(Picture by Cumi & Ciki)
The British have their trifles, the Italians have their tiramisus, the French have their creme brulees, the Americans have their banana splits, and we have our air batu campur. The name literally means ‘mixed ice’, it is also known as ais kacang and is one the most beloved desserts in Malaysian gastronomic history and is without a doubt a favourite among the locals. It is also commonly found in Singapore and Brunei.
The air batu campur have come a long way since its inception, back then the shaved ice was made using a special ice machine which had a lever that was operated by the vendor but the machines used these days are usually motorised. The icy cocktail was a simple one back in the day, it was normally only shaved ice served with red beans and finished off with a red rose or sarsaparilla syrup. However, today’s ais kacang has an assortment of colours with a huge variety of ingredients. These days one can find their air batu campur served with ice cream, attap chee (palm seeds), sweet corn, grass jelly, cendol, and along with the red rose and sarsaparilla syrup; it is normally topped with condensed milk, evaporated milk or coconut milk as a final touch.
Every Malaysian have their own preferences when it comes to the toppings for their air batu campur, and with the huge variety of ingredients that are available to us; we Malaysians are really spoilt for choice. In Malacca, they serve it with their signature ‘gula melaka’ instead of the multi-coloured syrup which is usually the standard. The versatile dessert is great on a hot sunny day (any kind of day really) and Malaysians should be proud that we are able to call this great dessert to be our very own. With the increase in globalisation, who knows maybe one day we can introduce to the world our unique version of a shaved ice dessert.