The most sinful local desserts
“Life is short, eat dessert first” - something I’ve done after succumbing to temptation too many times. Fellow sweet tooths will agree that the best part of a meal is dessert, and in this foodie paradise of Singapore, we’re definitely not short of yummy desserts to fill our tummies with.
Of course, that comes with the price of a filled-out waistline as well. Wait, but beans are health foods, so green bean soup must be less calorie-laden than a buttercream cupcake, right? Newsflash: it isn’t. Here are the local desserts to watch out for to keep your calorie intake in check:
10. Ondeh ondeh 136 Cal
136 Calories doesn’t sound like much, but when it comes to ondeh ondeh, no one just stops at one. The best way to enjoy it? Pop the whole thing in your mouth and anticipate the sweet, sweet explosion of gula melaka syrup bursting out of its chewy skin and coating your tongue. Ahhh, truly foodgasmic. So well-loved is this coconut-coated treat that there are now many ondeh ondeh flavoured desserts out there, from cupcakes to macarons and even mooncakes.
Warning: if you try to nibble on your ondeh ondeh daintily, it might just shoot out a random stream of gula melaka onto your clothes or on the unfortunate soul sitting across you. #truestory
9. Jemput pisang, 219.64 Cal
When I need to meet my fruit intake, I always turn to these yummy fritters. Okay, I kid. But I’m simply bananas (pun intended) about these deep fried banana balls. The thing with jemput pisang is that once you pop, you can’t stop, and finding out how one piece is over 200 Calories is certainly a devastating discovery for all of us.
Also known as jemput jemput or cekodok pisang, these glorious golden balls are usually made from overripe bananas that otherwise may not be enjoyable to consume on their own. Culinary upcycling at its best!
8. Ang ku kueh with peanut filling, 239.33 Cal
Directly translated to “red tortoise cake”, ang ku kueh is named as such for its resemblance to a tortoise’s shell. In Chinese culture, tortoises are symbols of longevity, so these kuehs are often seen during celebrations like newborns’ first months. Red ones with sweet green bean paste filling are the most common, but there are others with salty green bean, red bean, peanut, and coconut too - usually differentiated by other colours of glutinous rice skin.
For some reason, there have been lots of ang ku kueh products from cushions to earrings popping up in stores lately, and even a cartoon character - Ang Ku Kueh Girl - inspired by the sticky confection.
7. Baked kueh lapis, 237.30 Cal
Not to be confused with its sticky steamed counterpart, baked kueh lapis is a butter cake that’s painstakingly baked layer by layer to achieve its lined design. If this isn’t craft, I don’t know what is. Hard to believe that just one little slice of this would add nearly 240 Calories to your body, but I once watched my grandma baking kueh lapis and she put more than a whopping 20 egg yolks in it! Now we know why it’s got such rich flavour.
These days, many are taking their kueh lapis game up a multicoloured notch after being inspired by the rainbow dessert trend. That’s some real dedication to keeping #aesthetic right there!
6. Ice kacang, 252 Cal (274.5 Cal with durian)
Before the bingsu craze took over Singapore, there was our old friend, ice kacang. At first glance, it just looks like a mountain of shaved ice drenched in colourful syrup, but dig deeper and you’ll find red beans, jelly cubes, corn, and sago hiding beneath. Super authentic ice kacang has attap chee in it too, and discovering a few of those palm seed gems is always a silent victory for me.
In the olden days, ice kacang was served as a giant ice ball. Most traditional dessert stalls today offer the option of having mango or durian puree poured over your ice kacang for a small added fee. Of course, that extra yumminess also comes with extra calories.
5. Tau suan with you tiao, 288 Cal
A close cousin to the dou jiang you tiao (soy bean soup with dough fritters) that JJ Lin sings of is tau suan, a warm mung bean paste. I like to pick out the crispy you tiao pieces and eat them first before they get soggy, though some people prefer to mix everything up and savour the doughiness of the you tiao together with delicious gooey bean paste.
Mung beans alone are nutritious and a high source of fibre. But when made into this starchy sweet dessert, it’s anything but healthy. Needless to say, the you tiao doesn’t help either. Oh well.
4. Coconut mee chiang kueh, 322.95 Cal
Confessions of a suaku: I have enjoyed this fluffy treat for breakfast countless times, but never knew it was called mee chiang kueh. But whether you refer to it by its traditional name or simply as a “pancake”, we can all agree that mee chiang kueh provides a nostalgic comfort that ang moh pancakes at hipster cafes cannot give.
Most popular among Singaporeans is the one with a crushed peanut filling, although there are other fillings like red bean and grated coconut with palm sugar too. No prizes for guessing which one’s the most fattening out of the lot!
3. Pulut hitam, 328.25 Cal
Don’t fool yourself with the thought that pulut hitam is healthy just ‘cause it’s made from black rice. Unfortunately just like how chendol isn't good without gula melaka, pulut hitam isn't complete unless it comes with a generous serving of coconut milk or coconut cream - otherwise it’s pretty much just black glutinous rice porridge.
This rich dessert that’s chock-full of palm sugar can be enjoyed both hot or cold, and is often served with pandan leaf for added fragrance.
2. Chendol, 386.40 Cal (408.75 Cal with durian)
To others, this shaved ice dessert topped with kidney beans and thick green rice-flour strands can appear daunting, frightening even. But we Singaporeans know that chendol is of the most shiok icy treats to indulge in on a hot afternoon.
As a child, I always amused myself with the fact that I was eating “worms” and relished every sweet, gula melaka-infused mouthful. Sometimes, instead of in a bowl, chendol is served in a cup as an ice-blended drink.
Equivalent: 15 cubes of milk chocolate
1.Tang yuan with sesame filling and soup, 493.77 Cal
These boiled “Chinese mochi” balls seem innocent enough, but gobbling down 4 of them at one go will have you ingesting more calories than you would with a set of McD’s hotcakes, complete with butter AND syrup. The high caloric content in tang yuan can mostly be attributed to its glutinous body, though the fragrant pandan soup-syrup is partly to blame too.
Traditionally, tang yuan are reserved for special occasions like the Chinese Winter Solstice and weddings, as their round shape is a symbol for family togetherness. But why wait till then? These days, they’re enjoyed all-year-round and you can even get frozen ones from supermarkets to boil at home.
Motivate yourself to exercise!
So much food, so little time...and only one stomach to take on everything. Like it or not, the proverbial “dessert stomach” doesn’t exist, and if you want to scarf down these sweet treats without turning into a ba zhang, you’re gonna have to werk werk werk werk werk!
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