Asian sweets don’t get enough appreciation. To the unfamiliar, they’re offbeat and perhaps texturally challenging. That has never stopped me from trying them, but I’ve watched many people pause and look quizzically at a bowl of Vietnamese che sweet soup loaded with beans, tapioca worms and coconut milk. I suppose that’s why many Asian cookbooks have limited dessert chapters or none at all. I’m sensitive to the Asian sweets thing when I write cookbooks and choose my recipes wisely.
My friend Christopher Tan celebrates many Asian sweets in his latest cookbook, Nerdbaker. The book published in Singapore by Epigram Books is sadly not available in the U.S.; I reviewed the book to write a jacket endorsement and at that time, I was enamored with the ideas that Chris presented in the book. His concepts bridge East and West, dive deep into baking techniques, and they’re reliably delicious. We are food geek soulmates, sort to speak.
There are a number of things I want to make from the book, and this is one that I’ve tried twice in the last few days. It’s brilliant, beautiful, and tropical. It’s also low on wheat, if that matters to you. The moist texture is fudgy and brownie-like, just like Chris describes. If you like sticky rice and coconut, this will remind you of it in cupcake form.