Jakarta. As the rest of the world battles a prolonged heatwave, Jakartans could be forgiven for thinking, “This is what has been happening to us for years!” This is also one of the reasons why, apart from being home to nasi goreng and rendang, Indonesia is also famous for its myriad of iced drinks-slash-desserts. One of them is the classic cendol, tiny, worm-like green rice flour jelly, often found swimming in an icy cold sweet pool of coconut milk and palm sugar syrup.
In Jakarta, the traditional iced cendol drinks are sold from roadside carts usually bearing brown earthenware jars where the cendol, coconut milk and palm sugar syrup are kept. “Es Cendol” also still crops up regularly in the dessert menu of many fancy restaurants in the capital.
But as we’ve found out, Indonesian culinary creativity knows no bounds, so you can now find cendol cake, cendol pudding, cendol with cheese toppings and for the health conscious among you, cendol in skinny almond mylk instead of coconut milk full of saturated fats.
Pick your choice of modern cendol from the list below:
Gambino’s healthy cendol is made of seaweed instead of rice flour. It’s low in carbohydrates and high in fibre.
“We’re a proud homegrown Indonesian company, so our choice of dessert reflects that,” owner Wenty Rasjid said.
“When you think of cendol, you think Indonesia,” he said.
Gambino’s seaweed cendol is vibrant green and chewy, reminiscent to grass jelly in bubble tea drinks.
Gambino also ditched the traditional coconut milk for their own special mix of almond mylk infused with palm sugar.
The drink is also available in coffee, matcha milk and thai tea milk flavors – all sweetened with cane sugar instead of palm sugar.
Cane sugar isn’t as overpowering as palm sugar and allows more of the other flavors to shine.
Gambini’s modern cendol drinks are only available at their Kota Kasablanka Mall outlet, made fresh on site.
Address: Kota Kasablanka Mall, Lower Ground Level, Jalan Casablanca Raya Kav. 88, Menteng Dalam, Tebet, South Jakarta
Contact: (021) 53660710
No matter what form the cendol is in – and here it is layered into a pudding – you’ll know it’s cendol once it’s in your mouth.
Mendjangan Restaurant’s cendol pudding recipe has been passed down for generations in owner Mourina’s family.
The first layer is coconut cream jam-packed with pieces of green cendol, and the second layer is congealed palm sugar with bits of tangy jackfruit.
“Everyone has cendol dessert, but none of them looks like this,” Olla the manager said.
Address: Jalan Kemang 1 No. 2, Kemang, South Jakarta
Contact: (021) 22717999
Asia Restaurant at Ritz Carlton Jakarta
After a year of trial and error, pastry chef Hendri Darmawan figured out the perfect formula for his deconstructed cendol cake.
There isn’t any actual cendol in the cake, but Hendri has used all the typical cendol ingredients to emulate the green jellies’ familiar taste.
At first glance, the cake looks like a caramel custard flan – until you get a whiff of the familiar pandan smell.
The smell may be a bit too fragrant for some, but the blander white mousse balances it out in your mouth.
The palm sugar glaze is gelatinous and jiggly, a rich caramel crown on top of the creamy white cake – you could be forgiven for thinking it’s a panna cotta (the famous chilled Italian dessert made of sweet cream and gelatin).
This deconstructed cendol cake is one of Asia Restaurant’s signature creations and has been a mainstay of their dessert menu in the past three years.
Address: Jl. Dr. Ide Anak Agung Gde Agung Kav. E11 No 1, Mega Kuningan, South Jakarta
Contact: (021) 25518888
Radja Cendol (Randol)
Radja Cendol has only been around for four years, but the chain already has 40 stores in Jakarta, thanks to the popularity of its quirky toppings for what is really quite run-of-the-mill iced cendol drinks.
31-year-old owner Danu Sofwan said his recipe also uses dairy milk instead of coconut milk to give the drinks a fresher taste.
Sadly, the over-the-top toppings (cheese! Oreo!) are meagre and leave little to no impression, as the pieces of crushed up Oreos and shredded cheese too quickly disappear into the icy milk.
Address: Mall Artha Gading’s Eat Street, Jalan Artha Gading Selatan No. 1, Kelapa Gading, North Jakarta