The French have their crème brulee, the Italians their tiramisu and in Asia, we have ice kacang or shaved ice desserts —wickedly refreshing treats that are perfect on a hot sunny day.
With its bakingly hot — or even year-long — summer seasons, it’s not surprising that all across Asia, people enjoy their own local sweet iced treat. But do you know the stories and facts behind them?
1. Spoon, What Spoon?
Ice kacang, or ais kacang as it is also known, is a Malaysian dessert traditionally made of shaved ice, red beans, jelly and at least two to three varieties of sweet syrup (normally rose, pandan and sarsaparilla) topped with evaporated milk, though there are some varieties that use coconut or condensed milk. In the 1940s and ‘50s, ice kacang came in the form of ice balls — finely grated ice rolled into a ball and topped with red and green syrup. Sold for just five or 10 cents each at most, it was typically eaten using one’s fingers and not a spoon — frozen fingers anyone? For an additional 10 cents, you would get a scoop of red beans and a generous drizzle of condensed milk.
2. Local Sweetness
Ice kacang is the southeast Asian version of an icy treat. But shaved ice is beloved all over the region, from Filipino Halo-Halo (which adds in dollops of creamy ice cream) to Taiwanese bao bing, whose shaved ice is finer, and topped with everything from mung beans to crunchy peanuts.
3. Cures Your Ills?
Thais love their shaved ice dessert version (nam kaeng sai) so much that some local recipe books even tout its medical benefits, calling it a “soothing relief for sore throat, laryngitis, fever, and flu.”
4. Sweet Treat
For those health conscious calorie counters among us, one bowl of shaved ice can contain approximately 258 calories, so be forewarned, you could just get a sugar rush from all that syrup . Try sharing a bowl with a friend. Besides having a fun fight over the jellies, red beans and other goodies within, you will cut the calories consumed by half.
Ice kacang is just one of those things which make you want to bite into life without hesitation. However, if you have sensitive teeth you might be wary of eating such chilly desserts.
Never fear. Using a toothpaste like Colgate Sensitivity Pro-Relief will allow you to dig into local cold favorites with a smile again.