When it comes to the best one plus one, Baba Nyona, the mix of Chinese and Malaysian culture, cuisine is a hard one to beat. In addition to an impressive long list of Mee (see previous post), there are also an array of delicate, colorful sweet rice cakes “Kuih” for dessert.
Kuih（粿）came from the Chinese, but the Nyona version utilizes local ingredients such as coconut milk and pandan leaves. A herbaceous tropical plant with long green leaves commonly found throughout Southeast Asia, pandan leaves lend a unique taste and aroma to the foods. And when used in cakes and desserts, padan paste turns the sweets vivid green.
From layered pink-and-white Kuih Lapis to dual-layered Seri Muka (padan custard on top, steamed glutinous rice on the bottom) to tube-shaped Kuih Ketayap (pandan crepe wrapped around dark brown coconut filling), these chewy, bite-sized snacks will make you think twice about dismissing glutinous rice.
Another must-try include Cendol, a drinkable, soup-like dessert that soaks green jelly noodles (the “green” comes from pandan leaves) in coconut milk and palm sugar.
But all in all, my ultimate favorite is red bean shaved ice. Known as Ice/Ais Kachang in Penang, and ABC (Ais Batu Campur or mixed ice) in the remaining Malaysia. Simply put, it is shaved ice topped with brown sugar syrup, red beans, various types of jelly and other dressings like ice cream or corn kernels.
My fondness for Ice Kachang derives not from taste (because frankly, this version pales in comparison to Taiwanese-style shaved ice), but sentimentality for the 2010 romantic comedy “Ice Kachang Puppy Love” (《初戀紅豆冰》）.