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10 Of The World's Best Sweet And Savory Dessert Drinks

Marvel at these stunning and sweet dessert drinks from around the world.

It doesn't take much for me to get hungry, especially when it comes to sweet stuff. Growing up in Vietnam, I had the privilege of tasting a variety of desserts and candies. My favorite dessert happens to be an explosion of sugar and flavor called che, or Three-Color Dessert: a sweet, savory, and vibrant concoction filled with beans, jellies, and coconut milk.

Only recently did I find out about the cholado, a Colombian treat made of shaved ice, fruit slices, and condensed milk. Curious, I decided to continue my hunt for fruity, earthy frozen desserts. To my surprise, it turns out there's quite a few, and they all have these things in common:

  • All are a complex, multilayered concoction in a glass or bowl
  • They feature a delicious combination of sweet, savory, salty, crunchy, and/or fruity things
  • Each has an interesting backstory
  • They're all refreshing, perfect for a hot summer day (although, heck, I'd surely enjoy any of these year-round)
  • Here are ten of the most beautiful layered frozen desserts from a variety of cultures worldwide. How many have you sampled?

Che

You didn't think I'd skip this one, did you? Che is essentially paradise in a cup. There are slight variations and names for this fruity dessert, including che thai, che ba mau, and che bap. Sometimes, it may appear a bit runny, but that's just the coconut milk. Trust me, that's the best part about che, because once you finish scooping out all the delicious bits of pandan jelly and beans inside, you can slurp up every last drop.

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The sweetness of the coconut milk mixed with other ingredients makes for the most satisfying taste. Making che at home requires a little bit of work, but in case you're feeling ambitious, here's a recipe to start.

Cholado

Inspired by a dessert that his mother made growing up, Hector Samuel Bonilla of Jamundí, a town in Colombia, invented the cholado in the early 1960s as a way to support his family. His original version included shaved ice, honey, and lemon. He called it "the three girls," and set up a stand to feed thirsty spectators and exhausted players at soccer games.

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Word spread around the area and the drink was a hit. It became known as a cure for "last night's walloping hangover." The treat became so popular that there's even a place called Parque de Cholado in Colombia. Watch this video of the cholado in action—it'll make you want to rush down to Colombia immediately for this treat. But if you can't, here's a recipe to make it yourself.

Halo halo

The first time I encountered the term "halo halo" was in author Mia P. Manansala's book Homicide and Halo-Halo. But that's probably not how most people learn about this popular dessert from the Philippines. Halo halo (or "mix mix" in Tagalog) is a mixture of shaved ice, condensed milk, and a variety of toppings, ranging from jellies to fruits to ube ice cream to toasted coconut flakes and rice. This kind of dessert is perfect for those who want every texture imaginable in one cup. Chewy, creamy, sticky, crunchy—you name it, it's there. Make it yourself using this recipe from Bon Appetit. You won't be disappointed.

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Cheese tea

Taiwan is known as the birthplace of the boba tea (or bubble tea), which arrived in the 1980s at street food stalls. Fast forward to 2010, and Taiwanese street vendors began offering a deviation of the classic version. Cheese tea is so named because it's topped with a foam made from cream cheese, whipping cream, and milk. Add the foam on top of the tea (usually black, matcha, or oolong) along with more whipped cream and sprinkle it with salt for a fluffy and savory kick. Also known as milk cap tea or cheese mousse tea, cheese tea is a juxtaposition of bitterness, sweetness, and dairy richness, popular in many Asian countries including Malaysia, Taiwan, and China. In America, head to the nearest Royaltea location or one of these specialty tea shops.

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Falooda

Inspired by the faloodeh, a 2,500-year-old Persian dessert, the falooda (also spelled 'Faluda') is an Indian Mughlai ice cream concoction made with vermicelli noodles, jelly, rose syrup, sabja seeds, milk, and ice cream. The drink is quite popular in India, Pakistan, and throughout the Middle East. Gastro Obscura calls this an icy drink-meets-dessert, a "crunchy and creamy...gooey, fragrant combination."

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Its beautiful gradient color scheme makes it something worth gawking at. If I ever get the chance to visit India, I know this is the drink I'm going to seek out first. In the meantime, here's a very detailed recipe on how to make falooda at home.

Cranachan

This Scottish dessert has four simple ingredients: oats, whisky, honey, and raspberries. In other words, it's an invitation to mix sweets and booze with breakfast food.

In the old days, the Scots used to eat "cream crowdie," which sounds a bit less delectable than it actually is. Cream crowdie consists of oats and heather honey mixed with a soft cheese called a crowdie. Over time, the Scots reinvented the drink to include whisky and fresh raspberries. Unfortunately, nowadays crowdie and heather honey are a little harder to find, thus becoming delicacies. The workaround: whipped cream and whisky-and-honey-soaked oats. Real cheese or not, this creamy, berry-pink delight is a crowd pleaser. For a deliciously sweet and savory "breakfast," try this recipe.

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Barraquito

Condensed milk, liqueur, coffee, and milk mixed together to create a morning perk-me-up? The only thing better is to save this for later in the evening, after a meal. That's what makes the Barraquito unique.

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Unlike other coffee-based liqueurs, the Barraquito (rumored to have been named after a man from the Tenerife region of Spain called Barraco) is layered so that you can see what's in each layer. Beautiful caramels and creams and foam on top makes for a visibly gorgeous drink. Barraquito is an intoxicating blend that can be served with whipped cream or garnished with cinnamon and lemon peel. Not in the mood for alcohol? Order the barraquito sin licor instead.

Mangonada

Also known as chamoyada or chamango, the mangonada is a Mexican dessert, an exciting blend of sweet, spicy, and sour flavors all at once. I love products with umami flavor, and the mangonada is basically my dream come true in dessert form. It has four essential ingredients: mango sorbet, chamoy sauce, lime juice, and Tajin (a chili-citrus-salt seasoning), which gives it a nice kick. This recipe shows you how to make mango sorbet and Tajin from scratch, then finish off with a garnish of mango chunks, perfect for mango lovers. However, depending on where you live, it's also widely available at ice cream shops. You can ask for a tamarind-and-chili-paste-coated straw or a spoon too!

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Seven color tea

When we drink a cup of tea, we can usually expect a rather monochromatic experience from top to bottom, from English breakfast to chamomile. To experiment with flavor and color, Romesh Ram Gour, a street vendor from rural Bangladesh, invented a seven-layer (you read that right) tea, sometimes featuring up to 10 different flavors of tea all in one cup, also known as saata rong cha in Bengali. The flavors range from sweet to spicy to decadent and maintain a layered appearance as you drink.

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How does he do this? It's a secret recipe, so we'll never know. In the meantime, the only place you can get this seven-color tea is at Gour's teashop. Be sure to save up some money so you can head to Bangladesh to try this incredibly popular tea. (Gour is not interested in fame or in opening more tea shops, thus staying put in northern Bangladesh.)

Gazoz

Imagine a wild herb garden growing on top of your drink. Underneath, it's a beautiful, multi-layered collection of fresh and seasonal ingredients—think fruits and vegetables, mainly—added to soda water. Layer after layer, it forms a beverage "erupting from the glass like a bouquet," thanks to Benny Briga of Café Levinsky 41 in Tel Aviv, who decided to amplify this contemporary drink from Israel.

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What was once fizzy water mixed with simple syrup, the reincarnation now includes syrups, fermented fruits, spices, herbs, and a variety of flowers, creating a colorful, bubbly, thirst-quenching drink. Briga has parlayed its fame into a book. Check out Gazoz: Making Magical, Seasonal Sparkling Drinks if you feel like impressing your guests.

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