During my recent trip to Malaysia it was all about “Makaan” eating and one thing that intrigued me was “Cendol” that appeared in almost every menu whether street side, mid size or fine dining restaurants. Through my Indian eyes, I wondered how a dessert could contain red beans and corn which are typically curried in India. After a little bit of pondering, I followed the locals on a hot and sultry afternoon and took the plunge with a bowl of Cendol. (pronounced as Chen Dol)
Shaved ice generated from a machine was piled into a small bowl and drenched with a generous amount of coconut milk. Some boiled red beans and corn was spread around the base and garnished with a generous amount of pandan jelly which appeared like soft green noodles. Finally, a ladle full of molten palm jaggery was poured all over. How would it taste, I wondered having read mixed reviews from tourists.
I took a deep breath and dug into my cooling potion of Cendol !! It was sweet, salty and crunchy all rolled into one. The sweetness of the molten palm jaggery mixed with the slightly salted red beans and the crunchiness of the shaved ice just added to the texture while the smell of coconut and pandan just filled my lungs !!
This was my first experience with pandan and ofcourse Cendol. I did not fall head over heels in love with Cendol but loved the concoction which is literally a national obsession in Malaysia much like the Indian Laddoo. It perhaps originated in Indonesia where it is had in a glass without the shaved ice and is believed to owe its name to “jendol” referring to the green worm like jelly :). In Malaysia, shaved ice was added into the mix given that the British introduced refrigeration technology into the country in early 20th century.
As I relished my bowl of Cendol, allowing the cold to seep in and counter the heat; I was wondering about the combination of ingredients and why Cendol figures in the list of heritage foods in Malaysia. In South East Asia, it is all about balancing the Yin and the Yang in food preparation. The pandan jelly, palm jaggery and ice were all all yin (cool) that was balanced by the beans, corn and coconut milk !! As Indians we are used to Sweet, Sweeter, Sweetest in our desserts and this was a great eye opener.
During your trip to Malaysia, do savour a bowl of Cendol !! Priced between 4 RM to 10 RM depending on the type of outlet, toppings etc