The Malay language (like many other languages) has a knack for borrowing words from other languages, and the word “AIS” is a literal transcription of “ICE”, but with a Malay spin on it. “KACANG” translates to peanuts, making the name of the dish “Ice Peanuts”. It’s a shaved ice dessert, one traditionally served with a helping of red beans by the side, canned corn on top, and coconut sugar to go with the peanuts. Popular in Malaysia, it’s a dessert that’s (literally) been around for ages, enjoyed almost universally, loved by all. Here we go.
Restoran Sun Kee Hin
In my experience, while the good eats recommended by Google and TripAdvisor are almost always yummy, there’s almost always a hidden gem for good food that doesn’t get as much publicity simply because it’s a little off the well-travelled road. Occupying a corner lot, the place itself stands out with its big sign and two clumps of bamboo trees growing out by the side. Behind the exterior of this old-kopitiam (Chinese owned coffee shop) lies a humble place ran for 18 years, it sure knows how to impress customers with its base menu, ais-kacang and kopi (coffee) among them.
RM 3.50 per bowl of Ais-Kacang
RM 1.20 per cup of coffee
Location: 240, Jalan Simpang Pulai, Taman Muda, 31300 Ipoh, Perak
What to expect:
Where do I start? Is it the sweet, creamy, attention-grabbing coconut sugar laced in the ice that makes the base flavor already pop? Could it be the red beans that give the ensemble a mushy, gentle, yet grounded kind of textured sweetness that make it enjoyable, or is it the sweet corn on top, with its sharp, sweetening-ly uplifting taste that somehow finds a way to contrast the already poppin’ ice-and-coconut-sugar base?
Just as you think you’re enjoying the dessert already, all of a sudden a roasted peanut makes its way into your mouth, and bam! an earthly flavor is here to compliment the whole cacophony of sweetness. And then the grass jelly sneaks in, weirdly enough as the low-key player of the cast, with that mild, bitter taste that humbly contrasts the multiplicity of sweetness that its brothers-in-dessert bring to the table, a gentle reminder that you’re still on earth and not lost in some sugary heaven.
I’m indulging in a dessert that takes me through many dimensions of sweetness, one that somehow finds a way to make me re-think of ‘sweet’ not as something laced with sugar, but as a glorious potentiality of flavors that all make the front of my tongue tingle with delight. A pretty sweet definition if I do say so myself.
This dessert opened up my mind to new ways experiencing sweetness, and I’m glad to say that it makes for one of many beautiful starting points if you’re looking to experience Malaysian food.
Dark and smooth. First impressions? With just the minimal amount of milk added to make it creamy, complimenting a beautiful roasted coffee aroma. Second impression? There lies a slight tinge of acidity that lingers at the edge of the brew. My coffee friends call it ‘fruity’ flavor, but funnily enough that bit of acidity is what opens my taste buds to fully bathe in the delightful brew that is this coffee. For a second, I’m back in Venice, sipping a long-black by the canals, but this one is laced with just the right amount of milk, and when the beverage makes its way to the back of my throat, I’m left remembering that I’m in Perak, not Venice.
After the sugary circus show that was the ais-kacang, the warm kopi puts a smile on my face. Perfect.
In hindsight I should have taken photos, but in lieu of my mistake I have Google images to thank for these images. I personally enjoyed the stop here, but don’t let my description cloud your expectations, come over here instead and try it for yourself. The food from the side stall too may taste amazing, too, but then again that’s one of my regrets for not being able to try them.
Have a nice day as always!