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Must Try-Malaysian Desserts and Where to Find Them

Nadia Malyanah
Malaysian dessert cendol

Delicious Malaysian desserts that will keep you coming back for more!

Malaysians have always loved a good dessert, and the proof is in the variety of local Malaysian desserts one could possibly choose from. While there’s now a myriad of Western and even Korean-style dessert cafes and shops to choose from, nothing beats these local favourites in terms of ease: easy to find, easy on the stomach, and easy on the wallet.

Penang Road Famous Teochew Chendul at Lebuh King Kwee
Penang Road Famous Teochew Chendul at Lebuh King Kwee (Photo: FB @penangchendul)

Sweet and icy, cendol's crowning glory is the green screw-pine flavoured cendol ‘noodles’. It’s usually served with coconut cream or milk, melted gula Melaka (palm sugar), kidney beans as well as a heap of shaved ice. Aside from the ‘original’ cendol, those looking for a bit of adventure can choose from varieties such as durian cendol, jackfruit cendol, and even cookies-and-cream cendol! One of the best-known cendol stalls in Malaysia is the Penang Road Famous Teochew Chendul at Lebuh King Kwee in the state of Penang. But for those who find the original location a bit too far or too stuffy for their liking, they’ve also expanded into a nationwide franchise so you can probably find one outlet near you.

Pandan Layer Cake
Pandan layer cake
Pandan layer cake

This pandan sponge cake alternated with layers of pandan (screw-pine) jelly may look deceptively simple to make, but it is actually pretty complicated. A signature item of Klang’s Regent Pandan Layer Cake shop, filling the cake layer requires a quick hand as the mixture of freshly squeezed pandan juice, fresh coconut milk and Hoen Kwe flour coagulates quickly. It’s still the best place to get your pandan layer cake fix in town, as they've been making it since 1981. While the shop has been passed down to the owner’s son in 2016, the recipe used and the taste of their pandan layer cakes remains the same.

Tau Fu Fah
Tau Fu Fah at Woong Kee Beancurd
Tau Fu Fah at Woong Kee (Photo: FB @woongkeebeancurd)

Smooth and silky, this beancurd pudding is often served with either sugar or gula Melaka (palm sugar) syrup. While it’s easy enough to find wherever fresh soybean milk is sold, some of Malaysia’s best tau fu fah can be found in Ipoh. Either drop by the famous ‘drive-thru’ Funny Mountain for their classic tau fu fah or get it at Woong Kee, which offers various topping and syrup selections for your fix.

Sago Gula Melaka

The sago gula Melaka’s rather straightforward assembly probably explains why it’s a pretty common sight at Malaysian buffet counters. It’s essentially a pudding dessert made from sago (a starch extracted from the spongy centre of tropical palm stems), served with gula Melaka. One of the best sago gula Melaka puddings around that one can possibly order is Original Sago’s, but they’re only available for orders from Kuala Lumpur, Ipoh and Teluk Intan. Otherwise, you can also look out for it at Asian eateries such as the famous Malaysian chain Madam Kwan’s.

Sago Gula Melaka from Original Sago's
Sago Gula Melaka from Original Sago's (Photo: @OriginalSagosince1969)
Kuih Cincin
Kuih Cincin Rabiatul Enterprise
Kuih Cincin Rabiatul Enterprise (Photo: FB @rabiatulringcookies)

Kuih cincin (or baked ring cakes) is a popular tea-time snack associated with the Bruneian Malay community in Sabah. Made with a combination of white sugar, gula Melaka, gula apong (Nipah palm sugar), cooking oil and water, kuih cincin is first shaped into ring flowers before it is dipped into a layer of rice flour and fried. The process is then repeated to give the kuih cincin its signature crunch. There are wet and dry variations to choose from, and a Sarawakian iteration of the kuih cincin primarily utilises gula apong. It’s fairly easy to find in Sabah’s many farmer’s markets, but most of the state’s kuih cincin supply comes from Papar. One of the town’s more well-known kuih cincin producers is Rabiatul Enterprise in Kampung Melugus, and visitors to the factory are often welcome - you can even buy the cheaper versions of the snack.

Gula Apong Ice Cream
RG Ais Krim Bergula Apong, Kuching
RG Ais Krim Bergula Apong, Kuching (Photo: FB @rgaiskrimbergulaapong)

Gula apong ice cream is a fairly modern Sarawakian invention: apparently Richard Tan of RG Ais Krim Bergula Apong in Kuching’s Open Air Market was the first to begin selling it in 2006. Various ice cream flavours (usually vanilla) are churned together or drizzled with gula apong on top to make gula apong ice cream. RG Ais Krim Bergula Apong has a reputation as the go-to place in Kuching, but choices are aplenty. There’s the legendary ABC shop Swee Kang, the DP Ice Cream Gula Apong chain (which can also be found in Kampung Baru, Kuala Lumpur) and local ice cream parlour Sunny Hill versions of the dessert, as well as a coconut-based version at the coconut ice cream shop Cocopuri in Kuching, Sarawak.

These are just a taster of popular Malaysian desserts — there’s just so much out there to indulge your sweet tooth in. Here’s a tip: the local dessert stalls in Malaysian malls are fairly great for quick fixes, but the ones on the roadside are usually the best ones.

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