What it is: Little glutinous rice balls floating in a sweet ginger, peanut, or pandan (aka screwpine leaf) soup. They can be filled with crushed peanuts, red bean, sweet yam mash, and even durian. It is eaten year-round, but is especially associated with the Dong Zhi (winter solstice) or Yuan Xiao (15th day of the Lunar New Year) festivals, and it symbolizes sweetness and harmony.
Where I had it: Hai Sing Ah-Balling, Chinatown Complex (Blk 335 Smith St), Stall #02-059; The stall owner has been selling the dish since he was a young boy and was christened a “hawker legend” in 2005 by the Singapore Tourism Board, the National Environmental Agency, and Makansutra(a popular guide to Singaporean street food).
What I thought: The best Asian dessert I’ve had thus far in Singapore. There were five little rice balls in my soup (I guess I impatiently ate one before taking this picture) and they were all different flavors. The first was peanut, the second was red bean, the third was durian, the fourth may have been the sweet yam mash, and I think the fifth was (black) sesame. After biting into each one, I marveled at how delicious it was – until the sesame one. Much like a box of chocolates you never know what you’re going to get, and it was unfortunate the sesame was last because it was somewhat bitter. I tried having some of the soup to wash away the taste, but it just tasted like warm sugar water. (It was technically a pandan-flavored soup – this stall’s only option.) Nevertheless, I’ll eat ah boling again; I’ll just avoid the soup and attempt to avoid the sesame one.