Making Cendol

Cendol is the name given to the pandan flavoured goo drops used in es campur. Cendol isn't easy to find outside Asia, and is so traditional that the recipes usually seem to assume that you've seen it being made before. Because of this, on this page I'll show how you can make these drops yourself, in your own kitchen.

First of all, you'll need something that will allow you to form drops. Ideally this should be something with a flat bottom and the holes quite far apart (to prevent the goo from joining under the utensil). Hmmm... where can you find something like that? My eye fell on my vegetable steamer.

The steaming basket fits the bill perfectly; it has medium large holes, a flat bottom and the holes are quite far apart.

For the cendol mix, you'll need a starchy flour. Typically, recipes state a 1:6 proportion between starch and water. Depending on type of starch, proportions may be off a bit. In case of doubt, it's better to err towards a bit thicker- worst case you'll end up with longer, a bit more starchy strands of cendol instead of drop shapes. Often, mung bean starch is used because the cendol will then become beautifully transparent; however, corn starch works fine too. Pure tapioca starch, although giving a beautifully transparent result, will not work because the drops will dissolve again. If you're after transparent drops but mung bean starch is unavailable, potato starch is a good alternative.

You'll want to blend in pandan flavour (natural or artificial) and give it a nice colour (typically pink/red or green, and typically the colour is quite strong). If you don't have pandan flavour, a neutral but pleasant flavour such as vanilla will do the trick. Some asian food stores sell keladi/yam flavouring, which is a reasonably close substitute for pandan.

What we're after is a consistency similar to wall paper glue. While heating the water/starch mix, stir constantly until you have a thick custard that would set if you'd put it in the refrigerator.

Place the cendol sieve (or steamer basket, in my case) over a bowl of COLD water. Ice water with ice cubes is usually recommended; fridge temperature water is fine. Scoop in a spoon of the mix into the cendol sieve or steamer basket, and push it through the holes with the spoon. The custard drops will set as soon as they fall into the icy cold water. Some of them may have a little bubble of air in them; they'll float to the top. The others will fall to the bottom of the bowl.

Continue until you're out of 'wallpaper glue' or until you've got enough cendol. Pour off the excess of water...

... and/or filter out the cendol drops in a sieve.

The authors of World of Goo game said that the goo was extremely delicious- I wonder if they were inspired by Cendol?

After putting the cendol back in the bowl, cover it with clean water to prevent it from sticking. This is what it looks like:

If you're not using the cendol, refrigerate and use within a few days.

Or, if like me you can't resist, make some nice es cendol or es campur straight away! You can start by mixing some shaved ice, coconut milk, green and red cendol, yellow jackfruit (immersed in this picture), condensed milk and of course gula jawa (palm sugar syrup) - this makes for a colourful, tasty desert. Enjoy!