New age desserts are all well and good, but there's little better than going old school when the craving for something sweet and comforting hits you hard. From chendol and putu piring to beancurd and traditional cream puffs, there's something for everyone on this list.
This family-run Peranakan joint knows nonya kueh like the back of its hand. Best-sellers include the kueh salat ($1.20), with its creamy kaya layer and sticky glutinous rice base and ondeh ondeh ($3.20 per box), chewy sweet potato dough balls bursting with gula melaka goodness. All its delicacies are hand-made daily, and the innovative brand keeps up with the times with creations like the Pink Fairy ($1.20), a confection made with coconut cream and steamed Azuki beans. The brand is doing well for itself, if the consistently long queues on weekends are any indication. HarriAnns has multiple outlets around the island, with its most recent opening at Suntec City.
Now made internationally famous by Netflix's Street Food series, this Haig road outpost is run by next-gen hawker Aisha Hashim, who diligently keeps her parents' legacy alive with her work. While traditional putu piring ($2/five pieces) shares similarities to the tutu kueh, it's actually bigger than the latter, and here it's accompanied by a generous portion of freshly-grated coconut. The texture is pillowy soft, while the richness of the gula melaka filling hits the spot.
Durian lovers, this one's for you. Tucked away on the second floor of a Serangoon Garden shophouse, Dessert Bowl is every durian lover's dream. Its mouth-watering durian mousse served with a dollop of creamy durian flesh ($5) is its most popular offering, but if it's not your thing, its other items like the mango pomelo ($4.50) and almond paste ($3.20) are good too.
Everything about Katong Shopping Centre is dated, but as they say – old is gold, and this definitely applies to Dona Manis Cake Shop. It doesn't serve local desserts per se, but it has all the old-school vibes of traditional bakeries, and every bake is painstakingly handmade by husband and wife duo Mr Tan Keng Eng and Mdm Soh Tho Lang. Its most popular item is the banana pie ($2.50 per slice), often touted as the best in Singapore. The warm, sweet banana filling contrasts perfectly with the crumbly texture of the grated coconut topping, making it an instant hit. Other popular items include the cream puffs ($3.50 for five), chocolate tarts ($4.50 for five) and raisin scones ($1.30 each).
This traditional dessert place is packed on weekends, and it serves over 50 different delectable dessert items, both hot and cold. Perennial favourites include the mango sago with pomelo ($4.50), steamed egg/milk (from $3.30), almond paste ($3.30), black sesame paste ($3.30), and hashima and papaya boiled with fresh milk ($9.50). While you're there, take some time to admire the joint's quaint interior. Its carved doors and hanging lanterns are imported from China and pay homage to traditional Chinese craftsmanship.
For many, Ah Balling (glutinous rice balls) recalls the flavours of childhood and festivals like Mid-Autumn and the Winter Solstice. The simple and satisfying combination of chewy rice balls and piping hot soup warms the heart, and our favourite place to grab this dessert is at 75 Ah Balling. Choose from four different soup bases: peanut, almond milk, ginger, and longan red date, along with five options of glutinous rice ball fillings: peanut, black sesame, red bean, yam, and matcha.
Having been in the business of making peanut pancakes (otherwise known as 'min jiang kueh') for over two decades, the Tengs know what they're doing. Their pancakes are thick, chewy and pillowy, with a generous amount of crushed roasted peanuts mixed with sugar (yes, they even roast their own peanuts!) Other flavours are also available in the round pancake form. There's the red bean, black sesame, salted bean, pandan leaf green bean and yam paste. Going at only $0.80 per piece, it’s no wonder they usually sell out way before their closing time of 11.30am. Be prepared to head down early to queue.
While this bustling dessert store at Chinatown has the usual suspects of glutinous rice, herbal jelly and a variety of pastes, it also has a surprising number of "snow ice" desserts – towering shaved ice mountains that come in unique flavours like soursop, mocha, sesame and milk tea. For those who are also looking for a mid-day snack, it offers traditional steamed yam, carrot and pumpkin cakes, as well as dumplings and chee cheong fun.
The famed Rochor Original Beancurd started off as a pushcart business in the ’60s, and its success transformed it into a brick-and-mortar outpost at Short Street in 1993, where it still remains today. Its menu retains the simplicity of the olden days, with hot and cold beancurd, soybean milk, and grass jelly drinks ($1.20 each). If you're feeling peckish, order its freshly-fried you tiao, salted bun, or butterfly bun ($1 each).
Cendol Geylang Serai makes this Indonesian dessert the old-school way: with home-made pandan-flavoured jelly, coconut cream, gula melaka and crushed ice – no red beans or attap chee in sight. Available in a bowl or mug ($1.50), the coconut cream dominates every spoonful, in a way that's refreshing instead of overpowering, and the subtle pandan fragrance from the jelly provides the perfect accompaniment.
As its name implies, this local bakery specialises in Durian desserts. Its famous bite-sized durian puffs ($8 for 12) are filled with only D24 durian puree. That means no cream or sugar, just durian! Sunlife also does modern variations of pastry like the durian macarons ($12 for six), durian mochi ($7.50) and more. If you're not crazy for durian, don't fret. You can still pick up the mini chocolate and cream custard puffs (from $7), or fruit tarts ($5 for six) and mini eclairs ($4 for six).
The refreshing ice kacang is beloved for its tower of ice shavings and psychedelic hues, and we dig the treasure within, too – who hasn’t tried finding the attap chee among the red beans, corn and jelly? Originating from ice balls coated with coloured syrups sold on the streets in the ’50s and ’60s, the sweet treat has evolved into an elaborate creation packed with everything from aloe vera to peanuts. Jin Jin’s version ($2.50) adds another level of decadence: a scoop of Mao Shan Wang durian ice cream crowns the mountain. It blends smoothly with the syrup without being overwhelming, and the finely shaved ice immediately melts in your mouth.
Is there anyone who doesn't love goreng pisang (fried banana fritters)? This savoury-sweet snack combines deep fried batter with chunks of creamy banana for a party in the mouth, and no place does it better than this humble stall located near the library. For a more savoury snack, choose the deep fried sweet potato balls (filled with red bean, yam or mung bean paste) coated with a generous layer of sesame seeds for full crunch factor.
Established in 1973, this stall serves only two things: hot and cold cheng tng. But the folks here do it faultlessly. The cold version has just the right amount of ice to keep it refreshing without diluting the taste. At $3 a bowl, it’s speckled with plenty of ingredients. Besides the usual dried longan and white fungus, you’ll bite into the occasional strip of candied melon and sweet potato.