Singapore’s heat is relentless, which is a great reason to visit these best traditional dessert stalls in town.
Despite trends from salted egg yolk ice cream to burnt cheesecake, classic desserts still hold their own here. Popular items include ice kachang, which involves attap chee, red bean, grass jelly, syrups, and coconut milk crowning a mound of shaved ice. Chendol is another, where green jelly, red bean, gula Melaka, and coconut milk are either layered into a drink or served in a bowl.
Others include glutinous rice balls called tang yuan, which are stuffed with peanut or black sesame. Cheng tng is a sweet soup of white fungus, dried longan, red date, and gingko nuts, while nuts such as peanut, almond, and walnut are ground into a thick smooth paste.
These dishes are frequently sold at hawker centres around Singapore, with some stalls existing for decades. At Golden Mile Food Centre, 75 Ah Balling and Zhao An have been making tang yuan and grass jelly since the 1970s respectively. Even older is 115 Tang Shui, a sweet soup specialist in Chinatown since the 1960s. In the heartlands, Four Seasons Cendol in Toa Payoh counts a former prime minister among its fans, and No Name serves fantastic bowls of cheng tng in Bedok.
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Since 1966, 115 Tang Shui has been serving sweet soups in the Chinatown area. Now based in Chinatown Complex Food Centre, popular items include their sesame and peanut paste soup, which is warm, smooth, and comforting, as well as the black sesame and almond mix. They also sell bubur chacha, cheng tng, pumpkin corn, and sweet potato ginger soup on certain days.
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Ah balling, the colloquial name for tang yuan, is not just a dessert reserved for the Winter Solstice. At 75 Ah Balling Peanut Soup, these pillowy glutinous rice balls have been a daily staple since 1974. Handmade to chewy perfection every morning, these sesame and peanut-stuffed rounds come in chunky, slightly savoury peanut soup that makes a good substitute for your breakfast on days where you feel like cheating on your diet.
(Image credit: 75 Ah Balling Peanut Soup / Facebook)
Nestled in the famous Toa Payoh Lorong 8 Market and Food Centre is a stall that many locals swear is the best chendol in Singapore. A bowl of Four Seasons Cendol is sin in a plastic tub, period. Candied atap seeds mingle with red beans and chewy green jelly noodles, snowed in a blanket of shaved ice that comes slathered with creamy coconut milk and thick-as-tar gula Melaka. If Emeritus Senior Minister Goh Chok Tong counts himself as an ardent fan, so can you.
(Image credit: Four Seasons Cendol / Facebook)
While Jin Jin Hot/Cold Dessert has been a mainstay in Bukit Merah for long, the humble stall has changed owners to a younger duo that retain the integrity of classic desserts like chendol, ice kachang, and red ruby, just reworked with flavourful twists of their own. Their Power Chendol is arguably their most famous dessert, thanks to the syrupy ladle of almost-fudgy gula Melaka that glazes the ice ball, but try their take on the ice kachang, another favourite that checks all the right nostalgic boxes.
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Mei Heong Yuen Dessert is a standalone dessert shop in Chinatown. Founded by the family behind Farmer Brand peanuts, they specialise in different varieties of nut paste, which are ground smooth and gently sweetened. The peanut paste is highly popular, as well as versions made from walnut and almond. On a hot day, opt for the chendol, which is served with gula Melaka on the side to adjust to taste, and shaved ice with mango, pomelo, and sago.
(Image credit: Mei Heong Yuen Dessert Singapore / Facebook)
No Name Dessert specialises in cheng tng, a sweet and clear soup fortified with gingko nut, persimmon, and longans. Hunks of chewy sago and winter fungus pepper the cold soup, which has just the right amount of sweetness to make it a textural, refreshing quencher.
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Teck Kee has been a resident of Adam Food Centre since it opened in 1974. The stall initially sold chicken rice for two decades until the founder decided to switch to desserts. The ice kachang features generous amounts of toppings and syrups, and the tau suan (split mung bean soup) is topped with crunchy youtiao, making it sweet and savoury. A great place to cool off after a walk at the nearby Botanic Gardens.
(Image credit: @sir.fried.chicken / Instagram)
There may be no grandmother behind the stall, but the eponymous matriarch is responsible for the family recipe that has been sold since 1974. The blueprint for her delightfully firm, herbal jelly has been passed through three generations, with the grandson keeping the establishment alive and thriving in Golden Mile Food Centre. Order yours with some atap chee to cut the bitterness of the jelly.
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