From boba to bingsu: Best Asian desserts of the Bay

Oct. 5, 2023, 1:12 a.m.

Amid the sweltering fall quarter heat, we are all looking for fun, new and refreshing dessert spots to cool down at. Maybe it is a different soft serve place from your usual. Maybe you are in the mood to try something totally different. Whatever your craving is for, below is a list of the seven best Asian dessert spots around the Bay Area, organized by increasing distance from the Stanford campus.

Wanpo Tea Shop

From boba to bingsu: Best Asian desserts of the Bay
The Wanpo milk tea. (Photo: MADDIE PARK/The Stanford Daily)

Key features:

  • 2.6 miles away — Stanford Shopping Center
  • $6-$8 per cup of bubble tea, depending on size

⚠️Tip: For toppings, “boba” refers to the typical boba, but “pearls” refers to mini boba.

Overall, Wanpo’s teas are flavorful and not overly sweet. There is always an abundance of boba and toppings, and the boba is the perfect texture — nice and chewy. 

The popular Wanpo milk tea was flavorful at 50% sweetness, the usual level I opt for. It was a little bit on the sweeter side, but still not overly sweet. Compared to Boba Guys, whose bubble tea always seems watered-down to me, and T4, whose bubble tea is overly sweet, the Wanpo milk tea hit the right spot. 

The shop’s amenities, including a progress screen, were thoughtful but unhelpful. The screen was also inaccurate — the wait time for our drinks was not as long as it suggested. 

Somi Somi

From boba to bingsu: Best Asian desserts of the Bay
The matcha/oreo swirl with nutella taiyaki (upside-down Ah-Boong). (Photo: MADDIE PARK/The Stanford Daily)

Key features:

  • 2.9 miles away — University Ave
  • $7 per Ah-Boong

⚠️ Tip: Order the upside-down Ah-Boong, so that the soft serve does not drip over your hands.

Somi Somi serves the Korean dessert Ah-Boong, a fish-shaped waffle cone (taiyaki) on soft serve ice cream. The soft serve ice cream is offered in six to eight flavors, and you can typically choose two swirls from the selection. The swirl combinations change regularly, with two new pairs of soft serve flavors offered each week. Customers can also choose a filling for the taiyaki, with options that range from the standard custard, to nutella, red bean, taro and even cream cheese.

The matcha/oreo swirl with nutella taiyaki, topped with matcha powder, was a perfect balance of creamy and crunchy. The soft serve was smooth and complemented the flaky, crunchy and doughy taiyaki very well. The matcha powder accentuated the bitterness of the matcha soft serve ice cream, making that flavor pop.

The service is fast for soft serve ice cream or Ah-Boong (about five minutes), but slower for taiyaki (up to 15 minutes).

Satura Patisserie

Key features:

  • 5.7 miles away — Downtown Los Altos
  • Japanese Cake Shop

⚠️ Tip: Online order and in-store. You can only buy slices of cakes in-store.

Cakes from Satura Patisserie are light and fluffy. The Satura Shortcake (strawberry shortcake) is their signature cake. The vanilla cake base and cream were not dense or heavy, and it was not overwhelmingly sweet. I could taste the strawberries in every bite. 

The Mango & Coco cake was similarly delicious and flavorful. The combination of the mousses, cake and kiwi gave the cake a smooth texture with the occasional crunch of fruit. My only critique is that I wish there was more fruit on top of the cake. 

Hong Kong Chinese Bakery

From boba to bingsu: Best Asian desserts of the Bay
The char siu bao (left) and egg tart (right) after being reheated — just as tasty as when it was freshly bought (as long as it is consumed within 3-5 days of purchase). (Photo: MADDIE PARK/The Stanford Daily)

Key features:

  • 7.7 miles away — Castro Street
  • Mom-and-pop shop
  • No preservatives

⚠️ Tip: Cash only!

Hong Kong Chinese Bakery sells all types of Chinese baked goods. The popular char siu bao — a sweet and salty bun with a creamy pork filling inside — was both delicious and huge. The bun was light and fluffy. Meanwhile, its pork filling had an almost-creamy consistency with little bits of char siu for texture. 

The paper chiffon cake was slightly sweet, though a little dry on the outside. The cake’s redeeming qualities, however, included its lightness, fluffiness and moistness on the inside.

On an idler day, the wait is roughly five minutes. On busier days, the wait time increases to 15 minutes. The price is quite reasonable for the size and quality of the baked goods.


From boba to bingsu: Best Asian desserts of the Bay
The strawberry sulbing (left) and red bean injeolmi sulbing (right). Sulbing featured cute cartoon characters on some of its signs, and the shop itself had a lot of seating! (Photo: MADDIE PARK/The Stanford Daily)

Key features:

  • 15 miles away — Santa Clara
  • Great place for group dessert!

Sulbing was a very nice place to escape the heat. The bingsu, though a little bit on the pricey side, was delicious. Both desserts that I sampled were not overly sweet. 

The red bean injeolmi sulbing (the store’s signature) was a flavorful treat that was both sweet and savory. The injeolmi powder provided a nutty taste reminiscent of cashew, while the red bean was sweet. Cut-up almonds added a nice crunch and the mushiness of the sweet red bean added to the texture of the dessert.

The strawberry sulbing was a good balance of sweet and sour. This dessert was topped with a sweet and tangy strawberry-like jam, with red bean in the center of this dessert.

As somebody that enjoys many toppings on desserts, I felt that Sulbing provided just enough, if not too little toppings on both bingsu. Sulbing has TV screens to alert you that your order is ready — just listen for a soft dinging sound.

Hui Lau Shan

Key features:

  • 16 miles away — Cupertino
  • One-of-a-kind: Hong Kong mango desserts
  • Great place for group dessert!

Calling all mango-lovers: Hui Lau Shan is your next go-to dessert spot. The Mango Chewy Ball dessert has a mango base (slightly thicker than a slushie-like consistency) with chewy tapioca balls, mango slices and mango ice cream. Though the mango base was sweet, the chewy tapioca balls (which had no flavor) balanced out the sweetness of the mango slush and provided a nice texture. The mango ice cream (on top of the dessert) was smooth, firm and not overly sweet.

Eating the mango pudding felt like eating a real mango — as the texture was chunky and firm, similar to that of an actual mango. Hui Lau Shan also provided milk to accompany the pudding, but there wasn’t a significant change after pouring the milk on top. Regardless, the taste was on-point.

There will be a long line, though it goes quickly. Also, big cups (located at the counter) for sharing desserts cost $1.

Uncle Tetsu | Japanese Cheesecake

From boba to bingsu: Best Asian desserts of the Bay
The original cheesecake. All cheesecakes from Uncle Tetsu have a “stamp” in the middle of the cheesecake with the signature Uncle Tetsu logo. (Photo: MADDIE PARK/The Stanford Daily)

Key features:

  • 18 miles away — Hillsdale Shopping Center
  • One-of-a-kind: Japanese souffle cheesecake
  • Great place for group dessert!

⚠️ Tip: If you are aiming to get a specific flavor of cheesecake, go earlier in the day, so that there is a less likely chance of that flavor being sold out.

If you are in the mood for Japanese souffle cheesecake, Uncle Tetsu is the place to go. The cheesecakes are delicious when chilled; they’re soft, moist, spongy and melt in your mouth — a huge distinguishing factor from regular cheesecake. The original cheesecake was a lighter, fluffier version of a typical cheesecake; however, it was not as sweet.

Uncle Tetsu cheesecakes are smaller than a 10-inch cheesecake (the typical size of a cheesecake at Cheesecake Factory). However, they are still large enough to share.

Editor’s Note: This article is a review and contains subjective opinions, thoughts and critiques.

Maddie Park is a high school student participating in 2023 The Stanford Daily high school journalism program.

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