During Malaysia's colonial occupation by the British, teatime used to be a supremely important meal. Scones, cakes, and cookies would all be paraded in front of diners, making this one of the most colourful repasts of the day. Malaysian sweets were also introduced into the lineup and as time went on and the country gained its independence, the tradition of teatime was still highly regarded and observed. 

    Today you'll still find lots of places offering western-like cakes, cupcakes, and cookies, but it is the places that serve authentic Malaysian sweets that have stolen our hearts. Here are our favourites – ranging from kuih (desserts usually made from glutinous rice) and fried desserts to speciality pancakes and shaved ice – as well as some of the best places to find them.


    Ais kacang

    A brightly-coloured dessert

    Ais kacang is a brightly-coloured dessert known by a few names – the most popular of which is ABC (ais batu campur or mixed ice). It is basically shaved ice, with red rose, sarsi (sasparilla) or brown sugar syrup, sprinkled with corn kernels, red beans, and jelly bits, and doused with evaporated, condensed, or coconut milk. Some street vendors have unusual dressings like basil seeds, durian, ice cream, fruits, raisins, and palm nuts, but we love our ais kacang traditional style.

    Also, try cendol – a soup-like dessert of chewy, green mung bean blended with ice, palm sugar syrup, and coconut milk and topped with bits of grass jelly: some versions might even see ingredients such as red beans and creamed corn added. We recommend you make a pit stop at Ah Keong's ais kacang stall in front of 7-Eleven, in Brickfields (along Jalan Padang Belia), Little India, for the best ais kacang and cendol in KL.


    Apam balik

    A sweet, buttery treat

    A classic street food snack, apam balik is a buttery pancake that comes in 2 varieties. The thick variety is Malay in origin and has an almost sticky, cake-like consistency with a filling of crushed peanuts, drizzled with gooey honey, and sprinkled with salty, juicy sweet corn.

    The thin version, similar to American pancakes, is smaller and has Chinese roots, with fillings that range from bananas to chocolate. You can find this street snack at almost any pasar malam (night market) in the city, but we love the stall at the head of the Petaling Street market.



    A traditional spongey treat

    A favourite, especially among the little ones, bahulu is a traditional Malay sponge cake, usually baked in the form of a button or goldfish. Combinations of eggs, flour, and sugar result in this crowd-pleaser, and these golden, crusty-yet-soft cakes make a great companion to tea and coffee. 

    Grab a packet of these pre-packaged treats at the daily Chow Kit wet market (between Jalan Raja Laut and Jalan Tuanku Abdul Rahman) or at the Jalan TAR pasar malam – one of the city's biggest night markets, which takes place every Saturday.


    Bingka ubi

    A sunshine-yellow delight

    Bingka ubi is a sweet, baked dessert of grated tapioca, coconut milk, palm sugar, and pandan-flavoured (screw pine leaves) custard. This sunshine-yellow kuih has a gelatinous texture and a light brown crust of grated coconut. 

    Also called Casanova cake, it is a simple dish that is chewy and not too sweet: we recommend you get a slice from Nyonya Colors, a pop-up restaurant on the lower ground floor of The Gardens, Mid Valley mall.



    A golden brown delicacy

    For something a little bit chewy, try dodol. Some consider making dodol a family affair, as it requires a painstaking process of stirring its ingredients (coconut milk, jaggery, and rice flour) in a large wok for 9 hours non-stop. The end result is a non-stick, thick, deep golden-brown delicacy that is usually cut into smaller pieces, wrapped in plastic, and further packed into boxes for easier transportation.

    If you ever find yourself in Malacca, look out for these sweets at the giant local produce store Tan Kim Hock, where you can find unusual varieties like durian-flavoured dodol. If you cannot make your way there, stalls in Pasar Seni also offer boxed-up homemade dodol.


    Kuih ketayap

    A local teatime favourite

    Kuih ketayap, or kuih dadar, is a local favourite for teatime. It is a soft, tube-shaped pandan crepe rolled up like a spring roll with sweet grated, dark brown coconut filling in its centre. This snack has Nyonya origins and is usually judged by the amount of its filling – the fatter it is, the better! 

    The texture of the crepe varies from stall to stall – some are smooth and flawlessly green due to the use of a non-stick pan when 'grilling' the crepe, while others are spotted with grooves – either way, this snack is sure to satisfy your sweet tooth. We recommend that you make your way to La Cucur in Suria KLCC (they also have a branch in KL Sentral) to grab one of these authentic Malay snacks.


    Kuih lapis

    Layers of sweetness

    A steamed 9-layered cake, kuih lapis is a rainbow-coloured sweet made from coconut milk, tapioca flour, coarse sugar, rice flour, and pandan leaves. What makes it special is the way you eat it – you can choose to bite into all 9 layers or peel off and enjoy each layer one by one. 

    Soft, with a melt-in-your-mouth texture, this sweet can be found almost anywhere in the city when stalls set up to sell evening teatime snacks, but since we prefer air-conditioned comfort, we recommend you grab a slice from La Cucur in Suria KLCC – their version is sweet but not overpowering.


    Ondeh ondeh

    Crunchy balls for teatime

    Looking like a neon green tennis ball covered with swirls of white strings, ondeh ondeh is a popular Malay teatime snack. What makes it special is its core of gooey, brown palm sugar, which creates a sweet contrast to the green glutinous rice casing. 

    Also called coconut poppers, the stringy white swirls on each ball are actually coconut shavings, which give each ball a crunchy texture. In our opinion, the best ondeh ondeh can be found at Nyonya Colors on the lower ground floor of The Gardens, Mid Valley Mall.


    Pisang goreng

    Sweet fried bananas

    Roughly translated as "fried bananas," pisang goreng is a popular teatime snack in KL. The taste can vary depending on personal preference and the preparation method. Some vendors sweeten the bananas and coat them in flour before frying, while others use less ripe bananas for a different taste experience. 

    We particularly enjoy when the bananas are dipped in honey before frying, resulting in an extra-sweet fritter that pairs perfectly with a glass of teh tarik (milky tea) in the evening. For some of the best and sweetest pisang goreng in the city, head to the stall opposite Pelita Nasi Kandar restaurant in SS2, a residential neighbourhood of Petaling Jaya.


    Seri muka

    Milky smooth layers

    Divided into 2 layers – a sweet pandan custard on top and steamed glutinous rice on the bottom – this is one of the most popular Malay sweets. Sometimes the glutinous rice is dotted blue from the addition of butterfly pea flowers, but otherwise, this kuih looks the same at whichever street vendor you visit. It has a milky taste, and the texture is both rough and smooth due to the contrasting layers. 

    For the best Seri Muka in KL, make your way to Taman Tun Dr. Ismail, which is about 20 minutes from the city centre. There is a stall that sets up in the evenings along the alley beside 7/11, and the area is packed with stalls selling other Malay teatime snacks.

    Penny Wong | Compulsive Traveller

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