Malaysian sweets were also introduced into the line up and as time went on and the country gained its independence, the tradition of teatime was still highly regarded and observed. Here are our favourites – ranging from kuihs (desserts usually made from glutinous rice) and fried desserts to specialty pancakes and shaved ice – as well as some of the best places to find them.
This brightly-coloured dessert is known by a few names – the most popular of which is ABC (ais batu campur or mixed ice). It is basically shaved ice, with red rose, sarsi (sasparilla) or brown sugar syrup, sprinkled with corn kernels, red beans and jelly bits, and doused with evaporated, condensed or coconut milk. Some street vendors have unusual dressings like basil seeds, durian, ice cream, fruits, raisins and palm nuts but we love our ais kacang traditional style. Also try cendol – a soup-like dessert of chewy, green mung bean blended with ice, palm sugar syrup and coconut milk and topped with bits of grass jelly: some versions might even see ingredients such as red beans and creamed corn added. We recommend you make a pit stop at Ah Keong’s ais kacang stall in front of 7-Eleven, in Brickfields (along Jalan Padang Belia), Little India for the best ais kacang and cendol in KL.
A classic street food snack, apam balik is a buttery pancake that comes in two varieties. The thick variety is Malay in origin and has an almost sticky, cake-like consistency with a filling of crushed peanuts, drizzled with gooey, honey and sprinkled with salty, juicy sweet corn. The thin version, similar to American pancakes, is smaller and has Chinese roots, with fillings that range from bananas, to chocolate. You can find this street snack at almost any pasar malam (night market) in the city, but we love the stall at the head of the Petaling Street market.
A favourite especially among the little ones, bahulu is a traditional Malay sponge cake, usually baked in the form of a button or goldfish. Combinations of eggs, flour and sugar result in this crowd-pleaser and these golden, crusty-yet-soft cakes make a great companion to tea and coffee. Grab a packet of these pre-packaged treats at the daily Chow Kit wet market (between Jalan Raja Laut and Jalan Tuanku Abdul Rahman) or at the Jalan TAR pasar malam – one of the city’s biggest night markets, which takes place every Saturday.