Wednesday, January 26, 2011

Eating Singapore: Desserts

It's an icy, slushy mess outside on another ugly Boston winter day.  But here on my blog it's still 88 degrees and a perfect time for icy desserts!

Since it's hot all year long in Singapore, it stands to reason that the most popular Singaporean desserts are  served over ice.  While I'm not a huge fan of icy desserts, my mom and sister have a seemingly insatiable appetite for this stuff.  My mom's favorite is cendol, which is made with coconut milk, shaved ice, palm sugar, and syrup.  The funky-looking green substance on top is a jelly made from pandan leaf and rice flour.  It's like a more sophisticated, chewier, and more filling snow cone.

My sister, however, loves ice kacang, which is also a dessert that involves shaved ice, flavored syrups, and red bean.  As evidenced by these photos, we had a lot of ice kacang.  Some places serve it with corn, others with mango or durian, still others with red beans, grass jelly, aloe vera, attap chee (palm nuts), or even ice cream.  All, however, begin the same way: with a huge bowl of ice that is freshly shaved off a cylinder (like an icy version of gyro, no?).

If you like your ice with more fruit, the above dessert, from Blue Ginger, is a shaved ice topped with coconut and calamansi, a citrus fruit.

And this version from the Maxwell Food Centre has mango, mango syrup, aloe vera, and attap chee.  I'm a huge fan of attap chee, which is the translucent, jelly-like fruit of the nipah palm; it doesn't have a strong flavor -- maybe a hint of coconut -- but it's got a very satisfying snap, sort of like eating a gummy bear that's been refrigerated for a while.

My favorite icy dessert from this trip, though, was probably gula melaka, which has sago (a tapioca-like substance), palm sugar syrup, and coconut milk.  It has a rich, caramel-like taste, and the sago is chewy and gives the dessert a bit more texture and heft than the versions that have only shaved ice.

Are you a big fan of iced desserts?  When you're staring at freshly fallen snow on the ground, are you tempted to stick out your tongue and taste it?  (Jellyby likes nothing more than to eat fresh snow!) Or are you (like me) a bigger fan of baked goods, fresh from the oven?


lavenderpug January 26, 2011 at 10:30 AM  

i loved the shaved ice desserts (the one with red beans) because it reminds me of korea. you got to try so many great things!

Cathleya January 26, 2011 at 12:10 PM  

HUGH shaved ice fan! Pandan is used a lot in Thai desserts. I can't decide whether I like it or not...but I'm leaning no. It always seems like that's what it would taste like if you drank perfume to me! What do you think of Pandan? Perhaps I haven't had it in the right capacity...

Micah and Catherine January 26, 2011 at 1:58 PM  

We have a Filipino version of cendol we call Halo Halo. I didn't like it as a kid but love it now.

violarulz/ducksandbooks January 26, 2011 at 8:22 PM  

you're making me homesick for BKK :( I wish my mom still lived there. SE Asia (inc. Singapore) has the BEST snack foods!

BigAppleNosh January 26, 2011 at 9:21 PM  

I've never tried gula melaka - adding it to the list!! I love ice kacang though! :)

lobster January 27, 2011 at 9:01 AM  

There's a foot of snow outside. I still love icy treats. Had myself an ice pop just yesterday! Mm that shaved ice looks so good!

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