Food from Sabah, Malaysia: ABC (sweet dessert)

A bowl of ABC from Malaysia
A bowl of ABC from Sabah Malaysia

Sweet tooths visiting Sabah will not be disappointed with ABC!

Looking for a refreshing dessert in Sabah Malaysia? ABC might do the trick for you. Though, I will be the first to admit it’s not always for me.

ABC means Ais Batu Campur or literally Mixed Stone Ice. The ingredients? Now it gets interesting.

What are the ingredients of Sabahan ABC?

Shaved ice is the main ingredient for ABC, after that everything else becomes a mix depending on who is making it. And, it is made right in front of you everytime. Here’s a typical sample.

Shaved ice, red beans, sweet corn, grass jelly (of all colors), and evaporated milk.

Ice grinder from Kota Kinabalu's night market
Ice grinder from Kota Kinabalu's night market used for making ABC

That’s quite a selection! Still, I can’t get my head around eating red beans in a dessert, and I’m not a fan of eating shaved ice.

That said, many, many people are. And, it’s certainly worth a try at least once on your trip to Malaysia.

Making ABC in Sabah Malaysia

One of the things you will like about ABC is watching it being made in Kota Kinabalu’s night market.

Old iron ice shavers are used to grind up blocks of ice. Repainted, these large heavy metal machines date back quite a few years. A joy to watch as a person loads up a block of ice, then spins a short side handle that turns and pushes the ice block down over a grater. The ice shaving then drop into a bowl beneath it.

Next up comes a myriad of jellies, beans, canned fruits (lychee), sweetcorn, and natas de coco. After that each vendor will add in some of their own speciality’s. From large beans, flavored syrups, to fresh fruit. Then a dash more of condensed milk is added on top.

Eat ABC like a local

I’ve seen tourists dig into ABC with reckless abandon and treat it like ice cream. Big mistake. It’s not like ice cream at all. Watch how the local Malaysians eat ABC. They let it settle and melt a little first. Then, they mix up all the ingredients into an iced soup of amazing flavors.

It’s a great thing to eat on a really hot day in Sabah!

There is also another variation of ABC called Halo Halo in The Philippines. I imagine there could be more variations throughout Asia!

This is an additional post and one of a series highlighting Food in Sabah Malaysia

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22 Replies to “Food from Sabah, Malaysia: ABC (sweet dessert)”

  1. Most S.E. Asian countries have a variation on this, as you say, it is one of the very very few Thai desserts. Basically it is an Asian, poor man’s version of ice cream, with extra coloured and shaped ingredients to make it slightly more interesting. The green grass jelly is made with peas , i was told.

    My gf guessed that it was called ABC (we were in KKinabalu last weekend) because of the 3 layers, so i will tell her the real reason now.

    1. I’ve heard about the green grass jelly been made of peas too. Something about pandan as well. Though I prefer ABC to Halo Halo, I do note a lacking in UBE ice cream in Malaysia!

  2. I regularly ate a version of this in Japan too – a pretty basic version just with the ice, condensed milk and a syrup like strawberry. Delicious though!

  3. Sent this piece to my wife, who’s Filipina and loves the Halo Halo. I do remember having it in the Philippines but didn’t like it that much. I did love their Ube flavoured ice cream tho.

      1. I like the obligatory small slice of Leche Flan in HaloHalo too

    1. Yes, I took the photo at the night market. It was either flash or a very dark photo ;) The yellow is sweet corn that’s been pureed. It’s not as bad tasting as it sounds!

  4. ..and here’s me thinking “it looks and sounds like Ais Kacang”…it IS Ais Kacang, I never knew it was known as “ABC”…considering I am heading to Singapore tonight, and Malaysia thereafter, and I LOVE Ais Kacang (woops, ABC), this was a timely post. Thanks for dropping the knowledge, as usual!

  5. How about the obligatory small slice of Leche Flan in HaloHalo too ?

  6. ABC stands for Ais Batu (Ice) Campur (Mix). Should have take the photo right after being serve to you, see how high it goes.. :)

    errmm…now i’m craving for one.

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