Monday, August 22, 2011

The best cendol in the world


Chendol unlike any other

Enjoying a good cendol is one of the many vices I allow myself whenever I am in Malaysia. I really can't explain it, but a bowl of ice with coconut milk and palm sugar really makes me happy. Yes, cendol is basically a bowl of beans and some stringy green gelatinous substance, and it's topped with ice, coconut milk and palm sugar syrup. Some places do variations including adding slices of durian or mango on top.

I usually order it whenever I am in a restaurant that offers it, just to sample the goods. And, well, in Malacca a few days ago, I finally found a cendol that was so delicious that I reckon it's the best chendol in the world. In fact, it was so good that I had four servings.

THE PENANG VERSION


This cendol place is not fancy at all. In fact, the good cendol places rarely are. In Penang, for example, the most famous chendol place is in fact a food cart that operates out of Penang Road -- but it's incredibly good. There's always a long line of people waiting. Interestingly, in this incredibly narrow road which cars also use, there are two cendol carts opposite each other. One is the original famous shop, and the other is the newer competitor. Both of them say they're the famous cendol shop, but somehow only one has the long lines.

Back to Malacca. I went to eat to eat at the famous Malacca cendol shop along Jonker Road one morning at about 10 am, just after a very big Malaysian curry breakfast at The Majestic Malacca, and before an equally big lunch of chicken rice.


THE MALACCA COMPETITOR

When we got to Jonker Road just a little after 10 am, there was already a long line of customers. It wasn't so long as to discourage me from actually trying to get a bowl of chendol; but it was quite surprising considering it was only the middle of the morning and a bowl of ice is not exactly breakfast fare for most people -- although it is for me.

People who've traveled with me know that I just love crushed ice and ice chips, and I'll happily have a bucket of this for breakfast. In fact, nothing makes my day more than a lot of ice. So you can imagine how willingly I'll visit a cendol store at 10 am.

That's the chendol lady taking a mini-break
from shaving ice.

This cendol discovery was right smack along Jonker Road in Malacca, which is about as touristy as you can get in this UNESCO World Heritage site. Jonker Road is where the antique shops and curio shops are all lined up along. It's also home to this best cendol shop, as well as to one of the best chicken rice in the city.

Anyway, the cendol on Jonker Road is really delicious and after watching the owner make the cendol a few times, I finally reckoned that the main reason it's so good is that the palm sugar syrup they use here is incredibly tasty and thick. The coconut milk is also thick so it's obvious they're not scrimping on the good stuff. And the thick consistency of these two key ingredients for cendol made a world of difference vs the watered-down versions available elsewhere.

And which do I like best, between the Penang Road cendol and the Jonker Road Malacca version? Both are good but the Malacca version is definitely more upscale and it's really incredibly delicious, so it wins hands-down as far as I'm concerned.

This -- makes my heart beat faster.


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