What is cendol and what does it taste like?
Cendol is a dessert made of rice flour jellies and served in palm sugar syrup and coconut milk. The jellies are in a bright green colour and have a distinctive delicious aroma from the pandan paste.
It is often enjoyed as a dessert in a drink that one can quench their thirst at the same time relish the delightful green gooey-like jellies.
What country is it from?
As of Indonesian descent, I’d say Cendol is from Java, Indonesia. But I obviously can not claim this 100% for sure as now many countries in Southeast Asia would argue that it originated from their country.
All I can say is that decades ago when I used to go to Singapore, Cendol didn’t exist and was not known at all. So just like any food, I suppose this ambrosial dessert has travelled beyond so many borders that it now exists in many countries.
You can find this drink of green gooey jellies in Indonesia, Malaysia, Brunei, Cambodia, Singapore, Vietnam, Thailand, and Myanmar.
Since I’m not a historian, I’d leave the debate to the expert. And let me just share what I know.
Is it a traditional food?
Yes, sort of. In Indonesia, Cendol is one of the popular Jajan Pasar aka street foods. It is particularly often sought-after during the fasting month, Ramadan, as a sweet starter to break the fast.
And because it’s almost always hot throughout the year in Indonesia, people like enjoying cold sweet desserts like Cendol for breaking the fast.
What is this green gooey jelly-like made of?
There are a few types of Cendol that differ according to their key ingredients. They are mung bean flour which is also called Hunkwe, and rice flour.
The latter will give a little bitey and chewy texture to the jellies. As for the ones made of Hunkwe flour (mung bean flour), the jellies have a texture similar to gelatine jellies. They don’t have any chewiness at all.
I personally prefer the one made of rice flour. And that is what I’m sharing in this recipe.
This recipe uses rice flour as its main ingredient. With a little bit of tapioca starch/ flour as an addition to give the chewy texture to the cendol.
As for the green colour, here, I use ready-made pandan paste for convenience.
But if for whatever reason you can not get palm sugar, you can substitute with dark muscovado sugar or dark soft brown sugar. Just bear in mind, this sugar is sweeter than palm sugar, so you may want to adjust the sweetness according to your taste and the sugar you choose.
Last but not least, you will need coconut milk to make this Cendol dessert drink. Try to get good quality coconut milk so that your cendol will taste good too. And if it’s possible, try to put a bit of pandan leaf when you boil the coconut milk. So it will be nicely fragrant.
Here in the UK, we can only get Thai pandan leaves that are very long. So ⅔ of one pandan leaf is more than enough to use for this recipe.
How To Make
In essence, you need to cook three elements, i.e. the green pudding, sugar syrup and coconut milk.
So, firstly, you mix the rice flour, tapioca flour and salt in a mixing bowl. Then you add 300 ml/ 10.14 fl. oz water and whisk it to make a smooth batter.
Colour the mixture with ½ teaspoon of pandan paste. This pandan paste also acts as a flavour and fragrance agent. Because it contains the pandan leaf extract as the name says.
After that, boil 400 ml/ 13.53 fl oz of water in a large pan. When it reaches boiling point, pour the water into the green flour mixture as you stir the mixture. Then put the mixture back into the pan/ pot and continue cooking until the mixture gets thick and very sticky.
It can be hard stirring it as it gets thicker and thicker. But keep cooking until it’s bubbling hot which is the sign it’s boiling.
Get a big bowl ready and place cold water with some ice cubes in it.
Take your cendol maker/ potato ricer. Spoon the cooked cendol mixture and put it in the cendol maker/ potato ricer. Hold it over the iced water bowl, and press the maker/ ricer until the Cendol comes out and falls to the iced water. Keep pressing until all the mixture has finished.
Secondly, you make the sugar syrup by boiling1 ¾ cup/ 300 gr/ 10.58 oz palm sugar (which is also called coconut sugar or jaggery) with ¾ cup + 2 tbsp/ 200 ml/ 7.04 fl. oz water and pandan leaf. Cook until the sugar is boiling and becomes slightly sticky and syrupy. Set aside to cool.
Thirdly, boil and simmer 1 ⅔ cup/ 400 ml/ 13.53 fl. oz coconut milk with 1 ¼ cup/ 300 ml/ 10.14 fl. oz water and pandan leaf until the milk looks a bit shiny and it’s fragrant. Let it cool.
Lastly, assemble the Cendol in a tall glass by putting the sugar syrup, the cendol, and coconut milk respectively. Add some ice cubes if you like.
Top tips to make the yummiest Cendol
- Be patient in stirring the mixture. Make sure you scrap the bottom of the pan so it won’t get burned. And keep the heat really low.
- The bigger the holes of your Cendol mould the better. So if you use the potato ricer, use the one with the biggest hole.
- If you want to keep this dessert for another day, make sure you keep the jellies separately from the sugar and coconut milk. In fact, put all the three items in separate food containers. They keep well in the fridge/ refrigerator for 4-5 days.
More Indonesian sweet recipes
Thank you for reading the post. I hope you’re now interested in trying this Cendol recipe. When you do, I will really appreciate it if you could share what you think about the recipe.
Before you go, don’t forget to check my other Indonesian sweets and desserts that you may love.
- Serabi Kuah – Indonesian pancakes with palm sugar syrup and coconut milk.
- Kolak Biji Salak – Indonesian sweet potato balls in palm sugar syrup and coconut milk.
- Klepon – Indonesian glutinous rice balls with palm sugar filling and coated with coconuts.
- Gemblong – Indonesian sweet treats made of glutinous rice.
- Martabak Manis – Indonesian sweet thick pancake.
- Bubur Kacang Hijau – Indonesian sweet mung bean dessert.
Thank you and all the best.