A mountain of shaved ice sits precariously upon a bowl seemingly too small for its majestic ego with bright crimson red, green and brown liquids drizzled upon it. Famously called the Ice Kacang, which means “ice beans” in Malay, this dessert looks like a glorified mountain oozing with pure artistic culinary delight and rich exotic culture.
Ice Kacang is a South East Asian dessert which can be found in most coffee shops and hawker centers in Malaysia. It is perfect for the all year summer like conditions of the South East Asian climate and has been for a very long time, a favorite among the locals. Spartan shaved ice finely grated by an ice shaving machine, it is then drizzled with a colorful mix of rose red syrup, pandan flavored green syrup and a Gula Melaka (Palm sugar) syrup giving the Ice Kacang a somewhat visually stunning appeal .
But what’s on top, as the saying goes, is just the tip of the iceberg – pun intended. The actual goodness of the dessert is what lies underneath it all; a flurry of very local ingredients such as red beans, sweet corn, atap seeds (fruit from the Nipa Palm), grass jelly, sago and agar agar. Eat them with the sweet icy goodness splashed with evaporated milk and one shall experience a slush like never before.
The history of the Ice Kacang goes as far back as when the Ice Ball was popularised during the early 1950s and 60s when they were sold from pushcarts. Finely grated ice squashed into a snowball and drizzled with different colored syrups made it a fun delight for neighbourhood kids of the earlier generation.
Today, the Ice Kacang comes in variations with a selection of toppings such as mango or durian puree, cocktail fruits or even chocolate sauce. However, the main ingredients that gives the Ice Kacang its floor foundation still remains to retain the good culture of the dessert.
As the dessert is prolific in Malaysia, it is quite hard to pinpoint a location that sells the best but one can tell from a good Ice Kacang to a relatively bad one through the granularity of the ice and the flavour combinations of the syrups.