Too hot in Singapore? Here’s our list of local and international icy desserts and savoury lunch alternatives that will cool you down
In addition to eating and shopping, another inevitable pastime of anyone who’s spent more than a couple of weeks here is whingeing about the weather. And we don’t blame you! With the mercury often in the scorching 30s, it’s important to keep ourselves cool – whether that’s temperature-wise, or in the slightly esoteric ‘cooling’ sense that’s mentioned often in traditional Chinese medicine. Regardless of whether you subscribe to those beliefs, here are 10 ways for you to keep yourself cool as a cucumber in even the worst of heatwaves.
Grass Jelly: Zhao An Granny
One of the first things we spring for when the weather is unbearably hot (when isn’t it, really?) is this icy dessert. Grass jelly, or chin chow as it’s known locally, is a dark brown gelatinous dessert made from boiling the aged stalks and leaves of the Mesona Chinensis plant (a member of the mint family) for several hours with a little starch. The jelly is then cut into cubes and served on ice. To the uninitiated, the idea of a black herbal-tasting jelly may not be terribly appetising, but served with honey or syrup, it proves to be an incredibly tasty, cooling (in the Asian and conventional sense) treat. Next time you’re near Beach Road, pop by the famed Zhao Ann Granny stall and pick up a bowl of grass jelly for just a dollar.
Zhao An Granny Grass Jelly, #01-58, Golden Mile Food Centre, 505 Beach Road, Singapore 199583.
Fresh Young Coconut: East Coast Lagoon Food Village
The coconut craze is still going strong. Visit any high-end supermarket’s health food section, and you’ll find quite a bit of the shelf space devoted to various brands of coconut oil, or go au natural instead and cool off with fresh young coconut. Coconut water is also dubbed ‘nature’s Gatorade’, and for good reason. It’s chock-full of potassium and electrolytes, and is a great tasting way to replenish lost fluids in this awful heat. Fresh coconut is best enjoyed by the beach, so for the full experience we like to chill out at East Coast Lagoon Food Village where we can enjoy it with a cool sea breeze.
East Coast Lagoon Food Village, 1220 East Coast Parkway, Singapore 440000.
This healthful drink goes back hundreds of years and across continents, and it’s not surprising. It’s velvety smooth, slightly thick, refreshing and filled with chewy barley grains at the bottom for some contrasting textures. Barley water is also reputed to have cooling properties, and uis sed as folk medicine for people with fevers. Like fresh coconuts, this is available at most hawker centre drink stalls, but our designer Sze Li is especially fond of the homemade barley drink in the Fragrance Food right across the street from us.
Fragrance Food, 138 Telok Ayer Street, Singapore 068603. p. 6222 2996.
Coconut Ice Cream: Koko Ice Cream
If you want to cool down and treat yourself to something a little more indulgent than coconut water, grab a bowl of rich, creamy coconut ice cream from Koko Ice Cream at Amoy Street Food Centre. This kitschy tiki-themed, beach hut-like stall is a hit with the lunch time crowd, and offers scoops for just $3.50 which include three toppings and a cup of coconut water. You’re free to mix and match toppings, but our favourites will always be the gula melaka and crushed peanuts.
Koko Ice Cream, #01-69, Amoy Street Food Centre.
Korean Bingsu & Ice Kacang
We don’t need to explain why mounds of finely shaved ice with fruit and syrup are a great respite from the heat. You’ve got two options here, our local favourite ice kacang, as well as the Korean bingsu. Jin Jin Hot/Cold Dessert offer the classic ice kacang in addition to novel variants like the Penang ice kacang, served with gula Melaka sauce. But if the hallyu-wave has hit you hard, opt for bingsu instead with a little help from our comprehensive guide.
Jin Jin Hot/Cold Dessert, 6 Jalan Bukit Merah, ABC Food Centre and Market, Singapore 150006.
Ice Pops: I See I See
Don’t for a second think we’re referring to those over-sugared, artificially flavoured popsicles you’ll find in petrol kiosk freezers! Beat the heat, and enjoy a lazy afternoon with a cooler filled with fruit and milk-based ice pops from I See i See instead. This beloved handcrafted ice pop brand from Hong Kong offers unique flavours like Earl Grey pistachio, cheesy raspberry, refreshing kiwi and strawberry Hokkaido Milk.
I See i See, #B3-46, 313 Somerset, Singapore 238895.
Sugarcane Juice: Victory Sugar Cane Juice
A hawker centre staple, this revitalizing icy cold beverage is perfect for cooling off in the heat, or after a spicy meal thanks to its alkaline properties. While it’s available in cans everywhere, get the real deal, freshly squeezed from thick stalks of sugarcane. For the best sugarcane juice head down to the suburbs of Ang Mo Kio and try a cup from Victory Sugar Cane Juice for that full-bodied, slightly grassy flavour.
Victory Sugar Cane Juice, #01-17, Teck Ghee Square Food Centre, Block 409, Ang Mo Kio Avenue 10, Singapore 560409.
Cheng Tng: Ye Lai Xiang Hot & Cold Cheng Tng
Hot and cold dessert stores are ubiquitous in food courts, serving up a variety of decadent desserts like pulut hitam, tau suan and yam paste. But when the mercury’s rising and beads of sweat are forming on your brow, skip the hot stuff for a nice cold bowl of Chng Teng. This light amber-coloured dessert is a thin soup served with ice, barley, agar strips, lotus seeds and sweet syrup. You’ll have no difficulty finding this cooling dessert, but for the absolute best, try Ye Lai Xiang Hot & Cold Cheng Tng in Bedok. This stall’s been in business for over 70s years, and the snaking queues stand testimony to its consistent (and cooling) quality.
Ye Lai Xiang Hot & Cold Cheng Tng, 1 Bedok Road, Bedok Food Centre, Stall 31.
Gazpacho: Sabio by the Sea
The searing heat of the Spanish summer’s birthed this culinary oddity. Think of soups, and it’s often a hot, hearty bowl of clam chowder or mushroom soup that’ll come to mind. The Spaniards, however, have gifted us with this light, chilled vegetable soup that’s ideal for lunch in Singapore’s searing heat. This refreshing soup is traditionally made of raw vegetables with a tomato base, but modern variations feature ingredients like avocados, cucumbers, parsley and even watermelon and grapes. The next time you’re baking on the beach at Sentosa, head down to Sabio by the Sea for some of their refreshing Gazpacho, served in a champagne flute no less.
Sabio by the Sea, 31 Ocean Way, #01-02 Quayside Isle, Singapore 098373.
Cold Soba: Shimbashi Soba
Craving a wholesome bowl of noodles but don’t want to leave the restaurant looking like you took a swim in your office wear? The Japanese have a solution in the form of their cold soba dishes. In addition to being a refreshing alternative to a hot lunch, this chilled noodle dish also contains antioxidants like rutin and quercetin, as well as essential nutrients like choline, thiamine and riboflavin. If you’re curious to try, Shimbashi Soba is known for its authentic, handmade cold soba dishes.
Shimbashi Soba, #B1-41 Paragon Shopping Centre, 290 Orchard Road, Singapore 238859.