Top 10 Malaysian/ Singaporean Local Desserts to sweeten your day

We, Malaysians and Singaporeans: we love to eat. How can we not when we are surrounded by such amazing food? You might remember my previous list: My Top 10 Singaporean/Malaysian Delights to Eat and if you don’t, I suggest you take yourself to that page right now and get really hungry.

Today I’m going to be sharing my Top 10 in Singaporean/Malaysian Desserts that will sweeten your day. After going through it all, I came to the realisation that my preferences tend to lean towards chinese desserts, and seeing as that is my heritage, I cannot deny a bias. Soupy desserts are amazing! There, I’ve said it.

Without further ado – let us eat.

Image Source: The Malaysian Cuisine

1. Bubur Chacha

Taro and Sweet Potato cubes served with coconut milk and sago – so incredibly tasty! It can be served warm or cold though my favourite is when it is served cold as it is incredibly refreshing as a cold dessert. Growing up, this was a really awesome treat that I always look forward to and fairly easy to prepare as well!

Image Source: Spideman

2. Cendol

You often hear people waxing lyrical about cendol but if you haven’t tried it for yourself, the idea of eating ‘green noodles’ can be rather offputting. Commonly available as street food, cendol is a popular dessert to help cool down which is very useful in the humid and hot weather that Singapore and Malaysia is famous for. But what exactly are the ‘green noodles’? They are strands of cooked dough made from green pea flour and the green juice of pandan leaves. The standard bowl of cendol will consist of these green noodles, coconut cream, shaved ice and palm sugar. But the cendol you can obtain from roadsides these days are a far cry from the cendol I remember eating as a kid. Diluted coconut cream is part of the problem and poorly made green noodles make for some rather awful cendol. So I’ve stopped buying them myself, instead I make them. Want to know how? Stay tuned!

Image Source: Boo_licious

3. Or Nee / Taro dessert

Or Nee (芋泥) is made from Taro and is traditionally topped with Gingko nuts. Personal observation is that it is not a dessert that is widely popular within the younger generation of Singapore/Malaysia. In fact, most people seem to dislike Taro these days, which makes me sad. The making of Or Nee is simple, but to obtain a perfect Or Nee isn’t. The best Or Nees are smooth and silky without making you feel sick afterwards from the heaviness. Usually served warm, this dessert originates from the Teochews but is now enjoyed by others as well. I have made a promise to a friend to make some for her, so you’ll be seeing some Or Nee action on the blog very soon!

Image Source: Skrb

4. Pulut Hitam

Bubur Pulut Hitam means Black Glutinous Rice Dessert. One of my personal favourites, though again I know the colour black as a dessert may put some people off. I’ve had friends look at it and then look at me with a dubious look before asking “Is that truly edible?”

Trust me, it is not only edible, but it is also the most heavenly dessert you will find. Made from black glutinous rice cooked into porridge form along with some pandan leaves, and then topped with coconut cream, or milk, or even ice cream for a simple, quick and yet heart-warming dessert. You can serve it both warm and cold, but personally I prefer it warm. The warmth that spreads from the core of your body after eating this dessert is an impossibly amazing feeling. You’ve gotta try it to believe it.

Image Source: Azrianna Azmil

5. Pisang Goreng

Pisang Goreng is Malay for Fried Banana. Possibly one of the most popular of all desserts, Pisang Goreng is also commonly eaten as a snack for tea time. A mistake commonly made by folks is to call this food “Goreng Pisang”. While it may just be a simple matter of flipping the words around, the meaning has been changed from ‘Fried Banana’ to mean the action of ‘Frying the banana’. If there was a king of street food, Pisang Goreng would probably be it. It is found on almost every street corner, and is often sold by street vendors that build a pop-up kitchen just for a few hours a day. The banana is battered and then deep fried. These days, these simple snack foods seem to come accompanied with a variety of toppings and dips like chocolate ice cream, cinnamon and so on. In my opinion, the best way to appreciate Pisang Goreng is by eating it plain. The sweetness from the banana is more than sufficient sugar for this snack food. Don’t forget that the best bananas to make Pisang Goreng from is Pisang Emas. Unfortunately I do not know the English name, but it is the short and stumpy bananas with the thin skin. They are incredibly sweet and plump, thus making them perfect for frying up into Pisang Goreng.

Image source: Thorn

6. Ice Cream Sandwich

This is also sold in Malaysia but it’s not quite as famous as the ones sold along Orchard Road in Singapore. Possibly because the Malaysia version doesn’t usually come with the multicoloured bread. What multicoloured bread?

Image source: Melting Noise

This multicoloured bread.

What this really consist of is just a scoop of ice cream and a piece of bread to wrap around it. Absolutely simple, but actually really tasty! Try it at home, if you don’t believe me. Plus in the hot and humid weather of Singapore, at $1 per ice cream sandwich, it’s easy to succumb to its temptation – after all, ice cream is still ice cream, even if it’s wrapped with a funky multicoloured bread. A must try if you are ever in the area!

The other popular version of ice cream sandwich is the block of ice cream sandwiched between two thin pieces of wafer.

On that note, don’t try looking for these ice cream sandwiches in a fancy pants ice cream store. You will have better luck obtaining them off the ice cream vendors on motorbikes. Look out for the multicoloured umbrellas!

Image source: Thorn

7. Ice Kachang

Not everybody is a fan of Ice Kachang. Oh bugger it, to be honest I’m not a fan of it! But heaps of Singaporeans and Malaysians swear by it and I think I’d love it more if not for the fact that my teeth hurt something awful everytime I eat it. To hell with sensitive teeth.

Ice Kachang is made from shaved ice and topped with a variety of different syrups and toppings. Unfortunately not everybody knows how to make good syrup, and there’s quite a lot of awful Ice Kachang out there as a dear friend found out when she excitedly ordered Ice Kachang for the first time in KL. Needless to say, her first impression was terrible. So be careful when you are picking up your next bowl of Ice Kachang – try to ask for recommendations!

Image source: boo_licious

8. Tong Sui (Sugar Water)

While Tong Sui literally means Sugar Water, it is actually a collective term to mean soupy desserts. Having said that, these days the term seems to be used to mean Longan Tong Sui – a soupy dessert made from longan, snow fungus, red dates, sometimes pandan leaves and the all important ingredient – rock sugar. Again, the option of having it either warm or cold is completely up to you and even the ingredients can differ and change according to the family recipe, but it is generally always good. How can anything with rock sugar, red dates and longans in it not taste good?

Image source: Roboppy

9. Tau Foo Fah

Depending on the dialect, this is also known as Dou Hua, Dou Fu Hua, Tau Huey and so on. It really all means the same thing: it is a tofu pudding made from very very soft tofu. While the soft tofu is a constant, depending on where you are (Northern Malaysia or Sourthern; Singapore; and so on) the syrup that comes with the tofu may differ. Varieties include hot and sweet ginger water, sugar syrup infused with pandan, sugar syrup infused with gingko nuts or sugar syrup made from brown sugar, so on and so forth. You can buy Tau Foo Fah at the night markets, and my parents used to buy them without fail every single week after our weekly trip to the night markets. Pop them into the fridge and they made for a fantastic before bed dessert. Going down your throat silky smooth and all that!**

** a very small in-joke nod to my Singapore girlfriends.

Image Source: eleven

10. Tau Suan

Lucky last is a (yet another) soupy dessert that is made from split mung beans. Normally served warm and with pieces of You Tiao (Chinese Donuts). A bowl of good Tau Suan will present itself as a multitude of small yellow beans (the split mung beans in question) that are still whole and floating in a clear, thick liquid. It is akin to eating porridge, but a sweet and soothing version of it. Personally I find it a little odd to be eating You Tiao as part of my desserts, but in the world of Malaysian/Singaporean desserts, the weird is plenty and you learn not to question and to just eat and savour the beauty that is Malaysian/Singaporean food.

So there you have it, a quick Top 10, that is by no means exhaustive. These are the Top 10 Desserts in my books and will most likely be different to other folks. But if you are interested in learning how to make any of these dishes, do come back as in the coming weeks I will be slowly cooking and eating my way through my Top 10s.

Header pic: DullNeon


  1. [New Post] Top 10 Malaysian/ Singaporean Local Desserts to sweeten your day – via #twitoaster

  2. Ah, your burbur chacha is very similar to the Filipino ginataan dessert (though technically, “ginataan” can really refer to anything cooked with coconut milk). We use sweet potato and taro, but add even more things like banana, ube (purple sweet potato) and mochi balls. I prefer mine warm, since it’s very soothing – probably why I was living on it throughout Manifest, lol.

    • Mm yes. Warm dessert soups are the best. They just make me warm and fuzzy inside!

    • How could I forget my favourite topping on ginataan – jackfruit! LOL. My favourite Singaporean dessert is ice kachang (remember the song?), but in the Philippines, we serve it with all the toppings on TOP, so you’re not left drinking soup at the end.

  3. All my favourites! I miss that old ice cream… sighhhhh
    .-= penny aka jeroxie´s last blog ..International Incident Scones Party – Pumpkin scones with sweet tomato jam =-.

  4. No no no no nooooooo!! Whilst VERY mouthwatering, I really miss these desserts now!! Aaaah :( Hehe I’m with you- not a fan of ice-kachang. Also cos not a fan of kidney or red beans. And is what you called tong sui like cheng tng? That’s my absolute favourite, together with tau huay! Yum yum…
    .-= Honey @ honeyandsoy´s last blog ..Organic Expo &amp Green Show =-.

    • I don’t mind Kidney or Red beans. In fact, I really like red bean soup. And I do believe Tong Sui and Cheng Tng are very similar if not the same. That’s the problem with having so many different dialect groups from the same race… you get a million and one names for the same thing!

  5. Ah!! they are my favourite desserts too!
    .-= Ellie (Almost Bourdain)´s last blog ..Lime and Coconut Madeleines =-.

  6. Oh cool!! This will help so much to decipher menus when I am out and about. The black glutinous rice dessert looks divine, and I would like to try the or nee. Love the multicoloured bread too! There was a bakery in Sorrento (Mornington Peninsula) that did bread like that when I was a kid – normal white bread taste but swirls of colour. We loved it!
    .-= Ms Baklover´s last blog ..Paradise Pup =-.

    • Or Nee is really really easy to make. Do you know if the bakery still does that? It’d be really cool to make those ice cream sandwiches here!

  7. Souch a very awesome post for someone like me who is so into discovering ethnic foods. The only one I know and have tried is the glutonous black rice from an Indonesian resto. Can,t say all are appetizing but a great post!
    .-= Evelyne@CheapEthnicEatz´s last blog ..Import-Export – Unique Cooking Theatre =-.

    • It’s quite different from other cultures isn’t it? I love seeing what dishes other cultures have, like you, I love discovering new and exciting ethnic foods!

  8. Oooh Celeste, I am drooling at the memory of eating all of these yummy desserts when I was growing up!!! I think tau foo fah is about the only one I can actually make for myself, LOL.
    .-= Deb (Two Cheeky Monkeys)´s last blog ..The Art-Craft Exchange Project Part 2 and Some More Sneak Peeks =-.

  9. This was a lot of fun – I can’t wait to see your recipe for homemade cendol! It was one of my favourite discoveries when I visited Malaysia for the first time, earlier this year.
    .-= Cindy´s last blog ..August 14- 2010- Thai Green Curry =-.

    • I haven’t had cendol in a few months.. When I went home a few months ago, I tried some cendol from a Pasar Malam and was so so disappointed! Hopefully I’ll be able to make some proper ones at home. Hehe. Now to find an ice shaving machine…

  10. i love a good ice kachang :-)

  11. oh wow- they all look GREAT!! thank you fo sharing all these photos :)
    .-= betty´s last blog ..VITARIUM – Gluten Free pancake mix =-.

  12. Oh man, SO GOOD! A few there that I haven’t tried before but really want to. Right now. God, fighting mad craving for coconut and sago now. Must forget…
    .-= Conor @ HoldtheBeef´s last blog ..To Blog is to Brag =-.

  13. Those desserts look sooooooooo yummy ^^
    i misss tau foo fah~~~
    .-= Yuki´s last blog ..HK- OWL Our Wonderland =-.

  14. I LOVE tau suan :P gosh I miss my mom’s cooking so much! ugh :P
    .-= chun´s last blog ..Copic Markers =-.

  15. I love love love or nee! a good bowl of or nee is so hard to come by! i can make bubur chacha but can’t find the ingredients where I am at now.. Boy reading this post really made me miss home..

  16. *drools*

    Food is great; but Malaysian food just knock my socks off!
    Elizabeth recently posted..Bruno Mars Done Dusted and Covered -

  17. jeannette desilva says:

    can you please give me a receipe for tapioca( ubi kayu) cake

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