Soft rice flour crepes, dyed and fragranced with the familiar grassy green of pandan, are rolled with a sticky-sweet filling of shredded coconut and palm sugar.
All sorts of bite-sized treats, from kuih talam (a double-layered sweet with a coconut-rice flour layer, and a pandan-green pea flour bottom one) to glutinous rice balls (served with a durian porridge as pungent as the fruit itself).
A soft dough of glutinous rice flour (sometimes colored and flavored with pandan) encases a core of palm sugar; it's boiled and then rolled in shredded coconut. Bite into one and you'll find the sugar melted to a syrup that oozes out.
A traditional Nyonya sweet served at a baby's Full Moon party (when he turns one month old), they're made from a dough of glutinous rice flour (and, here, purple yam) that's pressed in engraved molds to achieve this beautiful pattern. Ang Koo means "red tortoise," but depending on the dye or starch used, they might be purple, orange, or green. Inside, the core is a sweetened mung bean filling. (These are pictured just before they're cooked; they get softer and glossier and very chewy after they're steamed.)
Tong sui (dessert soups)
Cantonese in origin, these warm or cool dessert "soups" are wildly varied (and often terribly sweet); pictured here is one of longan, gingko nut, and red bean—which might be sold alongside other fruit-based versions, or thin soups of sweet peanut or milky almond. You'll find various legume or starch-based soups as well.
You'll find variations of shaved ice just about everywhere; two favorites are "ABC" (ais batu campur, doused in syrups and set on a base of corn kernels, red beans, and jelly bits) and cendol (a soupier creation of green, chewy mung bean flour bits topped with shaved ice, poured over with quite a bit of coconut milk and palm sugar syrup).
Fried foods both sweet and savory are popular snacks in Malaysia, and crispy fried banana fritters made for a fine dessert.
A classic street food snack, apam balik are thin pancakes folded over a sweet, crunchy peanut filling. Some, like this, are crisper, while others have a more cakelike consistency.
Nyonya Apam Balik
Yes, I like these so much, I included two different versions. The version previously pictured is the Chinese style; here, in the Nyonya style, the pancakes are much smaller and fluffier, not at all dissimilar to American pancakes. They're cooked in cast-iron molds shaped precisely for the purpose, and achieve the most beautiful uniform bronze. Hiding in the fold is a filling that could be anything from banana to chocolate to durian. (We've even had them with Kraft singles. Odd but tasty in a grilled-cheese way.)
Okay, so they're not a sweet in the traditional sense—but Malaysia's fruit selection is so fantastic that it's easy to forgo prepared desserts altogether in favor of nature's sweets. Pictured here is a nectar-sweet mangosteen, easily my favorite of the fruits you'll see everywhere; others include rambutan, lychee, longan, mango, and dragonfruit.