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Cendol is a sweet iced dessert made up of palm sugar syrup, coconut milk, and green rice flour jelly. You can find this iced delight throughout Ipoh on street carts, in food courts / hawker centres and shopping malls.
While there are numerous variations of this commonplace dessert, one of the fundamental elements is shaved ice. Typically it is prepared with sweetened red beans and comes in a bowl with a dark syrup called Gula Melaka (Palm Sugar). Cendol normally comes with additional toppings such as grass jelly, glutinous rice and creamed corn. More recently, durian toppings and vanilla ice cream have become popular too.
The origin of cendol is unclear, although Java in Indonesia has strong claims with ‘dawet’ (an Indonesian version) that dates to the 12th century. While no shaved ice is used in traditional dawet, it is a significant part of the drink today in Malaysia. Indeed, this sweet drink has become a thirst quencher in terms of heritage food in Ipoh.
It is equally as popular in other areas of Malaysia such as Penang and Malacca. Some commentators even argue that the true cendol, with its cooling shaved ice, might have originated in Penang or Malacca during the British colonial era and their refrigerated technology.
Cendol in Ipoh
In Ipoh, you can find cendol made from old-school ice shaving machines to hand shaved ice. Various toppings like brown syrup, which is perfect for sweet lovers, are available throughout this limestone mountain city. In addition, you will find banana and bite sized Oreo cookies commonplace. There are Chinese, Indian and Malay versions throughout the city, including on ‘cendol trucks’ by the roadside. In some places in Ipoh it is served with Wan Tau Long (yellow jelly). This iced dessert is super affordable with a delicious sweet taste. It is a must-try when you come to Ipoh.