Cool desserts in the Sarawak heat
Sarawak has an equatorial climate. This means that Malaysia’s largest state experiences year-long summer-type temperatures. Approximately two-thirds of Sarawak’s land area comprise tropical rainforest. The state also experiences high amounts of annual rainfall. All of this translates to a hot and humid climate with average temperature of around 28 degrees Celsius. To combat the heat, Sarawakians have incorporated cool desserts into their diets to ensure they stay cool and refreshed.
The best way to beat the heat is with a mouthful of ice and Sarawakians take this to another level with their Ais Kacang. Ais Kacang literally translates to beans with ice. It gets its name from the origin of the dessert which was traditionally served with sweetened red beans with shaved ice.
Modern iterations of this dessert now include various forms of jellies, corns, molasses and syrups, among others. It is usually accompanied by snacks such as prawn fritters, fried tofus and rojak.
Rojak is considered a salad dish where local fruits such as guavas, pineapples, cucumbers and turnips are sliced and tossed with a spicy palm sugar dressing before being topped off with crushed peanuts. The end result is a tangy and spicy fruit salad which is both refreshing and healthy.
Traditional soft-served ice cream
Sarawak does not lay claim to being the home of traditional soft-served ice cream but it is a favourite among the locals. The soft-serves here come in a variety of flavours and are usually served with bread or butter buns. The combination of the salty taste of the buns and the sweet taste of the ice cream enhances the flavours. Cheap, convenient and a true classic. A bite of this will definitely wash away the heat and stress.
Gula Apong Ice Cream
If you prefer a more elaborate version of the soft serve then the gula apong (palm sugar) ice cream would be perfect for you. It uses the basic soft serve ice cream as a base but is then topped off with a healthy serving of palm sugar syrup. Apong is a type of palm that grows in mud. Gula apong syrup is made when you boil the juices of the flower for hours until the liquid becomes thick, sticky and brown. The rich and decadent taste of the palm sugar – which is sweet with a hint of saltiness – truly brings out the best of the ice cream.
Teh C Special
The Teh C Special or also commonly known as the three-coloured milk tea is a must drink on a hot and humid day. The drink, as its name implies, is composed of three layers. The first and most bottom layer is gula apong or palm sugar. The middle layer is evaporated milk and the upper most layer is tea. Not only is the drink visually pleasing, it has a depth of flavour that is smooth and sweet. Those looking for a healthier alternative can request to replace the palm sugar layer with that of what grass. The perfect thirst quencher on a hot day.
Brightly coloured food always brings joy and happiness and this is especially true for kek lapis (layered cake) which is synonymous with festivals in Sarawak. This pastry comes in a number of different flavours and a variety of designs. It is made of different coloured layers making it a work of art. Each layer must be baked individually, cut into strips and then arranged into different designs and patterns.
The popiah is Sarawak’s own version of the spring roll. It comprises a soft skin that is wrapped around fresh and refreshing ingredients such as turnips, carrots and eggs, among others. It can be served chilled with a dipping sauce or deep fried. The fresh ingredients provide high nutritional value and it also helps you cool down.