Wednesday, September 11, 2013

Let’s go for ABC!

ABC is Ais Batu Campur (Malay for shaved ice). It's the most famous Malaysian dessert. Not quite a sorbet but there is nothing else to compare it with. It's the top cooling treat we all grew up with and we respond without a second thought to the usual catchcry "Let's go for ABC!"

   I'm waxing nostalgic again. Our eternal fondness of Shaved Iced desserts stem from our growing up  in the tropics where afternoon temperatures reach 35℃. We had a Kopitiam nearby our house and we always hung out around there, buying lollies, sweet and sour preserved fruit and nibbles. We had to restrict ourselves to our most favorite item Kantong as our pocket money didn't stretch that far. Kantong is shaved ice clumped around a stick, with syrups added. You will have colourlful patches of orange, yellows, reds and greens. Sarsaparilla was my favourite flavour. Then the sweetest splash of all, a good dousing of atap sugar (palm sugar syrup). So you start sucking on the clumped ice shavings, leaving your favourite spots to last! Most times you'd end up like The Joker in Superman with red stains all around your mouth. A certain giveaway as to what you have been up to when you get home.
   You don't see much of Kantong anymore, nor the ice-cream sandwich slider-style in a heavenly soft, fresh and very slightly sweet bun. ABC has surpassed the humble kantong, more akin to the humble muffin being replaced by cupcakes buried in frou-frou toppings and accoutrements.

   Chang Ling said Tang Cold Drink Centre served the the best ABC in Miri. She took Towkay Neo and I to the residential area of Pujut. Apart from ABC, you can order Cendol, Ice Kacang, Rojak (Malaysain prawn paste salad), Cucur, Keladi Ubi (yam fritter) or Udang Tauhu (shrimp tofu), Sotong Kangkong or just a stick or two of fish balls.
   You can say the ABC from Tangs are like soft, luscious Matterhorns, crowned with fruit and coloured agar agar and lovingly drizzled with evaporated milk or coconut cream/milk (santan) and rose syrup. The basic ABC is Ang Tau Cendol, sweet red bean and corn green starched noodles with pandan flavouring and palm sugar (gula melaka). Grass jelly (suan chow) is also a favourite ingredient. Then you move into the combinations of fruit: lychee, kiwifruit, soursop, strawberries, blackberries or raspberries, sadly none used fresh. You can also have Peanut Ice Kachang, crushed peanuts scattered on top of the shaved ice with sweet corn and red beans. If you are feeling adventurous, there's nothing to stop you from having a durian flavoured ABC with slices of banana.

   The days of manually producing shaved iced over a shaving board (akin to razor blades) is over. You now position a block of ice in the ice machine and churn out shaved ice mechanically, like snow flakes falling onto the bowl of ABC mix below.
  Have to stop chatting and have the ABC before the shaved ice melts!

Pujut 2C Jalan Berlian


  1. Hi William - reminds me of the two great outlets for ang-tau peng : St Michael's coffee shop and one at the Chinese pavilion in the Museum grounds. With Nestle condensed cream?
    Pity the operators at the Pavilion were killed during a night-time break-in. Do you know if the murders were ever solved?
    ABC - I think stands for Air Batu Campur? Air Batu for ice.
    Mike Kueh

  2. Thanks for the correction, Mike!
    I was at St Joseph's when there was a a death at the Pavilion. We saw the scene of the grizzly crime, with lots of blood. Never forgot it! Teach us a lessen for being so ghoulish. It was just a short hop from St Michael's where we used to hang out. St Michael's shifted to 3rd Mile but it never re-captured the splendor or those halcyon days. As for the Taman Muzium death, I have no idea whether the perpetrator(s) were found. We only knew it happened at night. Obviously the operator slept there overnight and had money from the day's takings.

  3. How often are you balek kampong? Presently I am visiting New Plymouth (Taranaki) - great i-Centre!! Mike

    1. Balek kampong three times this year. The first was for a reunion, the second my Dad passed away and now I'm on my third visit to attend a wedding, a couple of reunions in Miri and spend time with Mum in Kuching. Make a visit home once a year usually. New Plymouth is a nice little place. Spent some time there while I was at Cuisine as they did a feature on the food scene in Taranaki.