Top 7 Sweet Ethnic Treats of Malaysia

(This article was originally published in Issue 7 of  Destination Malaysia magazine.)



Savour our Top 7 picks of local desserts.

We are proud to serve up an enticing spread of traditional desserts to tantalize your taste buds.


These bite-sized delights and exotic beverages are simply drenched with flavour and come in all shapes and hues, reflecting multicultural Malaysia in the best possible ways. We hope our Top 7 picks will let you feast your eyes and feed your senses on a taste of the tropics!



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An absolute star of a dessert, cendol is a universal favourite. For starters, it contains coconut milk and palm sugar — a marriage made in culinary heaven! Served cold, a bowl of cendol consists of these two essential elements plus shaved ice, but the main ingredient is noodles of a jelly-like consistency, made with rice flour and juice from the leaves of Pandanus amaryllifolius or screwpine plant. The pandan extract gives cendol its distinctive green colour, as well as its refreshing aroma and taste. Found in places as wideranging as fuss-free roadside stalls to gleaming 5-star restaurants, cendol is even listed as one of Malaysia’s heritage cuisine under the National Heritage Act 2005.



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Apam Balik

Pancake lovers will fall head over heels for this nutty creation, Malaysia’s quintessential street food. Crispy on the outside but soft and moist on the inside, apam balik hits all the right spots. Flour, eggs and butter (its batter) and sugar, peanuts, butter and sweetcorn (filling) make up this scrumptious snack. Apam balik is cooked flat on the griddle and folded over when it’s done; hence the name, which means turnover pancake. It’s made fresh to order and served piping hot at local night markets or food bazaars. We promise you this: the cooking smell alone will make your mouth water.

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Its fun name, festive green shade and cute size make this sweet confection a winner. Onde-onde refers to glutinous rice flour mixed with pandan juice, shaped into small balls, filled with palm sugar and poached to perfection. The dumplings are then rolled in fresh grated coconut until almost completely coated with the snow-white flakes. One bite of these miniscule treats and you’ll be bombarded with a burst of rich flavours!


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Another ball-shaped wonder! A classic Indian sweet, laddu or ladoo is commonly made from chickpea or wheat flour, milk and sugar. Other flavourings are added and the mixture is then cooked in ghee. Also known for its medicinal properties, laddu’s melt-in-your-mouth texture makes it a popular dish. If you’re a fan of nuts, this dessert will please your palate as an assortment of pistachios and almonds is also frequently featured in the recipe.



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Leng Chee Kang

This is a dessert staple that packs a big cooling punch in Malaysia’s hot and sunny weather. It incorporates an amazing array of ingredients such as lotus seeds, longan, red dates, goji berries, white fungus, Chinese barley, grass jelly, peanuts, gingko nuts, lily bulbs and rock sugar. Are you impressed yet? A wonderfully sweet, fruity concoction that’s brimming with goodness, leng chee kang deserves top marks in all departments.



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Tau Fu Fah

Sometimes called soya bean pudding, bean curd jelly or soya custard, a tau fu fah by any other name would taste as sweet! It’s essentially very soft tofu served with palm sugar or clear sugar syrup. Enjoyed hot or cold, the silken, velvety texture of tau fu fah has ensured its place as a much-loved dessert in Malaysia. Simple yet satisfying — what more can we ask for?


sweet treats

Putu Mayam

This fluffy rice floor noodle dish originated from South India. Today, it’s a permanent fixture of traditional Malaysian gastronomy. Putu mayam makers take great pride in its preparation, which starts with mixing rice floor with water or coconut milk. The resulting dough is then pressed through a special sieve to form vermicelli-like noodles. These lacey cakes or string hoppers are then steamed with the aromatic pandan leaf and served with grated coconut or palm sugar.



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