Sunday, June 26, 2011


Close-up of green little worms, I mean cendol

A big bag of cendol for $2

Gula Melaka, an aromatic coconut sugar

As far as I can remember, cendol in Singapore is not what it used to be. Back in my childhood days, the drink was rich due to the fresh coconut milk, the cendol was smooth and the gula melaka syrup was aromatic. Each spoonful of the dessert can be described as heavenly, a real treat on a very hot day. In contrast, the cendol commonly available at food courts and hawker centres in Singapore is diluted in taste, made worse by the use of packet or frozen coconut milk with a brown sugar syrup that substitutes for the gula melaka. This is what happens when things gets commercialised and hawkers get their dessert supplies from a few major suppliers. Everything taste the same, bland and generic with no passion and soul. Stalls are mere franchises run by employees.

The cendol in Malacca is much better but one must be careful about being too enthusiastic about the gula melaka. It doesn't help when a separate squeeze bottle of Gula Melaka is placed on every table. Just remember that less is more and too much of it can overpower the balance of the cendol. That is what happened to me the first time I tried cendol in Malacca. My mum told me the first cendol sellers in Singapore were the Indian street hawkers of the 50's and 60's. Till today, I still see the cendol drink sold by Indian stalls at the Tekka market though it looked more like a drink. The Chinese took it a step furthur and added extra little ingredients such as red bean, grass jelly (cincau), sweet corn, atap chee (fruit of the palm tree) together with the cendol.

Today, I bought a big packet of cendol at one of the market stalls in Tekka. The cendol looks more authentic than some of the ones I see at the supermarkets which usually has an intense bright green colour. Cendol is actually made with mung bean flour with green colouring from Pandan leaves added. The mixture is then passed through a sieve (just like the Playdol accessories my kids used to have back then). Tried putting together a home made cendol and it did taste better than the ones at food courts in Singapore though not as rich as the ones in Malacca. Well, at least the green little cendol worms weren't tasteless. In fact, it had a slight, smokey taste which was different. I also ensured that I used fresh coconut milk and real gula melaka. But it would have been much better if I had a ice shaver at home.

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