As a general rule, Asian desserts are sweet, but not too sweet, and they involve ingredients such as beans, tapioca pearls and syrups in psychedelic colours. Here are the freshest desserts from around Asia to beat the heat this summer.
Ice Kachang from Kopitiam, Ultimo
Ultimo eatery Kopitiam has been serving authentic Malaysian hawker food since 1999.
Ice kacang is a popular dessert on the menu. It’s a mountain of shaved ice with myriad sweet, surprising toppings: jelly, red beans, creamed corn, attap chee (palm seeds), palm sugar, evaporated milk and electric, bright-red and green syrups.
Owner Harris Chang says, “It’s a dish to cool down. People have it as a dessert after a meal, or as a meal by itself.” As for those not familiar with ice kacang, he says, “They always react to the freshness of the shaved ice, and they find the colour of it incredible.”
Halo Halo from Pamana Café, Chatswood
Pronounced “hah-lo hah-lo”, this Filipino version of ice kacang means “mix mix”. Shaved ice is topped with mixed sweetened fruit, banana, a purple yam called ube (“oo-beh”), mung beans, coconut jellies, coconut pieces and leche flan, a Filipino-style crème caramel.
Halo halo is practically a Filipino national treasure. Mark Baxa of Chatswood’s Pamana Café says, “If you talk to any Filipino in Australia, they’ll tell you what they really miss back home in the Philippines is halo halo.”
Milo Dinosaur from Pappa Rich, Broadway
The Milo Dinosaur or Milo Tabur is a Malaysian and Singaporean drink that’s simple and refreshingly delicious. PappaRich bartender Jin Lok says, “The Milo Dinosaur gives me a lot of energy. That’s why I love it.”
The energy boost isn’t surprising. The drink consists of rich, iced Milo topped with a towering heap of more Milo powder. There’s enough sugar and calories in one drink to take care of your recommended daily intake for a few days.
Try it on its own, or with PappaRich’s spicy beef rendang and roti.
Bubble Tea, Chatime, Sydney
For a first timer, Chatime’s bubble tea menu is overwhelming. To start, there are milk teas, fruit teas, slushies, and hot teas for bases. Toppings are equally abundant. There are tapioca pearls (the bubbles), and different flavours and types of jellies.
Don’t be dissuaded by so much choice. Here’s a simple option for summer: passionfruit green tea with pearls and lychee jellies.
The only thing left to tackle is stabbing the oversized straw into the lid without spilling tea everywhere. Hint: the key is to do it quickly, with force.
Bingsu, Zero Degrees, CBD
One of a new slate of eateries opened this year at Regent Place, Zero Degrees serves Instagram-worthy dessert confections. There are the swirled, multicolour soft-serve ice creams with red beans or pop rocks in the centre, sitting atop fish-shaped cones.
Then there’s the bingsu, a Korean shaved-milk sherbet with fruit. Owner To Kim says, “We call it a snowflake milk sherbet because the texture looks like snow.” The milky-white sherbet is piled on a mound of syrupy strawberries, and surrounded by even more strawberries. Other toppings include mango peach, Oreo or a Korean rice cake that Kim describes as “rich, but not that sweet.”
Get Zero Degrees’ bingsu in the CBD or at Hurtsville Westfield from mid-December.