Sweets on ice, very nice

What could feel better on a scorching hot day than an icy sweet treat? Every country in Southeast Asia has a local version of a shaved ice dessert topped with an explosion of flavor and texture. They may go by different names, but their effect on a hot day is just the same. Instant bliss! 

Photo by Andrew Bogott via Wikimedia Commons

Singapore’s ice kachang and Malaysia’s ais kacang share the same roots, as evident in their names. In Singapore, your mountain of summer snow will be topped with red beans, sweet corn, palm seeds, herbal jelly, and fresh tropical fruit like durian and jackfruit. 

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In Malaysia, ask for an ABC (air batu campir, or mixed ice) and you’ll get the same sweet treat. Local variations include an assortment of jellies (from grass to aloe vera) and syrups (from rose to palm sugar to pandan, or even chocolate). Its Indonesian cousin, es campur (Bahasa Indonesia for mixed ice) is a popular treat to break the fast during Ramadan.

Across the region, you’ll recognize cendol thanks to its distinctive color, made from green rice flour jelly drizzled with coconut milk and gula melaka (palm sugar syrup) over shaved ice. 

You’ll have to dig for your sweets in Thailand, where all the good stuff is at the bottom of a namkhaeng sai, or wan yen. As many as 30 varieties of toppings are used, from young coconut to black glutinous rice, chestnuts, red beans and taro. 

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In Taiwan, tshuah-ping or tsua bing (baobing in Mandarin) is shaved ice with a generous serving of chewy and crunchy toppings: tapioca balls, cooked barley, mung beans, grass or herbal jelly, taro, boiled peanuts, fresh fruit, and a generous glug of sweetened condensed milk. 

The Philippines’ colorful halo-halo (Filipino for “mixed”) combines ube halaya (sweet purple yam), sweet kidney or garbanzo beans, strips of young coconut, tapioca pearls, gulaman, toasted rice, leche flan (caramel custard), nata de coco, fruit preserves and condensed milk in a tall glass of shaved ice, often topped with taro, mango or even cheese ice cream. Mix with a long spoon and enjoy. 

Eat “cooling” foods, according to traditional Chinese medicine

Watermelon photo by Rens D via Unsplash

Traditional Chinese medicine (TCM) draws on ancient wisdom to harmonize the balance of yin and yang within the body. According to TCM practitioners, different foods are “warming” or “cooling” in nature, helping maintain our internal balance and harmony. 

Luckily, most sweet, juicy fruits fall under the umbrella of cooling foods—perfect wisdom for a scorching summer day. Some of these are watermelon (both the red flesh and white rind), mung beans, cucumber, lettuce and crunchy water chestnuts. 

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Chrysanthemum and dandelion root tea are considered cooling drinks, as are elderflower juice and soy milk. Serve chilled, plop in a few ice cubes, and drink up! And did you know even certain spices and herbs are considered “cooling” in TCM? These are mint, coriander (seeds and leaves), cumin seeds and fennel. 

“Warming” or “heating” foods to avoid on hot days include chocolate, durian, jackfruit, coconut meat and cherries, ginger, chili peppers, mustard seed, and deep-fried food.  

Make a splash at Asia’s best water parks

For a family-friendly holiday to beat the summer heat, Southeast Asia’s splashiest water parks feature sprawling resorts with dozens of attractions that can keep the family cool and entertained for days. 

Sunway Lagoon is the pinnacle of water parks in Malaysia. Its newest cousin, the Sunway Lost World of Tambun in Ipoh, is situated amidst tropical jungle and hot springs with six zones over 35 hectares. One of these is the Lost World Water Park, which features the biggest wave pool in Malaysia, and numerous kids-only zones, slides, and water rides. 

In Jakarta, there’s Atlantis Water Adventure. Inspired by the lost island of Atlantis, this five-hectare water park features wave, river, rainbow and waterfall pools, as well as giant slides and family restaurants. 

Thailand’s newest splashy destination, the Ramayana Water Park in Pattaya, offers 21 attractions ranging from gentle kid-friendly rides to high-octane thrills like the Dueling Aqua-Coasters and the 360-degree Aqualoop. 

Adventure Cove Waterpark at Resorts World Sentosa in Singapore promises high-speed water slides, a leisurely river ride, and a reef that’s home to over 20,000 colorful tropical fish. It’s next-door neighbors with Universal Studios Singapore and the South East Asia Aquarium, making it part of one of the biggest integrated resorts in the region. 

On a budget? Singapore’s public swimming complexes, such as those in Jurong East, Sengkang and Tampines, are also loads of fun without the Resorts World price tag.

  

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