The first ice-cold dessert were ice balls made from finely-grated ice, packed into a ball and topped with a type of coloured sugar coated syrup, typically held and eaten using the hands. The ice ball was a common sight in the 1950s and 1960s and sold along the roads and street corners, usually by pushcart drink vendors wanting to supplement their income.
The ice kachang is a modern, more elaborate update of the ice ball--comprising jelly, red beans (kachang means beans in the Malay language), sweet corn and attap chee (palm seeds) as its base, and topped off with a mound of shaved ice, psychedelically coloured syrups and condensed milk, and it’s served in either a bowl or a tall glass. Today, to satisfy the more selective palate of the modern day customers, ice kachang can also be served with fruit cocktail, aloe vera jelly and novelty toppings such as chocolate and durian. This fun and colourful dessert can be had at food centres across the city such as the popular Maxwell Road Hawker Centre and Food Republic in Orchard Road.
It is sometimes hard for a new visitor to suss out the good from the bad ice kachangs. Bear these points in mind: A good ice kachang is one where the ice is cleanly shaven to very small bits; it should just melt in your mouth together with the sweet tasting syrup. As for ingredients, the more variety, the better. There is nothing like feeling the multiple textures every time you take a mouthful.