6+ Epic Malay Desserts You Didn’t Know You Loved

Malay cuisine is diverse and flavorful, and so are Malay desserts. The locals are basically known for their sweet tooth, and there are also some delicious desserts that Malaysians relish in the evening after their meal. From traditional dishes like kuih talam to more modern creations such as ice cream and cakes, their desserts are a thing of beauty. Malay desserts are known for their rich, layered, creamy textures, often topped with a sweet sauce. 

So, get ready for an adventure into the world of Malaysian desserts! I hope you enjoy this article about some awesome Malaysian dessert that will make your mouth water and stomach growl with delight.

The Most Commonly Used Ingredients

malay desserts

The Malays have a long tradition of cooking and eating desserts. Malay desserts were usually consumed on special and festive occasions in the old days. Nowadays, however, Malay desserts are commonly eaten as a part of breakfast, lunch, or an afternoon snack. All kinds of cakes were passed down from one generation to another, and one of the most traditional and well-known ones in the Malay community is kuih. Kuih can be baked, grilled – even steamed, and found all over Malaysia.

We can divide kuih into two categories: the sweet and the savory ones. The sweet kuih is usually made using coconut milk, palm sugar (gula melaka), or brown sugar. The spicy ones contain spicy ingredients, such as cloves, anise, curry, cumin, chili, or black pepper. These ingredients give kuih a whole new dimension to a savory kuih.

When it comes to other typical Malay desserts and their recipes, ingredients such as rice flour, palm sugar syrup or brown sugar, tapioca flour, coconut milk, coconut cream, fruit, and condensed milk are commonly included. Other starchy ingredients, sweet potatoes, sweet corn, red beans, black-eyed peas, purple sweet potatoes, and glutinous rice, are also widely used. Apart from those, butterfly pea flowers have been used as natural food coloring for food and drinks for a long time, giving them a striking blue color.


 

The Best Malaysian Desserts You Should Try

Malay desserts are a diverse and rich spread of sweet food. Their desserts are a lot like their culture, rich and diverse, and there are many different types, from traditional to modern fusion. Malay sweets also reflect the cultures that have influenced them over the years. Some of these include: 

Kuih is one of the simpler Malay dessert names, but boy are they complex!

1. Kuih-Muih

If you’ve ever delved into the world of Malaysian desserts, then you’ve probably heard of kuih. Coming from the Hokkien language, kuih is used to refer to cakes that were made with glutinous rice flour and then fried in oil. And while it may sound simple, its taste is anything but!

The dish itself comes in many different varieties. Still, all share similar characteristics: they’re sweet, with a soft and slightly chewy texture. The exact ingredients may vary depending on who’s making it. Most common are gula melaka (palm sugar), coconut milk and pandan leaves, tapioca flour as a thickening agent, and sometimes even vanilla extract!

Depending on where you get this, kuih may sometimes be topped with freshly grated coconut, ground peanuts, and even chocolate sauce! After a delectable meal of nasi lemak, this will hit the spot!

2. Ice Kacang

Ice Kacang Malay is a dessert that has been around for decades. It is made of shaved ice with various toppings, such as red beans, cornflakes, and condensed milk. The customer mixes the topping ingredients to their preference before being poured over the ice shavings. The dish was created in Malaysia during colonial times.

3. Red Bean Soup  

Red Bean soup is a popular dessert in Malaysia. It is usually served hot and has a sweet taste to it. The ingredients for this dish are red beans, sugar, salt, water, and coconut milk. To prepare the dish, you put all of these ingredients in a pot on the stove until they boil together, then remove from heat and serve with ice cream or evaporated milk on top. You can also add other flavors like pandan leaves or vanilla extract to change up the flavor profile of this dessert.

4. Bubur Cha

It is rice cooked in coconut milk and pandan leaves, thickened with cornstarch or flour, and sweetened with sugar. It has a very soft texture, and the color ranges from light yellow to creamy white depending on how much water was used while cooking the rice. Bubur Cha can be found all over Malaysia as it’s one of the most common desserts eaten by Malaysians and is served in individual bowls topped with grated coconut and palm sugar syrup. 

Cendol is one of the loveliest Malay dessert names, don't you think?

6. Cendol

Cendol is a refreshing traditional Malay dessert made with shaved ice, palm sugar syrup, coconut milk, and green jelly noodles made with rice flour. It is usually topped with green cincau (coconut milk jelly), red beans, sweet corn kernels, palm sugar syrup, durian, and ground peanuts. The name cendol comes from the Malay word cendul, which means shaved.

The name is believed to come from the Malay word jendol, which means “bump” – referring to the worm-like texture of the jelly noodles. It is also known to have originated in Indonesia, which explains why it may look similar to some of the country’s dessert recipes as well. Back then, Cendol is sold by street vendors in the early 20th century to people looking for a quick way to cool down in the hot weather.

Pulut hitam might be one of the more difficult to pronounce Malay dessert names, but it's so easy to finish up!

7. Pulut Hitam

Pulut hitam comprises two words: pulut, which means “glutinous rice,” and hitam, which means “black.” Together, it means “black rice,” and the treat looks like it sounds! The treat is made of glutinous rice flour, and coconut milk, sweetened with palm sugar syrup or cane sugar.

Tasting pulut hitam for the first time is a memorable experience. The sticky rice is covered in an attractive, pearlescent black color and slathered in coconut milk and sugar, making for a sweet dessert that tastes out of this world! Some people prefer adding pandan leaves and red beans for a nuttier texture.

While pulut hitam is traditionally served during special occasions such as weddings or festivals, you can still find this uniquely Malaysian dessert on street corners and hawker stalls. So if you ever need a quick fix, look for the black glutinous rice – it’ll taste amazing!

Learn the ABC's of Malay dessert names here!

8. Air Batu Campur (ABC)

Know the ABCs of the Malay language? Air batu campur, that is! Air means ice, and batu campur means mixed – making this one of the most literally named Malaysian desserts ever! This sweet and refreshing dish is one of the most famous Malay desserts in the world.

Also known as ais kacang, ABC comprises shaved ice, a sweet flavored syrup called sago gula melaka, rose syrup, sweetened condensed milk, and evaporated milk. And then, it’s topped by canned red beans, sweet corn, peanuts, cendol, sweet potatoes, grass jelly, and, if you’re lucky, a scoop of ice cream.

More adventurous eaters top off the affair with even more sago gula melaka to give their blood sugar a much-needed rush. The result is an amazingly refreshing treat that beats the day’s heat or caps off a really heavy mee goreng.

Also known as douhua, this is a famous Malaysian Chinese dessert!

9. Tau Foo Fah 

Among the many traditional Malaysian desserts, tau foo fah is one of the best examples of Malaysian diversity bringing out the best in its cuisine. This dish is essentially a silken tofu pudding mixed with agar-agar powder and various sweet syrups. Its name

The dish comes from Chinese immigrants to Malaysia, and the recipe has remained unchanged. It comprises soy milk, soybeans, water, pandan leaves, and agar-agar powder. But, of course, these are Malay desserts, so expect some sweetness in the form of palm sugar, or clear ginger-based syrup.

Sometimes, it comes topped with pumpkin seeds, peanuts, sesame, black-eyed peas, red and green beans, or black sesame balls. If you’re in the market for a milder-tasting sweet treat, tau foo fah is the dessert you need!

10. Apam Balik

Want Malaysian desserts you can eat on the go? Apam balik might be the dessert you want! The name directly translates to “come back” in English, and that name is true – you’re gonna want to come back to this lovely dessert time and time again!

The origins of apam baik need to be clarified, but historians believe it was first introduced in Penang region of Malaysia by Chinese immigrants from Fujian. But no matter what its origins, it’s made its way to the hearts of Malaysians everywhere!

The dough is made with coconut milk, flour, sugar, and eggs. It is then cooked in a pan and filled with the ingredients. Next, people stick coconut cream, sweet potato filling, ripe bananas in a custard, and more. Then, it is fried until golden brown and served hot! For an ala mode twist, add some ice cream!

The Most Common Dessert-Related Words

Malaysian desserts are filled with flavors, just bursting inside your mouth like fireworks. They owe their rich, nutty flavor to some of the most common ingredients that we’ll mention in the table below, so check them out.

EnglishMalay
sweetmanis
dessertspencuci mulut
glutinous ricenasi pulut
palm sugargula Melaka
grated coconutkelapa parut
sweet cornjagung manis
sweet potatokeledek
tapioca flourTepung Ubi Kayu
red beanskacang merah
sugargula
syrupsirap
baking powderserbuk penaik
coconut creamkrim kelapa
coconut milksantan
rice flourtepung beras
sticky rice pulut
baking soda serbuk penaik
ice cream ais krim
steamed glutinous rice pulut kukus
Learn Malay with Ling App

Learn Malay With Ling App

I guess all this talking about desserts and sweets might have made you hungry for knowledge. If so, Ling App is a language learning app developed by Simya Solutions, which helps people learn Malay quickly through the process of gamification. Ling App is designed to make the learning process painless through interactive and personalized lessons. The app is available for iOS and Android, and besides Malay, it can help you get started and advance in over 60 different languages.

If you want to learn more about Malay culture and its people, you can also check out our blog for more articles about various topics. Our most recent ones include the noodle recipes in Malaysian cooking and airport words in Malay.

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