Ipohworld's World

Saving Yesterday For Tomorrow


Yes, one look at this machine and all that comes to my mind is: a bowl of shaved ice, drenched in brown sugar syrup and topped with jelly (of various shapes, sizes and colours), kidney beans, sweet corn and peanuts. Oh, and not forgetting a dash of santan too!

Ah, bet some of you are already salivating 😉

What better way to cool down on a hot day, eh?

  1. felicia says:

    ..oops, sorry…I meant to say kidney shaped beans…not the actual kidney beans….they were red and had a bit of a powdery taste.
    But thanks for correcting me, Ipoh Remembered. I suppose my brain and fingers got carried away thinking about Ice Kacang!

  2. NCK says:

    Felicia was right to call kidney beans for what they are. Unfortunately she wasn’t sure of herself and was quick to apologise. Azuki beans is the Jap term for what we here call red beans. Someone seems to be so into Japanese stuff that he/she knows not red beans but azuki beans instead.

  3. Ipoh Remembered says:

    Dear NCK … I’m sure you can make this dessert with any ingredient you like — green bean, black bean, even Mr. Bean — so if kidney bean is what you have in it, who am I to object?

    But in my memory, which is all I was going by, the dish was usually served with Vigna angularis, not with Phaseolus vulgaris. Are you saying the latter is more commonly used? If you’re right, then I’ve learned something.

    Incidentally, azuki beans are not only Japanese: they are grown and used natively from Nepal to China to Korea to Japan. If you don’t like calling them by a “Jap” term, you might be interested to know that the Japanese often use the name shōzu, linguistically borrowed from China where the bean is sometimes called xiǎodòu. Or perhaps you prefer the term “red mung bean.” In any case I do apologize for raising your hackles by using the word “azuki.”

    As for kidney beans: while not native to Asia (having come from Guatemala via Iberia), they have become part of Indian cuisine (in rajma, for example).

    But never mind all that: do enjoy your ICE KACANG if you can get it!

    • NCK says:

      Dear Ipoh Remembered, red beans are among the main ingredients for ice kacang. The Mandarin term for the dessert is ‘iced red beans’; Cantonese term ‘snowed red beans’. Of course there are red beans in the dessert.

      I don’t remember all the usual ingredients for the dessert in Ipoh, but since Felicia mentioned it, kidney beans must be in. You can find much better desserts, each with more ingredients, in Ipoh than elsewhere.

      Red beans are found in many countries. Each country has a name for the beans. Azuki beans is specifically a Japanese name. This name didn’t make my hackles rise, but saying red beans would have spared poor Felicia the confusion.

    • NCK says:

      Actually, the dessert is more commonly called ‘snowed mix’ in Cantonese, since it is a mix of various ingredients and different liquid sugar.

  4. Mano says:

    This machine used to fascinate me as I watched the vendor prepare the ice-kacang. One thing was for sure, whilst the wheel was being turned the other wheel handle had to be grabbed with the other hand to press the ice block onto the shaving knife. Just turning the wheel will hardly produce any ice shavings.
    I wonder where this particular machine was manufactured?

    • NCK says:

      The operator would turn the top wheel to lift or lower the stem that pressed the ice block on the blade below. I suppose it shouldn’t have been a two-hand operation – once the ice block was secured, the stem would automatically move down with the spinning motion to continue pressing the ice block on the blade. If a vendor had to continually press on the top wheel, perhaps his or her machine wasn’t working well.

  5. Mano says:

    I recently discovered a stall at the Robina Town Centre in the Gold Coast. It’s called Fast Wok and the owner is from Chemor. My wife and I have been there a few times already. Delicious ‘back like in Ipoh’ stuff and, at last, a place where one can buy Char Siew and Siew Yoke in quantity! They too serve ice-kacang but what needs special mention here is that they include morsels of ripe mango which is a first for me.

  6. sk says:

    Nowadays instead of Hand driven, its automated. The red beans that we had in New Pasir Puteh were the small rounded types. The common ingredients were leong fun, chendol, red beans, kacang, maize & top up with Carnation milk & red or brown sugar . Other combinations would be sweetened palm oil seeds, sago seeds or dried winter melon.

    • NCK says:

      Electric ice shaving machines nowadays make fine snow. The manual machine in the photo made ice shards that were not very pleasant to chew. A blunter blade would make bigger ice shards, I suppose. Only the vendors in Ipoh have the mind to add roast peanuts in their ice kacang and this makes a world of a difference to the dessert. Then, a scoop of ice cream at the top will bring your taste buds and your person to cloud nine.

    • NCK says:

      Ice kacang in Ipoh is piled so high in the bowl, you have to scoop carefully, and in a way that only Ipoh people know, so that none of the heavenly dessert is wasted on the table.

  7. Mano says:

    You got that right, NCK! Only the Ipoh people have the skill of eating ice-kacang piled high far exceeding the capacity of the bowl. By the way, what are we known as, Ipohans, Ipohlites or something else?

    • NCK says:

      Hi Mano, I’d prefer a simple Ipohan but Ipohite is commonly used. I guess the latter takes after KLite which, I guess again, is derived by combining ‘KL’ and the suffix ‘-ite’ in ‘urbanite’. To me, ‘-lite’ sounds fine, but ‘-hite’ doesn’t. (Penangite also has the same suffix, and I still don’t know whether to pronounce ‘-ngite’ or ‘gite’ for this word.)

      • NCK says:

        A few Penangites whom I asked told me that it was up to me how I wanted to pronounce Penangite. Apparently, there isn’t a customary pronunciation for the word.

    • NCK says:

      Oh, yes. There’s Ipoh-Mali. Ipoh people take this name in stride but I think it tells the sad story of Ipoh people’s exodus to other cities for jobs because of tin industry collapse in the 80s.

    • Ipoh Remembered says:

      Just a ball of shaved ice with coloured syrup poured on, then handed to you on a square of newspaper or such?

      Yes, I knew it as “ice kapai.”

  8. NCK says:

    A ‘snow ball’ the size of a child’s hand, made of shaved ice, and flavoured with red sugary syrup might appeal to some children on novelty count. As a child, I saw some kiddos hold the ball in one or both hands and suck it while walking in the street. I thought it was a clumsy affair tasting the ball – you’d get your hands and face all sticky – even though, and I don’t remember very well, the ball might have come in a small plastic bag (certainly not newspaper). These balls only made short-lived presence in food heaven Ipoh. You can find some articles about these balls in a few Penang blogs. There, the so called ice balls or ice kepal/kepai still enjoy a following and come in the size of an adult hand, apparently for the consumption by adults.

    • NCK says:

      I imagine that the kiddos could do a ‘snowball’ fight after they had finished suck off the syrup from their respective ‘snowballs’.

    • NCK says:

      I haven’t seen ice balls for a long time. They probably made a comeback recently. I don’t think they will survive the competition in Ipoh for long. Try them while they last, if they caught your fancy.

      Actually, I read from a blog about ice balls offered in a chic F&B outlet at Kong Heng Square. A simple ice ball there is pricier than a bowl of ice kacang in town. I suppose that is just a fancy, transient ploy of the F&B outlet.

    • sk says:

      Hi Ika, what type of paper . Is it the mahjong type of paper but dont it get wet when the ice melt? Which part of Ipoh still selling. Would drop in on my next trip back. Thanks.

  9. sk says:

    Hi Mano & fellow New Pasir Puterian, I didnt know snow ball is called ” Ice Kepai”. In cantonese we called it ” Char Sheet” literally meaning ” holding ice”. The stall which was directly opposite your house that also sold Ice Kacang, by request, would insert a few pieces of red beans in the middle of the “Char Sheet” . Through period of time, the ball shrunk. There is also an art of rolling the ball. If you compressed too hard, the syrup topping would not be able to permeate into the middle of the ball. I knew because I have done it.It was rolled by the seller bare palms. Who ever heard of hygiene those days ?

    • Ipoh Remembered says:

      Dear sk and Mano … While we’re on the subject of icy desserts, hygienic and otherwise, do either of you remember “ice potong”? The seller’s rusty knife, the re-used stick, the newspaper wrapping?

      (As with “ice kapai,” these things appeared long before the Age of Plastic.)

      • NCK says:

        That poor hygiene might happen in your place or somewhere else, but definitely not in Ipoh. You are trying to hit the jackpot. Please stop your wild guessing.

      • NCK says:

        And plastic bags have existed for a long time. How do you think people bought takeaway drinks in the past? That’s another wild guess from you.

        • Ipoh Remembered says:

          Dear NCK … Your “long time” may be quite different from someone else’s. Since you say that “plastic bags have existed for a long time,” perhaps you know when they appeared in Malaya. Would it be too much trouble for you to say when? Thanks.

        • NCK says:

          Well, I was talking about what I saw. I don’t suppose anyone would have thought I was referring to a period before my time.

          Hi IKA, care to tell what was used as the container for takeaway drinks at that time? I won’t believe you if you say it was newspaper.

  10. Mano says:

    Okay, lets’ start from the beginning. As sk, indicated, ‘the stall directly opposite of my house’, refers.
    The ‘ice-kapai’ (I stand corrected) was handed over in a square piece of newspaper. I guess back then, no one knew that the printing ink had lead in it. I am talking about the early 60’s. Sorry, NCK, but there was no such thing as plastic. The only known ‘plastic’ was bakelite. Perhaps this is why there were mobile vendors selling anything from Nonya cakes and Wantan Mee to Cendol with their unique calls announcing their arrival. The shops used bags made from newspaper and after filling it with the purchase, say, rice or sugar, was then tied down with jute string.
    My earliest recollection of plastic as we know it now would perhaps be between 1963 to 1964.
    Incidentally, I was at ‘Fast Wok’ yesterday and this time they served ‘ice-kacang’ with slivers of jack fruit!

    • NCK says:

      Mano, it is very hard to believe that any person would have the mind to wrap ice balls in newspaper. Did you see it, or do you base on hearsay? Would you believe it if someone told you that he got his ice kacang wrapped in newspaper?

  11. Mano says:

    No, NCK, it was not wrapped in newspaper. The ball of ice was handed over sitting on a square piece of newspaper. The newspaper helped keep your hand from not getting too cold. However, the paper got too soggy and soft by the time you got half way through. That’s when you got rid of it and start to shift from one hand to the other. Hence your statement,’ As a child, I saw some kiddos hold the ball in one or both hands and suck it while walking in the street’.
    I can assure you,NCK, that was precisely how I consumed ‘ice-kapai’.

    • NCK says:

      Whether an ice kepal was wrapped in newspaper or contained on newspaper made little difference. The following are the reasons, if we use our loaves, why I don’t think any vendor would have done that:

      1. Sugar syrup and melted ice would seep through the newspaper copiously, causing the customer’s hands dirty.

      2. The ice kepal would be less tasty with the syrup loss. The vendor might compensate this by giving more syrup, but more syrup meant higher cost to the vendor and dirtier hands to the customer.

      3. The ice kepal would look less palatable with ink prints transferred from the newspaper.

      Remember that before plastic sheets became common, a square of banana leaf was used inside newspaper wrapping to wrap damped food such as fried noodle. Now, why would a vendor hand his dripping ice kepal to his customer on newspaper? You may tell me in all certainty but I still find it unbelievable. Sorry, Mano.

  12. Ipoh Remembered says:

    Dear NCK

    I don’t think anyone is saying that vendors were prevented from using whatever method they could find to attract and please their customers. So, if there were potential customers who would refuse to get their hands sticky, then perhaps there were vendors who thought to use perfect packaging as a selling point. But perfect packaging was not really available; and, anyway, what I think you’re hearing here is that such fastidious customers were … few and far between, or unknown, or even non-existent.

    In other words, your points 1, 2, and 3 may all be logical enough as far as they go but they are based on an anachronistic premise. The truth is: In those days, no little kid cared how sticky her hands got. All anyone wanted was something very cold and sweet for as little money as possible. As a result, most vendors used whatever packaging they could get away with, including squares of newspaper, or even nothing.

    (Frankly, I would argue that even today, no child should be made to care about how sticky her hands get when she’s enjoying a dessert — but that’s another discussion.)

    You conclude:

    You may tell me in all certainty but I still find it unbelievable.

    I don’t know about you, NCK, but, in my life, the number of unbelievable things I’ve seen, and had to deal with, is large enough that I lost count decades ago.

    • NCK says:

      For someone who poses as an oldie (of, say, a century old?), you have again proven to possess the energy of a laddie. Your copious, long-winded comments can attest to that. Go on, lad. Tell us all your wild guesses.

  13. sk says:

    Mano, if you remember, there were two ice stalls, one directly opposite your house where the Indian & Barber shops were, and another one further down the road where the Sundry Shop – Tong Huat was. . This one, the stall owners were run by a husband & wife team, Name we called Ngow Kor & Ngow Soh. When I left New Pasir Puteh, they had 3 children, Lek Lek( daughter), Chai Chai (son) & another new born (son) which the name escaped me. He was still sucking the mother’s breast milk & he had a reddish umbilical cord when I left the place.Here, Ngow Soh usually did the Ice Ball ” “Char Sheet” & given to you at 5 cents each without any wrapping paper. The standard size of an Ice Ball was 4- 5 inches in diameter. The topping was either Red Sugar or Brown Sugar. Those colours were made by colouring powder. Whether it was a permitted coloring, nobody bothered.

  14. Mano says:

    Yes, NCK, unbelievable it may be but that was how it was.

    As to your point 1.
    I did mention earlier that the paper did get soggy and soft in no time. That was when the paper was discarded and the ball of ice was shifted from one hand to the other every now and then as one hand got too cold.

    Point 2.
    Now as the ‘ice-kapai’ is shifted from one hand to the other, it is also turned over every so often to access the syrupy side. This eventually leaves only the plain ice side on your palm which as it melts, keeps your hands from becoming sticky!

    Point 3.
    Points 1. & 2. refer.
    Besides, ink print will not transfer on to a wet surface. Dissolve may be.

    So you see, there was a method to this madness, if you will.
    Oh, how I wish telephones back then were tiny mobile devices that came with a camera to have recorded images or a video of a kid sucking on an ‘ice-kapai’!

  15. Mano says:

    Yes, sk, I remember now. This stall just handed over the ‘ice kapai’ as it was without any ‘serving’ paper. I don’t recall the stall holders’ names though.
    The sundry shop, Tong Huat, used to sell packets of Japanese Banana Notes. I used to buy them for play money!

Leave a Reply

Your email address will not be published. Required fields are marked *

You may use these HTML tags and attributes:

<a href="" title=""> <abbr title=""> <acronym title=""> <b> <blockquote cite=""> <cite> <code> <del datetime=""> <em> <i> <q cite=""> <s> <strike> <strong>