolk dishes began sprouting in restaurants and food stalls as locals and tourists braved snaking queues to get a taste of the salted egg goodness. Since then, a lot more items like salted egg chips, salted egg cookies and salted egg nuggets have appeared on supermarket shelves, and now, it is being used in new mediums such as buns, pastries, and desserts. Tom’s Palette created the Salted Egg Yolk Ice Cream flavor twelve years ago and it remains one of the parlor’s most popular signature flavors in Singapore. A perfect balance of sweet and savory, the icy treat that’s made with real salted egg yolks is just wow!
When it comes to desserts, a sweet tooth isn’t a one-size-fits-all. Afterall, one’s tolerance for “too sweet” isn’t the same as another’s. Interestingly, the savory side of ice cream and other frozen desserts is also being explored in creations that take inspiration from popular snacks, umami flavors and vegetable ingredients like pickles, yams, or spinach. Perhaps it’s time to ditch those traditional sweeties and usher in a more complex idea of how we view desserts?