Cheap & Good

Grandpa's chendol recipe put to good use

Old Amoy's chendol has gula melaka sourced from East Malaysia and red beans slow-cooked over charcoal.
Old Amoy's chendol has gula melaka sourced from East Malaysia and red beans slow-cooked over charcoal.ST PHOTO: YIP WAI YEE

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

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

So when my parents tell me that they had discovered an authentic chendol stall - one that serves the chendol of their childhood - 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.


  • 02-008 Chinatown Complex Market & Food Centre, 335 Smith Street; open: 10.30am to 8.30pm daily

    Rating: 4/5

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

Indeed, real gula melaka is used - 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 bowl of chendol, are melt-in-your-mouth soft too - a far cry from the stiff frozen ones usually served.

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 when 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, and he never managed to find one, so he decided to make it himself.

I am thankful for his strong cravings.

A version of this article appeared in the print edition of The Sunday Times on October 21, 2018, with the headline 'Grandpa's chendol recipe put to good use'. Print Edition | Subscribe