Eating what the locals do when you travel is one of the best ways you can get to know a place. With my sweet tooth, I try to end each meal with dessert. No matter what I’ve eaten — be it from a hawker’s booth, a mall’s food court or a sit-down restaurant, I must have something sweet.
During my trip to Malaysia, I wanted to try some of the sweets they had. I could’ve easily grabbed some chocolate from the convenience store, but I can get those at home. What I’m looking for are traditional sweets that I may not find anywhere else.
Rice and Coconut Desserts
Like many of its neighboring countries, Malaysia is big on rice and coconuts. It’s no surprise that their desserts make use of these products. Yes, it’s not just for main dishes, but also for sweets.
Kuih talam is a layered dessert, with coconut-rice flour on one, and green pea pandan for the other. It’s chewy and sweet, and if you’re not used to a heavy dessert, take only a small bite.
What grabs my eye on the dessert table are these finger-sized desserts that look like small spring rolls, but they’re green. I learned that it’s kuih ketayap, soft, crepe-like pandan-flavored rice flour cakes filled with shredded coconut sweetened with palm sugar. Imagine that, a decadent dessert made with such basic ingredients. I’m loving it.
Chinese Origin Desserts
The Chinese is one of the more prominent ethnic groups in Malaysia, therefore it’s not surprising to see desserts that are Chinese in origin. Take your pick of any of the dessert soups: fruits, nuts and beans boiled in sweet syrup, sometimes flavored with almond. The cold ones are refreshing.
An array of prepared Chinese desserts such as mooncake can be purchased from bakeshops for an easy sweet treat.
Simple Banana Fritters and Durian
Pisang goreng or banana fritters is probably the simplest to cook, and can be done even at home. Eggs, some flour, cinnamon and sugar for the flavor and of course, bananas. Coat the bananas with the egg and flour mix, fry and then sprinkle some cinnamon sugar.
A dessert that goes well with your coffee is kuih bahulu. The ingredients are not unlike those of Western cakes pastries (it includes eggs, vanilla, wheat flour and baking powder), but it’s a popular dessert for Malaysians. It can be stored for the long term, but it will lose its soft, dry texture after a while.
Also note that the durian fruit is a popular flavor for some desserts. Unlike some fruits that lose a little of its flavor when cooked, the durian’s remain strong. If you find it a little too pungent, approach durian-flavored desserts with caution.
As to any eating experience, take only little pieces when you are faced with an array of choices. In that sense, you get to taste more. Enjoy your sweet Malaysian treats!