Panna Cotta

If you are a fan of sweet and creamy desserts, then you cannot miss Panna Cotta. This Italian dessert is so simple yet so delicious. When someone mentions Italian desserts, most people will think of sweet dishes such as tiramisu, panettone, or gelato. Little do they know that Panna Cotta is just as delightful as the other desserts on the list, and its recipe requires much lesser ingredients and very little effort.

Panna Cotta’s Origin

Until this day, Panna Cotta’s origin is still a big question. What we know is that this dessert first appeared in the Piedmont region of Northern Italy during the early 1900s. The first person who made Panna Cotta was believed to be a Hungarian woman. Later on, Panna Cotta made the list of the region’s traditional foods. The name Panna Cotta translates to “cooked cream,” and this is exactly what Panna Cotta is made of. It is made of cooked cream along with a few simple ingredients such as gelatin to keep the cream in shape, sugar to sweeten the dessert, and vanilla extract to give Panna Cotta its sweet aroma. According to some sources, Panna Cotta used to be just cooked fresh cream and was eaten with fruits. Then, someone cooked the fresh cream with fishbone to thicken the cream since the fishbone contains gelatin. By the time gelatin sheets and gelatin powder were invented, people began to use store-bought gelatin to make Panna Cotta.

What Makes Panna Cotta Special

Panna Cotta has a distinctive taste. Since it is a combination of cooked sweetened cream with gelatin, it tastes like jello but creamier in texture. The Panna Cotta often comes in various shapes and sizes depending on the cook’s purpose. If you want to share Panna Cotta with your family and friends, you can either pour the Panna Cotta mixture into one big mold or many smaller individual molds with the shape of your choice. Let it cool in the refrigerator for a few hours, cut into smaller parts, and enjoy with fresh fruits or whipped cream on top. If you want to make Panna Cotta for just yourself, you can make just a small batch of Panna Cotta mixture and pour it into smaller containers or molds so that you can eat some and reserve some. Since Panna Cotta is made out of cream, and the amount of sugar in Panna Cotta is much lesser than the amount of sugar in other desserts, the Panna Cotta gets spoiled very easily. Once it is spoiled, you cannot do anything except throw the whole batch away.

Photo by Karly Gomez on Unsplash

Panna Cotta’s Variations

Nowadays, as Panna Cotta gained its popularity, numerous variations have strayed away from the original recipe. To make Panna Cotta more appetizing and appealing to customers, restaurants developed their own Panna Cotta recipes. While the original Panna Cotta was often topped with caramel sauce or fresh fruits, Panna Cotta nowadays can also be topped with strawberry sauce, raspberry sauce, chocolate sauce, and so on. Instead of using only fresh cream, many Panna Cotta recipes today also call for fruit purees or syrup to give Panna Cotta its new flavors and looks.

Other than Italy, many other countries also adopted the Panna Cotta recipe and added their own twists to the list of ingredients. For instance, countries like China and Japan are well-known for their green tea, so they often make Panna Cotta flavored with green tea or matcha. Similar to the Europeans, a lot of Asian customers love chocolate, resulting in restaurants incorporating chocolate into Panna Cotta. In Korea, Panna Cotta often comes in small bottles and is eaten as both a snack and dessert. Bottled Panna Cotta does not have any topping or sauce on top and is eaten by using a small spoon to scoop it out of the bottle. In Vietnam, Panna Cotta is often enjoyed as a dessert. The Vietnamese version of Panna Cotta is slightly more interesting than other versions in my opinion. In Vietnam, people often pour cooked Panna Cotta mixture into square or rectangle pans and let it cool down in the refrigerator. Once cooled, the Panna Cotta is cut into squares or cubes. The Panna Cotta comes in many flavors but lychee is the most popular. To enjoy, Panna Cotta cubes are added into a bowl along with canned lychee, canned fruits of your choice, lychee syrup, ice, and sliced almonds. This dessert is available almost everywhere, from street stands to fine dining restaurants. During the hot summer months, Vietnamese people usually eat this dessert to cool down.

If you have never had Panna Cotta before, try making it today. You can either follow the original simple recipe or more complex recipes that you like.


During Easter, it is no surprise that families around the world prepare all kinds of savory and sweet dishes to celebrate the end of the fast of Lent and the beginning of Easter. While in Western Europe the Hot Cross Buns are a staple sweet dessert that is loved by a lot of people, in Eastern Europe, especially Russia, Kulich is considered an answer to the Hot Cross Buns. In contrast to the Hot Cross Buns, Kulich or Russian Easter Bread is often baked in cylinder molds which give them a cylindrical shape instead of a dome shape. These cylinders of bread are both delicious and meaningful during Easter time.

As you may know, bread plays a very important role in religious ceremonies like Easter in many different countries around the globe. With that being said, Russia is no exception. During Easter, families in the Eastern Orthodox countries bake a variety of bread to celebrate the Resurrection of Christ. In Russia specifically, people bake the semi-sweet, tall, cylinder-shaped kulich to serve on the dinner table alongside Paskha, a traditional Russian fresh cheese pudding. Until this day, the origin of Kulich still remains unknown, but its presence is always a necessity on Eastern European families’ dinner tables during Easter. Kulich is most popular in countries such as Russia, Belarus, Bulgaria, Romania, Georgia, Serbia, and Latvia. Since this bread has been around forever, many families believe that they have the most perfect delicious kulich recipe. Although the ingredients vary depending on each family’s preference, kulich is still considered a very tasty sweet treat with bright notes of citrus and spices.

Kulich is quite similar to the Italian panettone, in my opinion. It is very close to brioche but baked in cylindrical molds instead of being braided like the Pane di Pasqua from Italy. What I find to be the most interesting fact about kulich is that the bread contains a lot of dried fruits, nuts, and candied citrus peels. Based on my experiences, no matter which country a recipe comes from, as long as it incorporates dried fruits, nuts, and candied citrus fruits or peels inside, it will definitely taste good. The reason for this is simply because these ingredients balance out the sweetness of sugar and the creaminess of cream, eggs, or butter used in the recipe. Last but not least, to make kulich even more appealing to eat, it is often flavored with alcohols like rum or brandy, and spices like vanilla and saffron. As I was researching different kulich recipes, I found an interesting fact about another culture that is surprisingly similar to mine. In order to shape kulich into cylinders, people from Russian often use cans such as coffee cans or fruit tins instead of expensive molds. This is simply because people find it is handy to reuse what they have around the house instead of buying more stuff that you may not use more than once per year.

Aside from the delicious stuffing inside the bread, kulich is often decorated with a white sweet glaze on top and sprinkled with colorful candy bits, nuts, or candied citrus rind. What makes this bread special is the symbols it has on it. Similarly to the Paskha, Kulich is often decorated with letters XB, which stand for Христосъ Воскресе or “Christ is Risen.” The white icing on top of Kulich is believed to represent the church’s rooftop covered in snow. Some people also believed that it represents the priest’s hat. Before Kulich is enjoyed by the family, it will be brought along with Paskha and many other savory foods to the church and be blessed by the priest during midnight services.

If you want to try Kulich and cannot find it anywhere near you, try making it this Easter weekend instead.


Today, let’s explore another tasty Easter dessert from one of the Eastern Orthodox countries, Russia. Just like many other Christian families who will be preparing all kinds of food, from savory to sweet, to celebrate the end of Lent and the beginning of Easter, the Orthodox Russians are also making an enormous amount of their own traditional Easter foods. These festive dishes consist of food that was forbidden to be consumed during the fast of Lent. During Holy Week, it is time for families to create a variety of savory dishes as well as sweet dishes. Among the sweet dishes, Paskha is a one-of-a-kind dish that is not only delightful but it also carries hidden meanings and traditional religious symbols related to Easter.

What is Paskha?

Paskha is also called pascha or pasha. It is a traditional sweet dish made from quark or curd cheese. If you have never heard of quark, it is a type of fresh cheese similar to cottage cheese but is often less watery. Although the look is very similar, the taste of curd cheese varies from region to region. In Western Europe, especially in Germany, quark and cottage are often considered to be different types of fresh cheese. Quark is often creamier than cottage cheese. In Eastern Europe, quark and cottage cheese are considered the same thing, but in Russia specifically, quark is much drier, and its texture is much grainier. Since milk products have been consumed for thousands of years, other countries have also created similar fresh cheese that is relatively similar to quark. In India, there is paneer, and in the Iberian Peninsular as well as some Latin American regions, there is queso fresco.

If you are a fan of cheesecake, then paskha will definitely steal your heart. This dessert is very similar to a no-bake cheesecake while it does not have a graham crust at the bottom. What makes Paskha’s taste more appealing than a cheesecake is that it contains dried fruit bits, nuts, and citrus zest. Usually, I find that a cheesecake is too rich in texture. It often makes me feel full too quickly before I could finish a slice. Although I mentioned that Paskha is similar to a cheesecake, the process of making paskha is somewhat different. In the traditional method, paskha is made in a mould. The mould is a wooden mold that has special symbols carved on the inside. Nowadays, some people also use a new flower pot or a plastic mould to create paskha’s unique shape. After the making process, paskha is often decorated with candied fruits or dried fruits.

Photo by Julia Frey on Vikalinka

Its Meanings

Even though paskha is a simple dish to serve on Easter, it also has many different hidden meanings. First of all, paskha is made out of fresh cheese, and its white color represents the purity of Christ and the Paschal Lamb. Secondly, the symbols carved on the inside of the mould are letter X and B which stands for Христосъ Воскресе, or “Christ is Risen.” Lastly, the mould is shaped like a pyramid which represents the Church. Some also said that the mould’s shape represents the Tomb of Christ. Therefore, all of the religious decorations of Paskha symbolize Jesus Christ’s Passion and Resurrection.

According to my friends from Russia, on Saturday afternoon, their family will pack all kinds of food, such as paskha, kulich, sausage, hard-boiled eggs, cabbage, horseradish, etc, in straw baskets before heading to the church for the midnight Easter service. During the midnight Easter service, the food will be blessed by a priest and later enjoyed by the family along with vodka and grape wine. To best serve paskha, the Russians often spread a generous amount of it on a slice of kulich, Russian Easter bread.

If paskha sounds interesting to you, let’s try making it this Easter weekend to share with your family or friends.


As Easter is around the corner, let’s explore the wonderful world of Easter desserts. Easter is the most important festival in Christianity because it celebrates the resurrection of Jesus Christ. Christian tradition holds that all of humanity’s sins were paid for by Jesus’s sacrifice, and this also means that his resurrection represents the hope of salvation. To celebrate this day, different countries around the world have created their own unique celebration and food that represented not only their beliefs but also their cultures. As to complete a perfect Easter dinner, there must always be some sweet treats to share with family and friends. Today, let’s explore an iconic Easter dessert from Italy, Pane di Pasqua.

What is Pane di Pasqua?

Pane di Pasqua or Italian Easter Bread is a light, eggy, and slightly sweet brioche bread often formed into wreaths or braided and flavored with the bursting aroma of citrus and spices. Pane di Pasqua always looks festive and bright. Aside from its crisp notes of citrus and subtle notes of spices, Pane di Pasqua always has a special additional ingredient embedded on it, colorfully painted eggs. After the eggs are colored, they are placed into the raw dough, and together they are baked in the oven until the bread is golden brown. 

Its Meanings

Since Italy is one of the world’s most famous culinary destinations, Italians love to celebrate the country’s holidays with food. After the period of lent, people will celebrate Easter Sunday by splurging and indulging. Of all the good food that is enjoyed around Easter, Pane di Pasqua is the one that represents some very special and meaningful symbols. First of all, bread has always had an incredible significance around many cultures’ Easter tables. For centuries, bread has been known as the prime source of life. During the process of making Pane di Pasqua, three pieces of dough are braided together to represent the Holy Trinity. The bread is baked in the shape of a wreath which represents the crown of thorns that Jesus Christ wore at the crucifixion. Lastly, colorful eggs are placed directly into the dough which represents the symbol of new life. By the time the baking process is finished, depending on each family’s preference, Pane di Pasqua can be glazed with a sugary glaze and sprinkled with nonpareils.

Its Uniqueness

What makes Pane di Pasqua stand out from the others is its unique flavor. The main ingredients that make up this bread’s one-of-a-kind scent are the combination of bright, springy orange juice and anise. These two ingredients always work very well together, and as a result, each bite into this sweet and fluffy bread will give you joy and great satisfaction. For those who are not a fan of anise, you will not have to worry because after the bread is baked, the flavor of anise will become very mellow, and it will just leave a hint of spice in the bread. If you still do not want to add any anise into your bread, you can use cinnamon, nutmeg, or vanilla extract. Though I personally love the smell of anise, I find that cinnamon, nutmeg, and vanilla extract will work just fine as they can pair really well with orange juice. Last but not least, to make Pane di Pasqua smell extra bright and citrusy for springtime, add some fresh orange zest into the dough. Since the main flavor of this bread is orangey, there is no such thing as too much orange.

Have you had Pane di Pasqua before? If you have not, let’s try making it this Easter weekend.


If you have been to Japan or have heard of this wonderful country, then you may know of a delicious type of cake that Japan is very famous for, Japanese rice cake, also known as Mochi. Mochi is a rice cake that is made of steamed glutinous rice. It is Japan’s staple food, and it is used as the main ingredient in a lot of different dishes in Japanese cuisine including main dishes and desserts.

The History of Mochi

Just like many other Asian desserts, mochi’s origin is unknown. Since rice has been around forever and is the main ingredient in every Asian culture, a lot of different Asian countries, especially East and Southeast Asian countries such as China, Japan, Korea, Taiwan, and Vietnam, incorporated rice in their traditional dishes. Mochi was believed to be created in China then widely adopted and modified by other neighboring countries. Japan and Korea both have been known for their delicious chewy mochi. As early as the tenth century, mochi has been used as an imperial offering in religious ceremonies. In Japan, mochi is also used as a treat when the Japanese celebrate their New Year. This tradition is believed to be started from the Heian Period in Japan, which was between the years of 794 to 1192.

How Is Mochi Made?

The process of making mochi is pretty simple. First, we soak glutinous rice overnight, then we steam it until it is fully cooked. Since glutinous rice has a very high content of gluten and sugar, it will become sticky once steamed. In the traditional way, mochi is made by continuously pounding cooked sticky rice in a wooden or stone mortar. The mortar used in this process is not an ordinary one. Instead, it is an oversized mortar that is almost waist-high standing on the ground. After sticky rice is cooked, we put it in the mortar and pound on it using a wooden mallet. This process takes some time and a lot of effort, but it is worth it. In Japan, there is a ceremony called “mochitsuki” which means “pounding mochi.” This ceremony often attracts a lot of people to come and watch since its process is unique. There will be two people, one will keep on pounding and another one will turn the mochi and drizzle water on it so it can be moist and pliable. The pairs must work in sync or the one who turns the mochi will get his hand smashed by the person who pounds. Once the pounding process is done, the mochi becomes very smooth and stretchy. It will then be divided into smaller pieces and shaped into round semi-flat domes.

Daifuku Mochi – Photo by Rachelle on Bear Naked Food

Variations of Mochi

In Japan, mochi is used in a wide variety of dishes from savory to sweet. For instance, in a savory dish known as Chikara Udon, pieces of toasted mochi are added on top. Chikara udon is an udon noodle soup dish made of udon noodles, kelp and bonito broth, and mochi on top. As in desserts, the Japanese invented a lot of different dishes with mochi. The most common type of mochi dessert you can find in Japan as well as in Asian supermarkets in the United States is daifuku mochi, which means mochi stuffed with a sweet filling, usually red bean paste.

In China and Taiwan, mochi is often coated in coconut flakes, peanut powder, or black sesame powder and is served as dessert. The mochi can also be stuffed with a sweet paste such as red bean paste or black sesame paste. 

In Vietnam, there is a variation of mochi that is often eaten as a savory dish called “bánh giầy.” Unlike the Japanese or Chinese mochi, the Vietnamese variation of mochi is a little bit thicker in texture but still as smooth and stretchy. The banh giay can be eaten as is or with a thick slice of Vietnamese ham. It is perfect for breakfast.

If you have not tried mochi before, try it some days when you have a chance. It is very delicious and available in almost every Asian supermarket.

Nama Chocolate

What is Nama Chocolate?

If you are a fan of chocolate and you have never heard of or never had Nama chocolate before, then you are missing out. Unlike any other type of chocolate, Nama chocolate is a form of chocolate ganache invented in Japan in the late 1980s. It is made of fresh cream and melted high-quality chocolate. After the mixture solidifies, the block of chocolate will then be cut into bite-size rectangles and dusted with a generous amount of cocoa powder on top.

What Makes Nama Chocolate Special?

What makes Nama chocolate stand out from the rest is that its recipe requires the use of high-quality chocolate instead of regular baking chocolate, and super fresh cream from Hokkaido, Japan. The original Nama chocolate comes from Hokkaido’s capital city, Sapporo. If you have not already known this, Hokkaido is the second-largest and northernmost island in Japan. It has much cooler climates as well as wonderful natural terrain which make it an ideal location for sourcing fresh dairy products. Hokkaido’s milk and cream are said to be so smooth and rich that the creaminess coats your mouth. The name Nama Chocolate translates to raw chocolate which refers to its pureness and freshness.

Photo by Jun on Food52

Nama Chocolate’s History

According to multiple sources and the locals, the person who invented Nama chocolate is believed to be pastry chef Masakazu Kobayashi. When Kobayashi opened his first confectionery shop in Shonan, he introduced to customers his wonderful creation, a type of chocolate that is a demigod of solid and liquid chocolate. Nama chocolate has been loved since. After Kobayashi joined Japan’s sweet snack giant, Meiji, he introduced a new line of chocolate called Melty Kiss, which is a more affordable type of Nama chocolate. The reason they named it Melty Kiss is because the chocolate melts very easily. As soon as you put it in your mouth, a cube of Melty Kiss will melt immediately, giving you a burst of flavors. When Melty Kiss was first introduced, it was made available only in the winter months. Nowadays, you can find little boxes of Melty Kiss sold at Asian supermarkets with a wide range of flavors.

After Melty Kiss became a big hit in the sweet market, Royce’s has been actively making Nama chocolate from the 90s until now. As a semi-high-end confectionery company, Royce’s has a lot of different lines of products, but they are famous for their wide range of Nama chocolate. When they first started, Royce’s took orders from customers and delivered the chocolate to them. Today, as the company has become a giant in Nama chocolate, Royce’s has multiple locations around Japan as well as in other countries. Royce’s Nama chocolate comes in a lot of different flavors, including alcoholic flavors.

Nama Chocolate Makes the Perfect Gift

I still remember the first time I received a box of Nama chocolate as a gift from my cousin. He told me that this chocolate will steal my heart, and it sure did. My entire life, I have tried many different types of chocolate from affordable ones to more expensive selections, but I have never tasted something as delicious and wonderful as Nama chocolate. If you get a chance to visit Japan, you will see Nama chocolate shops at many different locations, especially the airports. Whether it is a planned or a last-minute gift, a box of Nama chocolate will definitely bring a smile to the person who eats it. If you want to try out Nama chocolate or to buy it as a gift, Royce’s website provides many different buying options.

A box of Royce’s Nama chocolate contains 20 pieces, and trust me, it is enough to satisfy a group of 4-5 people. Since the chocolate is so rich, I recommend that you take just a small bite at a time to enjoy it. If you are a chocolate lover and interested in Nama chocolate, go buy it now to share with your friends or family and put a smile on their faces.


Talking of dessert, one should never miss Kheer, an Indian traditional Sweet Rice Pudding. This dessert is very simple to make, and it has been around forever. In India, kheer is one dessert that almost everyone grew up eating on a regular basis. Though this dessert is simple, it is served on almost every special occasion such as festivals or celebrations. According to every Indian I have met, kheer is the dessert that reminds them of home.

What is Kheer?

Kheer or payasam is a traditional rice pudding made for a lot of different occasions in Indian families. The word kheer or payasam is often used interchangeably as both are derived from the Sanskrit terms for milk. Basically, kheer is basmati rice cooked in milk and sugar to perfection. Although it is that simple, Kheer has long been a part of the ancient Indian diet, and its origin is dated back to around the fourteenth century. Back then, kheer was just as popular a dessert as it is nowadays. Unlike many other popular desserts around the world that started as a fancy dish to serve the royalty, kheer started as a simple sweet treat for everyone. Back then, millets were used instead of basmati rice. It was a very common practice at the time to use millets to prepare different confections. In addition to rice/millets, sugar, and milk, other spices, such as cardamom and cinnamon have also been used to create the aromatic flavor in kheer.

The reason kheer has been widely adopted as a sweet dish around the country was because of its appearance as well as its ingredients. Kheer’s popularity was partly associated with its color and components. According to a religious belief, rice was known for life-sustaining qualities. Its color is white, which represents the symbol of purity and divinity. A lot of the time, kheer is served in many different religious rituals around the country. Another reason Indian people loved kheer is that its ingredients can be found anywhere. No matter where you live, it does not have to be India, you will always be able to find ingredients to make kheer. Since its main ingredients are rice, milk, and sugar, you can easily find them in any country. For its flavor, if you cannot find cardamom, which is rare since cardamom is a popular ingredient, you can substitute it with cinnamon, nutmeg, saffron, pistachios, or even almonds. Nowadays, kheer has a lot of variations thanks to the creativity of chefs around the world. Instead of using white rice, we can also use carrots or tapioca pearls to make kheer. 

Last but not least, another reason I find kheer to be very convenient is that it can be both vegetarian or vegan. In the traditional recipe, kheer is already a vegetarian dish. It only has rice, milk, sugar, and spices. However, nowadays as more and more people are following different diets, they can easily substitute the original ingredients with their ingredients of choice to make the perfect kheer to their taste. If you are vegan, full-fat milk or cream will not make your list, so you can just use nut milk, such as oat milk, almond milk, coconut milk, or even macadamia milk, instead. If you cannot eat sugar for whatever reason, dietary sweeteners such as truvia, equal, or sweet’n low will work just fine. 

I still remember the first time I had kheer and immediately fell in love with it. My co-worker brought kheer to our company’s party, and everyone loved it. She used truvia instead of sugar so people who had diabetes were still able to enjoy her homemade kheer. According to her, she missed her family in India, and the work-family was her second family, so she decided to bring this sweet treat to share with everyone.

Have you had kheer before? If not, try it some days. You can either order it from any Indian restaurant, or you can make it at home.

Gulab Jamun

Whether you have always been a fan of Indian food or are just now trying it out, this is a sweet dessert you must try at least once in your life. If you have already known of famous delicious Indian main dishes such as chicken tikka masala, garlic naan, or vegetable samosas, then you cannot miss this mouth-watering dessert, Gulab Jamun.

What is Gulab Jamun?

Gulab jamun is a beloved Indian dessert consisting of deep-fried milk balls soaked in aromatic syrup. According to some of my friends who came from India, this dessert is believed to be dated back to medieval India when it was invented as a delicacy to serve the emperor. Not surprisingly, it earned the emperor’s approval. The name Gulab Jamun also has a very interesting meaning. The word Gulab technically means floral-water, or in this case, rose-water because the syrup to soak these deep-fried balls into is infused with rose-water. The word Jamun translates to black plum. It is obvious because after deep-frying, the dough balls have a rounded shape and dark brown color. Nowadays, this dessert keeps winning a lot of hearts and minds of eaters from around the world. As long as there is an Indian restaurant, there is Gulab Jamun on the dessert menu.

What is Gulab Jamun Made Of?

In almost every Indian recipe, there are many different types of spices used. This gave each dish its unique flavor and appearance. The main ingredient in Gulab Jamun is milk-solid or milk powder, flour, and spices. Although there are a lot of different recipes teaching how to make Gulab Jamun, we can also buy premixed Gulab Jamun powder from Indian supermarkets. 

In the traditional way, the most important ingredient to prepare Gulab Jamun is milk-solid or khoya. Khoya is also known by other names such as khoa or mawa. Nowadays, in order to save time, most recipes recommend buying khoya from the store. If you want to make it at home, it would take around two hours or more since khoya is milk simmered on low heat until all of the water evaporates. Since khoya is nothing but milk-solid, we need to have something added to help the balls hold their shapes in the fryer. Thus, we can either use flour or semolina, which is a form of coarsely milled wheat, to mix with the milk-solid. The use of either flour or semolina also depends on each chef’s preference. If you want thicker and more chewy Gulab Jamun, you should choose flour to add to the milk solid. Since semolina has a relatively larger grain size, adding it into the milk-solid will make the Gulab Jamun more tender after deep-fried. To prevent the semolina from soaking up too much moisture out of the milk-solid, you can soak it in milk before adding it to the mixture. Other than the main ingredients, we also need to add milk or cream, and clarified butter into the mixture to create a paste then shaping them into little balls and deep-fry.

The next important part of Gulab Jamun is its syrup. To make good syrup, most recipes call for cardamom, saffron, cloves, and rose water. On medium-low heat, add sugar, water, and spices except for rose-water or you will risk burning off its aroma. Simmer for some time until the liquid thickens. Add a tiny amount of lemon juice before simmering to keep the sugary liquid from crystalizing. Once the syrup is done, let it cool down, add rose-water and the Gulab Jamun balls. Let them soak for at least four hours or overnight.

According to my friends, gulab jamun reminds them of sweet memories spent around their family. Since this dessert is super delicious, easy to make, and affordable, a lot of people choose gulab jamun to be their dessert of choice in family gatherings. 

If you have not already tried Gulab Jamun, be sure to order them the next time you visit an Indian restaurant.


What is baklava?

Baklava is a dessert made of multiple layers of phyllo-pastry, stuffed with a wide variety of crushed nuts, and soaked in honey or syrup. This delightful dessert is gaining popularity these days because it has won the hearts and minds of many sweet-toothed eaters around the world. What makes this dessert special is that it has a crunchy outside with a delicious nutty and aromatic stuffing inside. To reach this level of perfection, baklava had been through a very long history that no one could actually tell its origin.

The History of Baklava

Until this day, we have known baklava as a traditional Turkish dessert or sweet treat. However, when it comes to baklava’s origin, the debate never really ends. The history of baklava is quite controversial since the recipe has been adopted and developed by so many different nations within the Middle East and the Mediterranean. Each nation contributed some adjustments into this dessert that resulted in its delicious taste we know today. These nations have one unique thing in common, however; they were once part of the Ottoman Empire. This somehow explained the reason Turkey claimed baklava to be their national dessert.

Developments of Baklava’s Recipe

In the fifteenth century, after the Ottomans invaded Constantinople, baklava became a delicacy among the rich. There is a common expression in Turkey say “I am not rich enough to eat baklava every day”. The phyllo-pastry that makes baklava’s outside is believed to be a creation of the Greeks. In its original form, baklava’s outside was bread-like. After the Greeks took the recipe back to Athens, they created a technique to roll the doll as thin as a leaf. The word “phyllo” means leaf. 

Other than the Greek, many other nations contributed to the recipe of baklava. When the Armenian discovered baklava while trading on the Spice and Silk routes east of the Ottoman Empire, they added cinnamon and clove to the texture. Further east, the Arabs were known for their creation of aromatic essences. By the time they discovered baklava, they added rose-water and orange blossom water into the recipe. Instead of soaking the baklava in honey, they used rose-water or orange blossom water infused syrup. This gave the dessert a new and delightful taste.

After the Arabs, there came the Persians. Persia was famous for jasmine flowers, and they took advantage of one of their country’s greatest resources. As the Persians discovered baklava, they added jasmine essence into the stuffing which gave it a floral note when eating. The Persians also cut the baklava into diamond shape which made it look more appealing. Among the big improvements, there were also many different changes and variations to the recipe in many Middle East nations. For instance, the Afghans cut baklava into triangles and garnished with crushed pistachio. Azerbaijanis garnished baklava with almond or walnut. As their national delicacy, the Turkish chefs have mastered the art of baklava over the years. Baklava in Turkey are made in all shapes and sizes, and have many different stuffing options. Very commonly in a Turkish bakery, we can find a fresh patch of baklava soaked in floral syrup and topped with a thick, green dust of crushed pistachios.

If you have not tried baklava before, try it some days. Be aware, these tasty little bite-size treats are very addictive. Once you felt in love with them, you would want to have them everyday. If you ever visit the Reno area in Northern Nevada, stop by Aladdin’s Market & Kitchen for some fresh and delicious baklava.

Avocado for Dessert, Anyone?

Nowadays, the World loves avocados. Avocados are used in almost every healthy dish for they are often known as nutritious and clean. A cup (150 grams) of avocado contains at least 10 grams of fiber, 3 grams of protein, zero cholesterol, and much other healthy nutrition such as Vitamin A, C, and D, potassium, and magnesium. Most of the time, avocados are used as a topping for salad, sandwiches, and many other dishes. They can be smashed, sliced, cubed, or even pureed. While most people know avocados as a healthy and delicious topping, they may not know that avocados can be used to make dessert too.

Born and raised in Vietnam, after I came to the United States, it took me a while to adjust to the cultural differences. I still remember the first time my co-workers offered me some freshly sliced avocado slices to eat along with my sandwich. I was so surprised and thought they were either joking or misspoke and meant that the avocado slices were for me to eat after the sandwich. By the time I finished eating, I looked for sugar to put on the avocado, and my co-workers looked at me very weirdly. After I told them avocados are to be eaten as a dessert, they then explained to me that people here put avocados in main dishes instead of putting them in a dessert. 

Although I know that avocado is a healthy fruit, during my childhood, I have never seen a person who eats avocados in the main dish. To me, the avocados have a mushy texture and they taste unappealingly bland. I guess this was the reason why I always see my parents and other people put condensed milk or sugar on avocado before smashing them to serve as dessert. 

Avocado Dessert in Vietnam

In Vietnam, there are a lot of avocados being grown in the highlands. Since they are such a commodity, they are available year-round. However, the best time to enjoy avocado dessert in Vietnam is during summer, and this is not because of the fruit’s quality. The reason the Vietnamese people eat avocado dessert during summer is that this dessert is usually served on the street or in restaurants to combat the steamy summer weather.

Avocado dessert in Vietnam has two forms, mashed or smoothie. The reason people make this dessert into two different forms is that some people like to drink it instead of eating it. In the mashed version of the avocado dessert, the avocado pulps are scoped out and roughly mashed. Since this was meant to be eaten, we don’t mash the avocado too much to reserve the chunky texture. There will be either sugar or condensed milk added depending on the customer’s preference. The last step is to add ice. The ice can be crushed or cubed.

In the smoothie version, the preparing process is the same as the mashed version, however, the combination of avocado, condensed milk, and ice will be blended into a smoothie. Usually, the smoothie version contains less ice since we don’t want the dessert to be too icy. To make this dessert a little bit fancier, some vendors add durian pulps into it. Eating or drinking avocado dessert on a hot summer day is the best thing ever. This dessert can also be made in a large patch to share with family and friends. Since avocado is a healthy fruit, this dessert will be a perfect choice in gatherings especially when you have friends who are on a strict diet. 

Have you had an avocado dessert before? If you have not, you can grab a ripe avocado, mash it up, add some sweetener of your choice, add some ice, mix them all up, and enjoy.