Malay street food : Cendol (coconut milk and ice pudding)


After grazing our way through some other areas of Malaysia we made our way up to Georgetown, Penang (or Pinang), lauded as the food capital of Asia, street food mecca, whatever. We had high hopes. 

Penang is world famous for having a cultural melting pot of Indian, Chinese and Malay population who all contributed to the culinary landscape.
Penang did not disappoint, in fact it was probably better than expected – One thing; if you’re planning on eating like it’s your last week alive don’t visit during the lunar new year festivities.

I don’t really have much of a sweet tooth, I’ll always choose savoury over sweet and sugar laden deserts and sweets like toffee or fudge are generally the last thing I want to eat.

One afternoon I found myself eating a mountain of cendol…

Penang cendol

Penang cendol


Cendol, (pronounced shen-dul) is a sugarific Malay desert consisting of shaved ice, coconut milk, gula Melaka – a type of sugar syrup, originating from Melaka, kidney beans and little green worms which are actually pandan flavoured rice noodles. The noodles are also called cendol.

To my great surprise, I actually quite enjoyed it –  it was a delicious cooling pick-me-up on a hot afternoon, the gula Melaka was rich and flavourful and not the cheap sugary taste I expected. The coconut milk was refreshing, the kidney beans were strangely my favourite part and the noodles made a necessary textural change. Even when it all started to melt and looked like soup with an identity crisis it was still delicious!

Penang cendol

Penang cendol

Penang road, near to the KOMTAR is home to not only the famous and busy Penang Road Famous Teochew Cendol but also rival stalls, too!

Although Penang is famous for the cendol, it is also well known in Melaka. Jonker 88 is a favourite..

If you’re keen to branch out on the sweet deserts, Ais (ice) Kacang is also based on shaved ice and sugar, with the additions of condensed milk and lumps of jelly.  Another sweet local speciality of melaka is tai bak a Peranankan desert of coloured noodles in pandan syrup.

Phrases worth knowing 

Satu – One
Dua – Two
Tiga – Three
Hello  – Hello
Apa kabar – are you well/ how are you?
salamat pagi – good morning
Salamt tingal – goodbye
sila (see luh) – please
Terima kasih –  Thank you (people will often respond with ‘sama sama’ which means’ you’re welcome)
berapa harga – how much?
tidak pedas – no chilli
bungkus – Take away
Tidak – No
Ya – yes
Maaf – sorry


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