I landed in Kuala Lumpur on a mission to try Malaysian sweets… as many as I could and all if possible. I soon learned that Malaysians absolutely love their sugary delights (which is what probably makes them some of the sweetest people in the world – literally one of the nicest nationalities!) and that I would have a whole world of sweets to conquer if I wanted to try them all. Malaysian sweets come in many forms, but in order to try local food off the streets and in local stores, I wanted to avoid packaged goods and go for homemade – so here is my (huge) selection!
Dodol is not only popular in Malaysia, but also throughout Southeast Asia in Indonesia, Singapore, the Philippines, Brunei, South India, Sri Lanka and Burma! This toffee-like candy is creamy and gooey all in one!
Angku (Mung Bean)
Angku is a steamed dessert and filled with mung bean inside. You can get all sorts of colours and it is widely available throughout Malaysia.
Ketayap is without a doubt my favourite Malaysian dessert! The exterior is a green pancake, filled with coconut covered in palm sugar — super sweet but super tasty!
Kuih lapis comes in at a close second for my favourite Malaysian desserts because of its sweetness and jelly-but-smooth consistency that leaves you always wanting more. Think a condensed milk flavour but a more firm consistency that melts in your mouth to some extent! It is made of coconut milk, tapioca flour, coarse sugar, rice flour and pandan leaves.
Ondeh ondeh is definitely within my top three Malaysian desserts – maybe even knocking one of the above mentioned desserts out of their place! When eating ondeh ondeh, be sure to place the entire thing in your mouth and bite in as a stream of palm sugar flows out of the sweet and into your mouth — delicious!
For those who don’t like super sugary things, sago might be a better option as it has much less flavour (meaning much less fun if you ask me!) It comes in all sorts of flavours so be sure to shop around.
I can’t say I was crazy on Bingka Ubi, also known as tapioca cake… but it was more or less the top gooey brown icing that really put me off. The cake itself was quite tasty and definitely worth a try as tapioca is a very popular flavour here in Malaysia – you’ll find it everywhere! This dish is chewy and not very sweet, so great for those who don’t like really sugary flavours (unlike me, I’m all about the sugar!)
Another popular sweet is the layered purple and white talem keladi cake. The smell isn’t too welcoming nor is the flavour for my person palette, but it is quite popular and still worth a try! For the sweet tooths like me, try the kuih lapis instead.
Served in pandan green or gula melaka brown, koswee is an interesting Malaysian dessert that I might say (for me, at least) has an acquired taste. These nonya cakes originate from China and a served like a small tea cup. The texture is surprisingly springy and the flavour sweetened by coconut sugar.
Ais Kacang is better known as simply “shaved ice”. This is a great treat in the Malaysian heat and very popular throughout the country (believe me when I say you’ll find it everywhere!) You can get many different variations on the classic shaved ice with different flavours and toppings, so be sure to try around!
I tried an apam balik on my first night in Malaysia without realising it would be a sweet to photograph, so I wasted no time in chowing it down before getting the chance to do so! This dish is a crispy wafer-thin exterior pocket, filled with a little crushed peanut and sweet sauce in the centre. It is really light and a great snack to grab from the street vendors.
This dish is the rough equivalent of banana fritters – a whole banana covered in a batter, deep fried to a crispy consistency and served either alone or with ice cream and toffee sauce. This is beyond delicious and can be found both on the streets and in fancy restaurants – so be sure to try a few during your time in Malaysia!