Malaysia Food Exploration: Ais Kacang

There’s no way to hide the fact that this dessert has a face only a mother could love.

To be fair, I have seen some elegant presentations where a towering cone of shaved ice is drizzled with syrup and dotted with beans, jelly and other toppings, but I still find it hard to face a bowlful head-on and think “yum!”.

ais kacang

It is entirely a cultural thing I think. Sweetcorn and beans are savoury things in the UK, something you’d find in a rich chilli or attempting to liven up a tuna sandwich. You can pour syrup on them, bury them in condensed milk and scatter fruit on top, but my brain will not accept their presence willingly.

Ais kacang (pronounced “ice ka-chang”) is a very popular cold dessert with a base of shaved ice topped with an unusual assortment of items. I am fond of the palm seeds (the large pale translucent things at the top of the pic) and the fresh fruit is always good.

Once we get to the black cubes of grass jelly, I start to become less keen, and you already know my feelings on beans and sweetcorn.

Syrup and some form of milk (condensed, evaporated or sometimes coconut) bring us back to my happy place, so as you can see it is a real mixed bag. Perhaps I need to make my own version where I carefully avoid adding the bits I don’t like and max out on the bits I do, but then I guess it would no longer be ais kacang.

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