Going from earlier healthy bowl of goodness to a delicious icy dessert, known as Chendol was on my list ever since I saw these colourful high heaped bowls of yumminess enjoyed by the children and adults across Singapore.
In 2018, CNN identified Chendol as one of the 50 world’s best desserts and rightly so in my opinion. Imagine a huge mound of shaved ice drenched in a creamy and rich coconut milk which is then topped with a thick palm sugar syrup which is almost like a thick caramelized flavoured honey. And enjoying this refreshing yumminess bite by bite in a sweltering heat of Singapore. Could it be any better?
A debate arose soon after CNN published its list of 50 world’s best desserts when the article specified chendol as a local delicacy of Singapore. One set of groups proclaimed that chendol’s origins are supposed to have found in Malaysia – earliest mention was found in a piece of Malaysian text – 1932 article in a Malaysian newspaper. While the other group proclaimed that chendol (Javanese name, Dawet) was first mentioned in the Kresnayana manuscript, which dates back to the 12th century Kediri Kingdom in Java. Dawet is served more as a drink with the trademark green rice jellies.
Though the debate continues, what remains constant is the use of its core ingredients. This 900-year-old dessert, Chendol can be found in different forms and shapes across several South East countries like Malaysia, Vietnam, Indonesia and of course Singapore. Shaved ice, coconut milk and gula melaka (palm sugar) remain as the core ingredients while additions like pandan flavoured jelly, fruits especially durian, cream corn, beans are other popular choices that add texture to this rich dessert.
And since I was in the Bukit Timah Market and Food center, one of a popular hawker center in the western part of the Central region in Singapore, I had to try the famous chendol at Nyonya Chendol which came up as one of the 10 most popular places to try this dessert in my research. Walking my way through the busy market, I stood in the long queue going over a short menu of only 4 items. My choice was clear, I had to go for the original. And honestly, I am not a big fan of beans or corn as part of my dessert so my option for pretty much set.
At my turn, on requesting the original, the lady at the stall efficiently shaped the shaved ice mound and ladled smooth coconut milk all over it so that it permeated the ice. Over this white mountain of ice, another ladle of a thick gula melaka syrup was poured and then finished with a spoon of pandan jelly.
Over to my table, gently knocking off the ice mound with a soup spoon that was given, I indulged myself to a most delicious bite of caramelized creamy spoon of flavoured ice. Reminiscent of snow cones or our own gola/chuski, I thoroughly enjoyed every bite ending it with even drinking the bowl up leaving the jelly behind. I guess I am not too fond of jelly either!
My own two bits – for a measly sum of only SGD 1.50, it is definitely a dessert that can’t be missed. Perfect combination of creaminess and sweetness over a huge bowl of ice is unforgettable whether it is a hot day in Singapore or not.