After visiting Petanak Wet Market, it’s time to cool down with some ABC, which stands for air batu campur (“mixed ice” in Malay). But there are savoury delights to enjoy too.
We stop at Swee Kang Ais Kacang, an ABC haven famous among Kuchingites. The original Swee Kang shop opened in 1953 opposite Kuching’s first fire station. Now located at the ground floor of a two-storey shophouse, Swee Kang Ais Kacang serves a large range of colourful icy treats, with over 18 variations of ABC and drinks on the menu, including their namesake ais kacang. The jagung susu (literally “corn milk” in Malay) sounds awesome – sweet corn kernels in a creamy milk base with shaved ice topped with a lavish sprinkling of Milo powder – but for me, the choice is easy: I’m having ais (ice) durian!
The man preparing our order has been in the ABC business for over fifty years. I hang around to watch this veteran ABC mixologist at work. He assembles the bowls and glasses then adds various fruits and jellies, red beans and green “worms”. I keep one greedy eye on the bowl filled with durian flesh – it’s got my name on it (not that I think anyone is going to fight me for it)!
He ladles syrups into the various bowls and glasses. He works quickly, with fluent, elegant movements.
Next, he places handfuls of freshly shaved ice on top of the fruits, jellies and syrup.
He adds evaporated milk to the icy peaks.
Most of us have eaten ais kacang before, but none of us have heard of a white lady. It’s a sweet milky drink served in a tall glass filled with ice, fruit and jellies, topped with a slice of lemon.
But I only have eyes for my ais durian. It looks frumpy and dull next to the pretty white lady but to me, it’s a beautiful bowl of heaven.
The metal spoon absorbs the chill of the cold milk and ice, adding to the pleasure of each refreshing mouthful. The milk has absorbed the flavour of the durian. Every scoop I get ice, milk and durian and it’s glorious.
“Ais kacang” literally means “ice bean” in Malay but has evolved over many years from a simple shaved ice and red bean dessert to variations made with beans, corn, colourful jellies, tinned fruits, palm seeds (“atap chee”), rose syrup or palm sugar syrup and more. Each spoonful is like diving for treasure as you discover what’s hidden beneath the ice. But eat quickly, before your snowy mountain dissolves into a slushy mess!
Char kway stall
While we’re sitting enjoying our ABC, other people nearby are eating delicious smelling plates of hot food. It’s char kway – yam “cake” (note: I know char kway as “radish cake” but they referred to it at Swee Kang as “yam cake”. I’ve heard it referred to as radish cake, yam cake and carrot cake) fried with soy sauce, garlic and eggs, cooked fresh to order on a gas bottle-powered barbecue hot plate at the front of the shop. It smells too good – we order two servings to share.
I hurriedly gulp down my last mouthfuls of ais durian so I can watch our char kway being cooked.
The yam cake is browned in a little oil on the hot plate.
Next, the garlic is cooked. Lots and lots of garlic. It smells fantastic.
A bit of seasoning and soy sauce are added to the garlic and yam cake.
When the yam cake is nice and brown, a couple of eggs are broken into the mixture and stirred through until cooked.
I cannot wait to taste it. This is one of the times I wish there was “smellovision” so you could smell this too.
Before he hands the plates over, he squeezes a squirt of fiery chilli sauce on each plate. The crispy edged yam cake is delicious. I use my fork to hunt for every last morsel of fried garlic.
We’re on a roll! We also share a plate of rojak, another famous Malaysian dish. Here at Swee Kang it’s made with pineapple, cucumber, jicama (“bangkuang” in Malay), tofu and crunchy fried yow char (Chinese crullers), all mixed in a thick, dark sweet sauce and garnished with a sprinkling of ground peanuts.
The rojak lady slices up the ingredients fresh to order into a large mixing bowl. She adds the sweet sauce and stirs it all through.
It’s a new crunchy taste sensation for most of our group, who have not tried rojak before.
As we’re getting ready to leave, a little cat wanders over. It yawns and stretches and has a bath under my chair. It doesn’t mind at all when I grab my camera and get closer to take its photo.
Swee Kang Ais Kacang is a great place to stop for a meal, drinks or snacks. As well as various ABC drinks, char kway and rojak, you can also get beehoon belacan and laksa. Definitely worth checking out if you visit Kuching.
I’ve left room in my tummy for another snack at our next stop, a famous roadside food stand of Kuching…
Swee Kang Ais Kacang
Ground Floor, Lot 176 Jalan Haji Taha
93400 Kuching, Malaysia
Monday to Wednesday 11am to 8pm
Friday to Sunday 11am to 8pm
Closed on Thursdays
Read the posts in my Kuching Trip 2011 series (in order):
- Da-Light Food Court
- Fairy Cave, Wind Cave, roadside fruit stall and durian
- Kuching Waterfront and Top Spot Food Court
- Petanak Wet Market
- Swee Kang Ais Kacang – this post
More Kuching posts are on the way!
Where is Kuching, Malaysia?