Dessert cookery in Asia is not as extensive as that of America or Europe. Asians generally are not fond of desserts per se, traditionally preferring to serve sweet dishes during the course of a meal to further stimulate the tastebuds or to remove some of the lingering richness of main courses. More often, sweets are taken during the day as snacks; however, in modern times, the Western custom of serving a sweet dish at the end of a meal is becoming more prevalent.
Many of the Asian sweets feature rice cooked in coconut milk, garnished with fresh fruits. Preserved fruits are also popular, and baked pastries are becoming more widely served. Native fruits of the region, such as mangoes, which come in many varieties and are so popular that they are called the apples of the tropics and bananas which also come in many varieties, sizes, and degrees of sweetness are the bases for such dishes as steamed rice cakes, baked fruit or butter cakes, ice cream, sherbets, fritters, and glazed fruits.
In Thailand, home of many fruits of delectable flavor, fresh fruits are carved by skilled artists into shapes of flowers, other fruits, or birds. In whatever manner Asian ingredients are used to make sweet dishes, one still finds that special gourmet touch and the endless creativity which is the heart of all Asian cuisines.