Some things in life are deviously simple. Devious, because they hide under the guise of something far more complex. Earlier this year, I had my first taste of and instantly became addicted to Cendol. Cendol is a traditional dessert in South East Asia and you will find heaps of variations in practically every street and home of Malaysia, Indonesia, Myanmar, Singapore, Vietnam and Thailand. Although it can be quite complex in some eateries, the most basic simple version is a bowl of shaved ice topped with worm like green noodles made from mung bean flour, salted coconut milk and gula melaka syrup. That's it! Ice, noodles, coconut milk and gula melaka syrup. The resulting taste explosion is so intense and joyful, that I for one have no words to describe it.
What is gula melaka you ask? Quite simply, it is palm sugar. Palm sugar is made from coconut palm or date palm. The date palm is also called jaggery and is rich and dark with an intense flavour. The coconut palm version is lighter, almost golden with a whiteness that dares to defy its caramel and butterscotch tones. It is this coconut palm that is called gula melaka. Cooking it in water will give you that sticky gula melaka syrup that forms the basis if a Cendol. Yes, deviously simple!
Although I have yet to make the green worm like noodles that enhance the Cendol eating experience, I also feel like they are omissible. To feed my Cendol craving all I need is shaved ice, gula melaka syrup and salted coconut milk. I have a dear little ice crusher at home that came all the way from Singapore on a ship. On particularly hot nights after the kids are in bed, Nick and I sneak into the garage. I know what you are thinking, but it is not like that. We crank up the ice shaver which makes an awful racket akin to your neighbour mowing the lawn. We shave enough ice to heap two bowls. Then we come back in the house and with big grins on our faces pour some gula melaka syrup and some salted coconut milk on the ice and hungrily slurp that icy goodness. Our instant Cendol has that effect on us.
GULA MELAKA SYRUP
adapted from Teage Ezard's recipe on SBS
Preparation Time - 10 minutes
Cooking Time - 20 minutes
Makes - 250ml
300g pure palm sugar, roughly chopped
grated rind of 1 orange
Place palm sugar, water and rind in a heavy bottomed saucepan. Cook on medium heat for 10 minutes till palm sugar melts. Stir to make sure nothing sticks to the bottom of the pan. Reduce heat to low and simmer for 10 to 15 minutes until the syrup is thick, sticky and turned a rich caramel in colour.
Store in an air tight container for unto two weeks in the fridge. (I stored it in an open jug in the fridge and it was just fine).
And the moment I first had Cendol was forever captured by Nick earlier this year. Read about my Cendol experience here. I thought adding this picture again will give you a visual of what I have been trying to describe in words in this post.