Cheap & Good

Calm down with chendol

The pandan jelly in the dessert from Nyonya Chendol is the highlight - soft strips with an intense fragrance and flavour.
The pandan jelly in the dessert from Nyonya Chendol is the highlight - soft strips with an intense fragrance and flavour.ST PHOTO: REBECCA LYNNE TAN

There was quite a commotion last week after CNN released its list of the world's 50 best desserts.

It said Singapore's version of chendol, with the addition of a scoop of sweetened red beans, was "especially tempting" - reigniting the great street food debate between foodies here and across the Causeway.

Which country does it better? Where does it originate? Doesn't Singapore use gula melaka from Malaysia?

A passionate war of words soon erupted online. And boy, do people have a lot to say about chendol and what it stands for. Food certainly has a way of evoking national pride.

All that chatter about chendol (just go on Twitter or Facebook and check out #cendol) and scrolling through photos of the dessert had me hankering after a bowl of the icy, cold treat on a hot day last week.

I found myself salivating at the thought of a bowl of chendol with shaved ice - the irresistible blend of sticky palm sugar syrup with coconut milk and soft green worm-like jelly slithering down my throat.

  • NYONYA CHENDOL

  • 02-147 Bukit Timah Market & Food Centre, 51 Upper Bukit Timah Road; open: 10.30am to about 8.30pm, or when sold out, daily

    Rating: 3.5/5

There are some pretty decent versions of chendol here if you need your fix.

In fact, my colleague Yeoh Wee Teck from The New Paper has already compiled a list featuring places for good chendol in Singapore.

I have one more to add to it: Nyonya Chendol, which has several outlets islandwide from Redhill to Old Airport Road to Whampoa Drive.

The outlet at Bukit Timah Market & Food Centre is the one nearest my home and this is the outlet I will vouch for.

The specialist shop serves only chendol. Plain chendol costs $1.50. You can also have chendol with red beans ($2), sweet corn ($2) or XO durian ($3).

Shaved ice is compressed into a mound and then drizzled with rich coconut milk, a scoop of glossy, viscous golden-brown gula melaka and served with pale-green pandan jelly worms.

Stick to the original if you are a purist, but I like my chendol with red beans. At this outlet, the large red beans are soft but still have bite. They have not been mashed into a paste like at some stalls.

The pandan jelly is the highlight here - soft strips with an intense fragrance and flavour. There is nothing artificial about it.

Once the ice begins to melt, the dessert becomes just sweet enough. There is also a hint of saltiness in this chendol that helps cut through the richness.

Let us embrace the various versions of this South-east Asian street food treat.

No need to fight about who does it best or who did it first. Just enjoy.

• Follow Rebecca Lynne Tan on Twitter @STrebeccatan

A version of this article appeared in the print edition of The Sunday Times on December 09, 2018, with the headline 'Calm down with chendol'. Print Edition | Subscribe