A Food Diary: Melaka's Cendol & PJ's Indian (Mamak) Rojak

Tuesday, June 19, 2012

M'sian version of Indian Rojak: before the julienned veg and sauce are added
It is June vacation and I was in Melaka and Petaling Jaya (West Malaysia) recently.

Either my taste buds are changing or I did not try hard enough. But I have found it difficult to find something that is worthwhile blogging - or bragging - about. After all, I still have Malaysian roots.

That said, there were some sweet moments that are worth mentioning.

Cendol from Cottage of Spices
Nonya Cendol

Cendol in Melaka is generally very good. This dessert of finely shaved ice in coconut milk, caramelised palm sugar with red beans and green jelly strips can claim top spots in any world dessert rankings. The green worms can put off some folks and maybe some "redesign" of this recipe can widen its appeal. Most folks that I know are partial to this, Jen especially.

I would love to make this at home except for the tools I don't have to shave the ice finely. And I am not unfamiliar with the ice shaver. I used to shave ice for ice kachang in my Mum's canteen and can recall the efforts and right tools needed to shave the ice finely. For a start, you will need large blocks of ice to shave from. And then patience is needed to shave it finely.

It will be a bother to try to make this at home.

Generally, most vendors in Melaka know how to make theirs. I have talked a bit about the Indian version from my visit to Ipoh. Melaka mostly serves up the Nyonya version where the gula melaka takes centre stage. We were happy with most places we ate it from - we did a Cendol trail - but we liked the one at Cottage of Spices the most.

The gula used here is fragrant and the home-made 'worms' had the right texture i.e. neither too soft nor chewy. Most versions come with little pieces of ice floating in a sea of coconut milk but this version is different. It is served like a iced-ball and gave us time to slowly enjoy the bowl before the ice melted away. In fact, they melted in our mouths as they did not stay in the bowls for long. 
I found though that most of their dishes were quite average, symptomatic perhaps of the struggles which most Nonya eateries here are facing: the ability of the younger generation to take over the classical cooking of their Nonya Mums.

I should know - I am one of them!

These lovely gula melaka blocks are waiting to be melted...
We also bought some gula melaka from the shops and I like the quality and taste. I have yet to make desserts from it but will be planning to. Now, if only I can find a good ice-shaver...    

Indian (Mamak) Rojak

We then moved up to PJ for an overnight trip. I wish there were more dishes I can blog about but I did find  a joint which serves rojak the way I have always liked it as a schoolboy. This shop only sells rojak and cendol. It is located in the State area but the name tells you the original street where it used to do business in.

The strange thing is that there isn't a Sino-Malaysian Indian Rojak dish. Indian Rojak in Singapore is very different from the Malaysian version. I can recall my first experience with Indian Rojak at a Food Center located at the end of Nassim Road. I was then staying nearby at Raffles Hall, NUS. It was different but very good. The sauce is served separately and when it comes to the rojak pieces, there is more variety. It is richer in many ways with large prawns fritters, whole squids and often these are deep fried before they are served. You can check out a mouth-watering version here.  

Comparatively, the Malaysian variation is lighter and often eaten as a starter or a light tea snack. It is served with the sauces mixed in. The brown, sweet, spicy and tangy sauce - made from sweet potatoes - is closer to the sauce used for gado-gado or mee rebus. It is poured on a generous portion of julienned cucumber pieces and watercress, with the boiled eggs, beancurd, crunchy jelly fish and fried fritters at the bottom. Both the Malay and Nonya versions are similar and I believe they are variations of the same dish.

This shop serves it in the classic way and for fans of this unpretentious, rustic and kampung version, it will be satisfying.

The sauce is very important for the M'sian version. 
The Cendol is good too, though different from the gula melaka-centric Nonya version. The coconut milk is lightly spiced and I found it refreshing. And as for the green worms, the cendol maker there proudly said that it was home made. Thumbs up.

The June hols is almost over but as always, the trip up country is refreshing. I hope I will have more to brag blog about at future trips.

The shop's name tells her heritage...

...but it is located at the State area

You Might Also Like


  1. This uhhhh-mazing!

  2. Do you have recipe for the Indian Rojak? Why is it hard to find one.