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Blood orange kakigori at Lobster Club
Blood orange kakigori at Lobster Club
Gary He

20 Excellent Asian Desserts to Try in NYC

Traditional and contemporary takes on kakigori, halo halo, cheesecake, and more

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Blood orange kakigori at Lobster Club
| Gary He

In most East Asian and Southeast Asian countries, traditional dessert is not the decadent, butter-and-cream affair that it is in Western cuisine. Often times, the last course of the meal is refreshing and cooling, employing flavors like green tea, taro root, and tropical fruit to help cleanse the palate.

But with so many shades of Asian restaurants popping up across town in the last decade — from hyper-traditional to distinctly Asian-American — New York’s best Asian desserts have come to comprise new trends from the Asian continent as well as genre-defying creations that marry classic flavors with pastry technique. From the staples of Chinatown and Flushing to the new-school cakes and cones that have taken over Instagram, these are the Asian desserts to track down in NYC.

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Note: Restaurants on this map are listed geographically.

1. Kulu Desserts

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37-06 Prince St
Flushing, NY 11354
(718) 886-3302
Visit Website

Sago, or tapioca pudding, is a popular dessert in the Philippines and other parts of Southeast Asia. At Kulu Desserts, which has locations in Brooklyn, Elmhurst, and Flushing, these tiny tapioca balls appear in various puddings and cold desserts with fresh fruit, but it’s the warmed taro sago — thickened with sweet coconut milk — that rises above. Served in a bowl like a hot soup, it’s a soul-warming sweet treat ideal for a chilly day.

2. Soy Bean Chan Flower & Gift Shop

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135-26 Roosevelt Ave
Flushing, NY 11354
(718) 321-3982
Visit Website

In Asia, bean curd is a versatile ingredient to be used in dishes both savory and sweet, and indeed that’s how it’s served as this flower shop-meets-tofu joint in Flushing. While the salty version of the dish, called dou fu hua, comes with dried shrimp and pickled mustard greens, its sweet counterpart soaks the silky curd with the traditional sweet ginger syrup. It’s a crazy affordable option — each cup costs just $1.75.

Soy Bean Chan Flower & Gift Shop Jessica N./Yelp

3. Fu Run

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40-09 Prince St
Flushing, NY 11354
(718) 321-1363

Interactive food lovers will enjoy the dessert offering at this Flushing mainstay specializing in northern Chinese, or Dongei, cuisine. Here, diners make their own ba si using soft chunks of taro dipped in molten sugar. The taro is twirled until its coat of sugar becomes thin and stringy, then dipped into a bowl of ice water before eating. The result is a nutty, crunchy candied-shell morsel that’ll grant reprieve from the mouth-searing heat of the dishes that preceded it.

Fu Run Hu L./Yelp

4. Lady M Cake Boutique

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41 E 78th St
New York, NY 10075
(212) 452-2222
Visit Website

Ahead of the wildfire popularity of Japanese-French desserts, international chain Lady M is best known for its Japanese-accented take on a multi-layer crêpe cake. For the Instagram-friendly dish, 20 thin crêpes are sandwiched with green-tea-infused pastry cream and finished off with powdered matcha. There are additional locations spreading south throughout Manhattan.

5. The Lobster Club

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Read Review |
98 E 53rd St
New York, NY 10022
(212) 375-9001
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This brightly hued, Japanese-inspired brasserie is part of Major Food Group’s big-ticket takeover of the Seagram Building. Style and whimsy are served in equal measures here, like in pastry chef Stephanie Prida’s foot-tall riff on the traditional kakigori shaved ice that splits the flavor between cream and blood orange. It’s the clear standout on the menu, filling the craving for nostalgia and sugar all at once.

6. Tito Rad's Grill

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49-10 Queens Blvd
Woodside, NY 11377
(718) 205-7299
Visit Website

An extensive menu of grilled meats and garlic rice draw crowds of Filipino families to this 12-year-old Woodside standby, which offers the traditional style of cooking from the owners’ home province of Cebu. Desserts are wide-ranging, from plain scoops of purple ube ice cream to mais con hielo — sweet corn kernels, shaved ice, sugar, and milk — and buko pandan, a creamy fruit salad of green jelly, coconut, and all-purpose cream. Most desserts are priced at less than $5.

Tito Rad’s Grill Jenny S./Yelp

7. Paris Baguette

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303 Park Ave S
New York, NY 10010
(212) 677-0404
Visit Website

One of South Korea’s biggest bakery franchises, Paris Baguette is known for its French-inspired pastries, sandwiches, and original coffee beverages. At the four New York locations, the bakery sells an array of large cakes and small pastries, including its own versions of the cronut (and a “cruffin”). The clear star of the menu, however, is the cheesecake, which fuses a sponge-y yellow cake texture with creamy cheesecake filling.

8. Spot Dessert Bar

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13 St Marks Pl
New York, NY 10003
(212) 677-5670
Visit Website

The novelty of desserts that ooze when broken never seems to wear off, especially not at this Thai-owned dessert bar on St. Mark’s Place. While cookies, macarons, and ice creams are available for takeout, it’s the dessert “tapas” menu that fully spotlights chef Max Wittawat’s creativity, whether it’s warm puff pastry topped with milk ice cream and corn flakes, or matcha cakes filled with matcha custard. The shop’s pièce de résistance, however, is a time-honored holdover from previous years — a simple dark chocolate cake filled with green tea ganache and served with a side of green tea ice cream.

9. Little Tong Noodle Shop

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177 1st Avenue
New York, NY 10003
(929) 367-8664
Visit Website

A front runner in the current rice noodle soup craze in NYC, Little Tong serves an excellent dessert beyond its excellent mi xian, the rice noodle soup of the Yunnan province. Milk tea crème brûlée is worth the visit alone. Made with pu erh tea, which is famed in Yunnan, chef-owner Simon Tong tops it with marinated peaches and basil tips, well offsetting the rich cream.

Little Tong Noodle Shop Nick Solares

10. Cha-An Teahouse

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230 E 9th St floor 2
New York, NY 10003
(212) 228-8030
Visit Website

Japanese tea is the focus of this second-floor, Kyoto-style teahouse, which opened in the East Village nearly 15 years ago to a predominantly Japanese clientele. Today, Cha-An’s kitchen also deals in savory dishes and desserts, ranging from black sesame crème brûlée to a standout kakigori. The latter, a fair-weather, shaved-ice dessert dating back to the 11th century, is offered here in a fittingly traditional iteration with matcha syrup and condensed milk poured over a mound of hand-shaved ice, red bean paste, and glutinous rice mochi.

11. Meet Fresh

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37 Cooper Sq
New York, NY 10003
(646) 371-9011
Visit Website

Taiwan’s popular sweets chain made headlines when it landed in New York’s East Village early 2018 with its extensive, 100-dish list of desserts. These range from taro balls and sweet tofu pudding to shaved ice and hot almond soup. The name nods to the restaurant’s commitment to natural, fresh takes on these traditional Asian desserts — the website touts “no preservatives, colorings, or artificial flavoring.”

12. Hanoi House

Copy Link
Read Review |
119 St Marks Pl
New York, NY 10009
(212) 995-5010
Visit Website

In tropical Vietnam, chè — a category of spoonable dessert often made with coconut milk, grass jellies, beans, and fruit — is a popular way to beat the heat. Ben Lowell and Sara Leveen, owners of this East Village Hanoian canteen, recognized the dish’s compatibility with American ice cream sundae formats. Here, it’s served up in a tall glass with shaved ice, crowning a mix of black grass jelly, banana, and lychee with a scoop of lychee black sesame ice cream from Il Laboratorio del Gelato. Only a dozen of these are made night.

13. Pig and Khao

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68 Clinton St
New York, NY 10002
(212) 920-4485
Visit Website

The Philippines’ version of shaved-ice dessert is halo halo, a creamy, customizable coconut milk-based treat topped with ube, or purple yam, ice cream. At Pig & Khao, chef Leah Cohen gives her halo halo — which translates to “mix-mix” — a personal spin, with caramelized plantains, shredded macapuno (the soft endosperm of a coconut), and thick cubes of housemade flan. Served in a big soup bowl, it’s a lot of dessert for one person.

14. Kam Hing Coffee Shop

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118 Baxter St
New York, NY 10013
(212) 925-0425

The coffee and service at this Chinatown institution may not be stellar, but the draw here is the sponge cakes. New Kam Hing is best known for these airy, subtly-sweet pastries, which are baked fresh daily and come in flavors like matcha and chocolate chip. Bonus: Each one is sold for less than a dollar.

Kam Hing Coffee Shop Tina C./Yelp

15. Taiyaki NYC

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119 Baxter St
New York, NY 10013
(212) 966-2882
Visit Website

This Chinatown shop’s taiyaki — a traditional Japanese dessert that fills a fish-shaped ice cream cone with red bean paste — has been a bona fide Instagram sensation from the day it landed in New York in 2016. Here, the fish sports a large mouth to hold Japanese-inspired soft serve ice cream flavors like matcha and black sesame. While the dessert has been around for a while, Taiyaki NYC has commandeered its presence in the city with a strong social media campaign.

16. Patisserie Tomoko

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568 Union Ave
Brooklyn, NY 11211
(718) 388-7121
Visit Website

French technique meets Japanese flavors at this Williamsburg dessert counter from chef Tomoko Kato. Cookies (yuzu, black sesame) and macarons (green tea, lavender mint) are available at the counter, along with several signature pastries including a standout salty caramel nut tart and yuzu mousse cake. Adventurous guests can dine in for a highly recommended, affordable dessert tasting of two courses for $12 and three for $16.

17. Fay Da Bakery

Copy Link
83 Mott St
New York, NY 10013
(212) 791-3884
Visit Website

Although the original location of this 27-year-old Chinatown bakery closed, its myriad other locations will continue selling its vast selection of beloved desserts. On the traditional end, find festive holiday mooncakes and mochi balls with various fillings, while more contemporary options include the crowd-pleasing buttercream and coconut buns and matcha cheesecake. For special occasions, the bakery also offers whimsically designed custom cakes that can be ordered for pickup.

18. The Original Chinatown Ice Cream Factory

Copy Link
63 65 Bayard Street
New York, NY 10013
(212) 608-4170
Visit Website

There’s something for everyone at this longtime Chinatown establishment. The standard ice-cream parlor vanilla and chocolate are offered in excellent forms, but the offerings peak with East Asian and Southeast Asian flavors like Chinese egg custard, pungent durian fruit, and almond cookie — made with the actual almond cookies at the Famous Fung Wong Bakery. And with a rotating selection of limited-time flavors, customers can try something different every time.

19. Mango Mango Dessert

Copy Link
63 Bayard St
New York, NY 10013

With locations in seven states, this NYC-grown, Hong Kong-inspired dessert franchise is spreading mango sweets far and wide. On offer are sweet “dessert soups” ranging from black rice soup with longan and date to papaya soup with almond, along with a selection of sundaes and fittingly mango-centric desserts. The best of these is the Hong Kong-style mango pancake, resembling crepe ravioli filled with fresh mango and whipped cream.

20. Look by Plant Love House

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Read Review |
622 Washington Ave
Brooklyn, NY 11238
(718) 622-0026
Visit Website

This intimate Prospect Heights shop is an offshoot of the once-beloved, now-shuttered mother-daughter Thai restaurant in Elmhurst. Reprising a few specialties from the original, Look turns out spicy som tum salads and savory noodles dishes. On the desserts front, the standout coconut ice cream shows a characteristically restrained sweetness, finished with coconut flakes and chunks of fresh young coconut.

Look by Plant Love House Sallychoco V./Yelp

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1. Kulu Desserts

37-06 Prince St, Flushing, NY 11354

Sago, or tapioca pudding, is a popular dessert in the Philippines and other parts of Southeast Asia. At Kulu Desserts, which has locations in Brooklyn, Elmhurst, and Flushing, these tiny tapioca balls appear in various puddings and cold desserts with fresh fruit, but it’s the warmed taro sago — thickened with sweet coconut milk — that rises above. Served in a bowl like a hot soup, it’s a soul-warming sweet treat ideal for a chilly day.

37-06 Prince St
Flushing, NY 11354

2. Soy Bean Chan Flower & Gift Shop

135-26 Roosevelt Ave, Flushing, NY 11354
Soy Bean Chan Flower & Gift Shop Jessica N./Yelp

In Asia, bean curd is a versatile ingredient to be used in dishes both savory and sweet, and indeed that’s how it’s served as this flower shop-meets-tofu joint in Flushing. While the salty version of the dish, called dou fu hua, comes with dried shrimp and pickled mustard greens, its sweet counterpart soaks the silky curd with the traditional sweet ginger syrup. It’s a crazy affordable option — each cup costs just $1.75.

135-26 Roosevelt Ave
Flushing, NY 11354

3. Fu Run

40-09 Prince St, Flushing, NY 11354
Fu Run Hu L./Yelp

Interactive food lovers will enjoy the dessert offering at this Flushing mainstay specializing in northern Chinese, or Dongei, cuisine. Here, diners make their own ba si using soft chunks of taro dipped in molten sugar. The taro is twirled until its coat of sugar becomes thin and stringy, then dipped into a bowl of ice water before eating. The result is a nutty, crunchy candied-shell morsel that’ll grant reprieve from the mouth-searing heat of the dishes that preceded it.

40-09 Prince St
Flushing, NY 11354

4. Lady M Cake Boutique

41 E 78th St, New York, NY 10075

Ahead of the wildfire popularity of Japanese-French desserts, international chain Lady M is best known for its Japanese-accented take on a multi-layer crêpe cake. For the Instagram-friendly dish, 20 thin crêpes are sandwiched with green-tea-infused pastry cream and finished off with powdered matcha. There are additional locations spreading south throughout Manhattan.

41 E 78th St
New York, NY 10075

5. The Lobster Club

98 E 53rd St, New York, NY 10022
Read Review |

This brightly hued, Japanese-inspired brasserie is part of Major Food Group’s big-ticket takeover of the Seagram Building. Style and whimsy are served in equal measures here, like in pastry chef Stephanie Prida’s foot-tall riff on the traditional kakigori shaved ice that splits the flavor between cream and blood orange. It’s the clear standout on the menu, filling the craving for nostalgia and sugar all at once.

98 E 53rd St
New York, NY 10022

6. Tito Rad's Grill

49-10 Queens Blvd, Woodside, NY 11377
Tito Rad’s Grill Jenny S./Yelp

An extensive menu of grilled meats and garlic rice draw crowds of Filipino families to this 12-year-old Woodside standby, which offers the traditional style of cooking from the owners’ home province of Cebu. Desserts are wide-ranging, from plain scoops of purple ube ice cream to mais con hielo — sweet corn kernels, shaved ice, sugar, and milk — and buko pandan, a creamy fruit salad of green jelly, coconut, and all-purpose cream. Most desserts are priced at less than $5.

49-10 Queens Blvd
Woodside, NY 11377

7. Paris Baguette

303 Park Ave S, New York, NY 10010

One of South Korea’s biggest bakery franchises, Paris Baguette is known for its French-inspired pastries, sandwiches, and original coffee beverages. At the four New York locations, the bakery sells an array of large cakes and small pastries, including its own versions of the cronut (and a “cruffin”). The clear star of the menu, however, is the cheesecake, which fuses a sponge-y yellow cake texture with creamy cheesecake filling.

303 Park Ave S
New York, NY 10010

8. Spot Dessert Bar

13 St Marks Pl, New York, NY 10003

The novelty of desserts that ooze when broken never seems to wear off, especially not at this Thai-owned dessert bar on St. Mark’s Place. While cookies, macarons, and ice creams are available for takeout, it’s the dessert “tapas” menu that fully spotlights chef Max Wittawat’s creativity, whether it’s warm puff pastry topped with milk ice cream and corn flakes, or matcha cakes filled with matcha custard. The shop’s pièce de résistance, however, is a time-honored holdover from previous years — a simple dark chocolate cake filled with green tea ganache and served with a side of green tea ice cream.

13 St Marks Pl
New York, NY 10003

9. Little Tong Noodle Shop

177 1st Avenue, New York, NY 10003
Little Tong Noodle Shop Nick Solares

A front runner in the current rice noodle soup craze in NYC, Little Tong serves an excellent dessert beyond its excellent mi xian, the rice noodle soup of the Yunnan province. Milk tea crème brûlée is worth the visit alone. Made with pu erh tea, which is famed in Yunnan, chef-owner Simon Tong tops it with marinated peaches and basil tips, well offsetting the rich cream.

177 1st Avenue
New York, NY 10003

10. Cha-An Teahouse

230 E 9th St floor 2, New York, NY 10003

Japanese tea is the focus of this second-floor, Kyoto-style teahouse, which opened in the East Village nearly 15 years ago to a predominantly Japanese clientele. Today, Cha-An’s kitchen also deals in savory dishes and desserts, ranging from black sesame crème brûlée to a standout kakigori. The latter, a fair-weather, shaved-ice dessert dating back to the 11th century, is offered here in a fittingly traditional iteration with matcha syrup and condensed milk poured over a mound of hand-shaved ice, red bean paste, and glutinous rice mochi.

230 E 9th St floor 2
New York, NY 10003

11. Meet Fresh

37 Cooper Sq, New York, NY 10003

Taiwan’s popular sweets chain made headlines when it landed in New York’s East Village early 2018 with its extensive, 100-dish list of desserts. These range from taro balls and sweet tofu pudding to shaved ice and hot almond soup. The name nods to the restaurant’s commitment to natural, fresh takes on these traditional Asian desserts — the website touts “no preservatives, colorings, or artificial flavoring.”

37 Cooper Sq
New York, NY 10003

12. Hanoi House

119 St Marks Pl, New York, NY 10009
Read Review |

In tropical Vietnam, chè — a category of spoonable dessert often made with coconut milk, grass jellies, beans, and fruit — is a popular way to beat the heat. Ben Lowell and Sara Leveen, owners of this East Village Hanoian canteen, recognized the dish’s compatibility with American ice cream sundae formats. Here, it’s served up in a tall glass with shaved ice, crowning a mix of black grass jelly, banana, and lychee with a scoop of lychee black sesame ice cream from Il Laboratorio del Gelato. Only a dozen of these are made night.

119 St Marks Pl
New York, NY 10009

13. Pig and Khao

68 Clinton St, New York, NY 10002

The Philippines’ version of shaved-ice dessert is halo halo, a creamy, customizable coconut milk-based treat topped with ube, or purple yam, ice cream. At Pig & Khao, chef Leah Cohen gives her halo halo — which translates to “mix-mix” — a personal spin, with caramelized plantains, shredded macapuno (the soft endosperm of a coconut), and thick cubes of housemade flan. Served in a big soup bowl, it’s a lot of dessert for one person.

68 Clinton St
New York, NY 10002

14. Kam Hing Coffee Shop

118 Baxter St, New York, NY 10013
Kam Hing Coffee Shop Tina C./Yelp

The coffee and service at this Chinatown institution may not be stellar, but the draw here is the sponge cakes. New Kam Hing is best known for these airy, subtly-sweet pastries, which are baked fresh daily and come in flavors like matcha and chocolate chip. Bonus: Each one is sold for less than a dollar.

118 Baxter St
New York, NY 10013

15. Taiyaki NYC

119 Baxter St, New York, NY 10013

This Chinatown shop’s taiyaki — a traditional Japanese dessert that fills a fish-shaped ice cream cone with red bean paste — has been a bona fide Instagram sensation from the day it landed in New York in 2016. Here, the fish sports a large mouth to hold Japanese-inspired soft serve ice cream flavors like matcha and black sesame. While the dessert has been around for a while, Taiyaki NYC has commandeered its presence in the city with a strong social media campaign.

119 Baxter St
New York, NY 10013

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16. Patisserie Tomoko

568 Union Ave, Brooklyn, NY 11211

French technique meets Japanese flavors at this Williamsburg dessert counter from chef Tomoko Kato. Cookies (yuzu, black sesame) and macarons (green tea, lavender mint) are available at the counter, along with several signature pastries including a standout salty caramel nut tart and yuzu mousse cake. Adventurous guests can dine in for a highly recommended, affordable dessert tasting of two courses for $12 and three for $16.

568 Union Ave
Brooklyn, NY 11211

17. Fay Da Bakery

83 Mott St, New York, NY 10013

Although the original location of this 27-year-old Chinatown bakery closed, its myriad other locations will continue selling its vast selection of beloved desserts. On the traditional end, find festive holiday mooncakes and mochi balls with various fillings, while more contemporary options include the crowd-pleasing buttercream and coconut buns and matcha cheesecake. For special occasions, the bakery also offers whimsically designed custom cakes that can be ordered for pickup.

83 Mott St
New York, NY 10013

18. The Original Chinatown Ice Cream Factory

63 65 Bayard Street, New York, NY 10013

There’s something for everyone at this longtime Chinatown establishment. The standard ice-cream parlor vanilla and chocolate are offered in excellent forms, but the offerings peak with East Asian and Southeast Asian flavors like Chinese egg custard, pungent durian fruit, and almond cookie — made with the actual almond cookies at the Famous Fung Wong Bakery. And with a rotating selection of limited-time flavors, customers can try something different every time.

63 65 Bayard Street
New York, NY 10013

19. Mango Mango Dessert

63 Bayard St, New York, NY 10013

With locations in seven states, this NYC-grown, Hong Kong-inspired dessert franchise is spreading mango sweets far and wide. On offer are sweet “dessert soups” ranging from black rice soup with longan and date to papaya soup with almond, along with a selection of sundaes and fittingly mango-centric desserts. The best of these is the Hong Kong-style mango pancake, resembling crepe ravioli filled with fresh mango and whipped cream.

63 Bayard St
New York, NY 10013

20. Look by Plant Love House

622 Washington Ave, Brooklyn, NY 11238
Read Review |
Look by Plant Love House Sallychoco V./Yelp

This intimate Prospect Heights shop is an offshoot of the once-beloved, now-shuttered mother-daughter Thai restaurant in Elmhurst. Reprising a few specialties from the original, Look turns out spicy som tum salads and savory noodles dishes. On the desserts front, the standout coconut ice cream shows a characteristically restrained sweetness, finished with coconut flakes and chunks of fresh young coconut.

622 Washington Ave
Brooklyn, NY 11238

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