When Southeast Asian countries declared their independence, the culinary traditions of their former colonizers remained – that's why the banh mi is served on perfect French baguettes. Gorgeous pastries, expertly made breads and other luscious carbs are fully part of Asian culture now, melding the flavors native to tropical climates (like pandan and taro) with European techniques. Here's where to sample some of the best Asian sweets in Central Florida.
Le Ky Patisserie
2411 Curry Ford Road, 407-413-5453, thehourglassdistrict.com
Uyen Tran is a veteran Disney pastry chef who opened Le Ky Patisserie in the Hourglass Social House in March, sharing a space with the Tamale Co. Her technique is impeccable, but the flavors are ultimately approachable; think peanut butter and banana, raspberry and chocolate, and lemon meringue.
Paris Banh Mi Café & Bakery
1021 E. Colonial Drive, 407-866-2012, parisbanhmicafebakery.com
It's impossible not to go overboard on the beautiful self-serve laminated pastries, classic opéra cakes and mille-feuilles, fresh baguettes and macarons, not to mention the layered entremets – pretty enough to serve at Versailles. Pair with an extra-sweet, high-octane Vietnamese iced coffee to counteract the sugar crash.
1232 E. Colonial Drive, 407-898-6899, saigonmarket.co
Head to the back of the market (unless you're coming from the parking lot, in which case you're already there) to sample some of the most traditional Vietnamese pastries and cakes in town. We love the pandan pinwheels, egg custard tarts and taro buns.
2415 E. Colonial Drive, 407-228-9899, ifreshmarket.com/en
Hang a hard left when you walk through the automatic doors into this mammoth Asian grocer, and stock up on custard-filled golden buns, pillowy steamed cakes and coconut-pandan bar cookies. With deals like buy five, get one free, you can fill your Saturday breakfast table for a song.
Qi Dragon Bakery
7400 Southland Blvd., 407-816-3663, qidragonbakery.com
When we're in south Orlando, this Chinese bakery is our number-one stop for Hong Kong-style split buns filled with buttercream and dusted with powdered sugar, coconut-filled tarts, red-bean buns, sesame balls and honeydew-flavored cake rolls.
Sun Pearl Bakery
5082 W. Colonial Drive, 407-299-3256, sunpearlbakery.com
It's easy to pinpoint the passion in Tzu-Yang Chiu's breads and pastries at this West Orlando bakery. Eggy brioche-style breads are on deck here, studded with raisins, filled with cream, topped with sweet pork and caramelized pineapple.