8 Glamorous Asian Icy Desserts

By Mark Wiens 20 Comments

1. Es Pisang Ijo – Yogyakarta, Indonesia (originates from Sulawesi)

Es Pisang Ijo roughly translates to “green banana ice,” and that is precisely what it is, along with some added goodies.  This mixed bowl of refreshing goodness can only be described as green bananas floating in an icy red syrup with a creamy pudding like substance coating all things and unable to dissolve into the liquid.  Es pisang ijo is a brilliant icy creation and a wonderful dessert in Indonesia.

ice pisang ijo indonesian dessert

2. Gula Melaka Baba Cendol – Melaka, Malaysia

Melaka Malaysia’s sweet and popular treat on a tropical heated afternoon is a gula Melaka baba cendol.  The queue sprawls out the door at Jonker 88 and waiters rapidly serve the glorified treat.  The glass bowl starts off with sweet beans, kernels of yellow corn, and green jelly cendol noodles.  Shaved ice is then formed on top and then a masterful combination of condensed milk, sweet coconut cream, and the famous Melaka palm sugar is sloshed over the ice.  The mango version also included candied mangoes and another ultra sweet fruity syrup.

gula melaka baba cendol malaysia

3. Nam Kang Sai – Bangkok, Thailand

Paralell to the extent and customization of the best Thai food specialities, there are also so many options to choose from when exploring nam kang sai or iced mixture dessert in Thailand.  A typical street stand is covered with glass bowls filled with all kinds of colorful and sometimes transparents morsels.  A mixture of chopped ingredients are added to the bottom of the bowl prior to larger chunks are added to the top.  The typical artificial syrup is doused on top generously.

thailand nam kang sai

4. Shave Ice – Honolulu, Hawaii

There’s nothing like a famous shave ice cone in the late afternoon after being scorched by the afternoon sun or thrashed around from waves in Hawaii.  Choose a cone or bowl with ice cream or sweet azuki beans, or nothing on the bottom.  Fine shaved ice is packed on top with a choice of flavored syrups poured on.  Some people like a squirt of condensed milk to cap it off.  One of my favorite places for shave ice is Waiola Shave Ice in Honolulu and Matsumoto Shave Ice in Haleiwa.

rainbow shave ice in hawaii

5. Halo Halo – Manila, Philippines

The local Filipino mixed ice desert usually consists of sweet palm fruit, jack fruit, coconut pulp, sweet mung beans, deep purple yams, and maybe some corn or tapioca pearls.  Shaved ice is then piled on top usually followed by a scoop of creamy ice cream or combination of ice creams.  Halo Halo melts together into a sweet creamy soup that refreshes on the hottest of Filipino days.  Chow King restaurant serves a pretty popular Halo-Halo!

mixed ice halo halo from chow king

photo courtesy of cjess45

6. Kakigori – Kyoto, Japan

When Japan starts to heat up in the summer months like it’s South East Asian counterparts, Kakigori shaved ice starts to become a necessity.  It’s commonly served pretty simple, shaved ice in small chunks with a choice of syrups and condensed milk.  Some stores also offer ice cream or sweet bean paste.  Gourmet variations with creamy green tea or covered in Japanese black sugar and candied chestnuts are also available.

kakigori japanese ice dessert

photo courtesy of Bibil

7. Patbingsoo – Seoul, South Korea

Korea much like Japan heats up in the summer months and nothing refreshes like a patbingsoo.  The Koreans have taken this iced treat to a complex and elegant level.  Along witht the typical shaved ice is a mixture of sweet azuki beans, rice cakes, daintily chopped fruits (like kiwi, banana, and berries), condensed milk, sweet syrups, and sometimes ice cream or frozen yoghurt and whipped cream.  Patbingsoo is a colorful refreshing meal of a dessert!

patbingsoo korean ice dessert

photo courtesy of Klara Kim

8. Eight Treasure Ice Baobing – Taipei, Taiwan

With a name like “Eight Treasure Ice,” you know right away that this is one treat that should be respected in the hierarchy of icy desserts.  Beginning with a bed of shaved ice, the bowl of treasure is then piled with mounds of red mung beans, green mung beans, taro, yams, peanuts, starch balls, almonds, grass jelly, and other jellies, until reaching the fabulous 8.

eight treasure ice taiwan

photo courtesy of xymox

What’s your favorite iced out dessert on a warm day in South East Asia?

20 comments. I'd love to hear from you!

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  • ari

    9 years ago

    you should try Rujak Es Krim while you’re back to Yogyakarta again mark.

    its basically fruits rujak with ice cream and condensed milk, sweet, spicy, bitter, sour mixed into one plate. gosh i missed it!

  • Eva & Jeremy Rees

    14 years ago

    Big thumbs up! We both loved this crazy psychadelic Asian desserts, but when we show pictures to folks back home they seem horrified… oh well, more for us!

    If you haven’t tried it yet, look out for one of our favorites: Tang Yuen. We found it in many countries, but it comes from China. Delicious soft rice flour balls filled with peanut paste, black sesame (yummiest IMHO), and red bean paste, bobbing in hot ginger soup.

    • Mark Wiens

      14 years ago

      Haha, I’ve gotten some of those same peculiar looks! Yes, I eat that in Chinatown, Bangkok! In Thai that dish is called “Bua Loy Nam King,” and it is easily one of my favorite desserts as well. Oh man, I’m dreaming of it right now. Thanks for sharing!

  • Earl

    14 years ago

    I ended up with my very first cavities because of such treats in Thailand!

    But of course it didn’t stop me from continuing to treat myself on every visit to that part of the world…

    • Mark Wiens

      14 years ago

      Ha, Well at least it’s a worthy sacrifice for eating treats!

  • Mark Wiens

    14 years ago

    @Gourmantic: It does sort of look like brains, but I think it is my favorite one! You can definitely get your sugar fix!

    @Juno: I’ve never eaten Patbingsoo, but when I come to Korea I definitely will, you better go out and eat some!

  • Juno

    14 years ago

    haha did you eat Patbingsoo? (Red bean+Ice) Red bean sauce is classic.
    Shave Ice looks really great.
    It’s super hot here, so this article gives me ice-hunger!!! 😀

  • Gourmantic

    14 years ago

    Um… the first dessert reminds me of brains but I’d try the rest. If they provide a sugar fix, count me in!

  • Mark Wiens

    14 years ago

    Hope you guys can all get a chance to sample these! I’ve actually never had a Korean Patbingsoo, so that’s next on my list.

    @Dina: I had Es Campur a few times in Indonesia and like you said, the seller added a few random things to the mixture, it was great!

  • Dina

    14 years ago

    Mark, it’s midnight here and this post makes my mouth waters 🙂

    I haven’t been in SE Asia other than Indonesia, and my favourite there is “es campur” (lit. mixed ice). Maybe you know what it is, but if you don’t, it looks like #3 from Thailand. It has cuts of fruits and agars, or whatever the seller feel like. Ice crush, sweetened condensed milk, and pink syrup. Yummy!

  • Laura

    14 years ago

    Wow, these look fancy. I think the only one I’m familiar with is shaved ice at the moment, but I know what to look forward to now when I head to SE Asia next week!

  • Mark

    14 years ago

    There are some many ice based treats, yet each Asian country has their own way of putting it together using different ingredients and styles. I’ve try halo-halo from the Philippines and I’m excited to try the others! Also, check out some travels I’ve ventured on and read about my preparations to Tanzania to climb Mount Kilimanjaro. AdventureTravelBlog.org

  • Shannon OD

    14 years ago

    That’s just cruel to post this while I’m not over there! 😉 These look incredible and I am eager to seek some out when I get back to Asia.

  • Pam

    14 years ago

    You would have also loved this one that we just had in Honolulu. It was at a little hole in the wall place called “Sweet Home Cafe” and they had a dessert with shave ice, boba (tapioca pearls), mango custard (really yummy!), and condensed milk I think and I might be missing something. It was delish.

  • Mark Wiens

    14 years ago

    @Eli: Great, you are for sure going to love some of these desserts! I think my overall favorite is #2 from Malaysia.

    @Ren: Yah, I miss it too, halo halo is just the craziest mixture!

    @Andrew: Yah a few of them do get pretty complicated, they also take pride in the exact texture of the ice shavings.

  • Andrew

    14 years ago

    Well I’m hungry – some pretty interesting and complicated dishes

  • Ren Robles

    14 years ago

    I miss Chowking halo-halo now. Dammit.

  • Eli

    14 years ago

    Holy crap! Those are some complicated looking desserts. Interesting to mix ice cream and sweets with vegetables and such. Will be in SE Asia in 3 months and now I have something to look forward for my sweet tooth! Patbingsoo looks awesome!