Cheap & Good: Chendol made the good old fashioned way

Every spoonful of the chendol from Old Amoy Chendol tastes absolutely fresh and not at all artificial.
Every spoonful of the chendol from Old Amoy Chendol tastes absolutely fresh and not at all artificial.ST PHOTO: YIP WAI YEE

SINGAPORE - It has been a while since I have had a satisfying bowl of chendol.

All too often, hawkers skimp on this laborious iced dessert dish - they use powdered coconut milk instead of the fresh kind, or opt for brown sugar instead of gula melaka, which is also more expensive.

So when my parents tell me that they had discovered an authentic chendol stall - one that serves up the chendol of their childhoods - I had to check it out.

The 11-month-old stall is housed in the huge and sprawling Chinatown Complex Market & Food Centre, but it is easy enough to locate - the sign is bright and colourful, and the sparse-looking stall sells only one dish: Chendol.

I order a bowl ($2) and as soon as I tuck in, I understand why stall owner Zhao Youning, 32, is confident enough to sell just this dessert.

His version - adapted from a recipe he picked up from his retiree grandfather who hawked chendol from a pushcart in the 1950s along Amoy Street - is delicious.

Unlike the commercialised chendol found in air-conditioned foodcourt chains, every spoonful of the chendol here tastes absolutely fresh and not at all artificial.

Indeed, real gula melaka is used here - sourced and hand-carried from Sabah or Sarawak every month - as is fresh cold-pressed coconut milk.

The pandan jelly worms, the signature component of any chendol dish, are melt-in-your-mouth soft, too - a far cry from the stiff frozen ones one usually gets.

  • OLD AMOY CHENDOL

  • 02-008 Chinatown Complex Market & Food Centre, 335 Smith Street

    Open: 10.30am to 8.30pm daily

    Rating: 4 stars

My favourite ingredient here though has to be the red bean mash.

It is soft but not so mushy that you cannot tell what it used to be. Mr Zhao slow-cooks the red beans over charcoal daily till they are tender.

I ask him why he had chosen to open a chendol stall, especially since he does not have a food and beverage background. Mr Zhao used to run an industrial water filtration business.

He replies that it is because he had been on the hunt for an authentic bowl of chendol in Singapore, one of his favourite desserts, but as he never managed to find one, he decided to just make it himself.

I am thankful for his strong cravings.