today is May 22, 2022

Es cendol (or ice cendol) is one of the most beloved dessert in Indonesia, it looks like a tinier version of gummy worms, with bright green color, and infused with the fragrance of pandan leaves :) There are three different parts to a delicious es cendol, palm sugar syrup, coconut milk, and the cendol itself. Since pandan leaves are used in the making of all three parts, es cendol is definitely one of the most heavenly pandan desserts ever created. ♥

Ingredients for homemade cendol: pandan leaves, mung bean starch, cornstarch, and lye water.

Ingredients for homemade cendol: pandan leaves, mung bean starch, cornstarch, and lye water.

Are cendol and dawet the same thing?

Sometimes you might hear some Indonesians call cendol as dawet, and some call cendol as cendol. Turned out, both are right since there are actually two kinds of super similar looking desserts with super similar taste and almost similar texture. So what’s the difference?

  1. The main ingredient in cendol is a combination of mung bean starch (known as tepung hun kwe in Indonesia) and cornstarch, typically a 1:1 ratio. Cendol has a much firmer texture with more bite and chewiness to them compared to dawet.
  2. The main ingredient in dawet is rice flour, with a small amount of tapioca starch. Dawet has a softer texture with less chewiness compared to cendol.

Some of you might have tried very similar-looking dessert from your visit to Indonesia, or maybe Malaysia or Singapore. In most cases, what you tried was more likely cendol (a guaranteed 100% if your visit was to Malaysia/Singapore). Even for Indonesians, what most people get nowadays is cendol, unless the sellers specifically say “es dawet” in their menu.

I will give you two options in my recipe, but I think most people will love cendol more than dawet.

Puree pandan leaves with water and strained over a fine-mesh strainer to get pandan juice/extract.

Puree pandan leaves with water and strained over a fine-mesh strainer to get pandan juice/extract.

What you need to prepare cendol

If you want to make cendol, you will need:

  • fresh/frozen pandan leaves
  • mung bean starch (sold as tepung hun kwe in Indonesia)
  • cornstarch
  • lye water (optional, though I highly recommend it if you can buy it)

If you want to make dawet, you will need:

  • fresh/frozen pandan leaves
  • rice flour
  • tapioca starch
  • lye water (optional, though I highly recommend it if you can buy it)

Whether you choose to make cendol or dawet, I highly recommend adding a little amount of lye water (1 teaspoon if you follow my recipe) to the cendol/dawet batter. Lye water adds chewiness and firmer texture to the final product, and the texture will be closer to what you get from cendol/dawet sellers. Also, if you don’t plan to serve the cendol/dawet immediately, the lye water helps retain the bright green color of the pandan in your cendol/dawet.

Press cooked cendol paste through the holes of a steamer basket/pot into a pot of ice-cold drinking water to shape cendol.

Press cooked cendol paste through the holes of a steamer basket/pot into a pot of ice-cold drinking water to shape cendol.

How to prepare pandan extract from fresh/frozen pandan leaves

To get the bright green signature color of cendol/dawet, we rely on pandan leaves. You can use anywhere from 50 gram to 80 gram of pandan leaves for this recipe. Both will be super fragrant, but the 80 gram will give a much darker green color, while the 50 gram will be on the paler side. If you have a lot of supply of pandan leaves, I highly suggest the 80 gram option.

  1. Wash and drain the pandan leaves.
  2. Cut it into fine strips with a pair of scissors.
  3. Place the leaves and 600 ml of water in a blender and puree until very fine. If you have a powerful blender like a Vitamix, this will be a super-fast job. Even with my more modest Ninja, this only takes me about 30 seconds to 1 minute.
  4. Strain with a fine-mesh strainer to get 600 ml pandan juice/extract.

If you don’t have a fine-mesh strainer, you can place a coffee filter over your regular strainer. That way, you don’t end up with pureed pandan leaves in your cendol/dawet.

Freshly made homemade cendol. They look a bit like tiny green gummy worms.

Freshly made homemade cendol. They look a bit like tiny green gummy worms.

How to cook and shape cendol

Regardless of whether you choose to make cendol or dawet, the cooking and shaping process is the same.

  1. Stir together pandan juice/extract, flours/starches, and lye water (if using) in a soup pot.
  2. Turn the heat on to medium, keep on stirring until it turns into a paste.
  3. Lower the heat to low, stir the paste for another 5 minutes.

When it comes to shaping cendol, you have several options:

  1. A traditional cendol press: okay, this is more of a tease, since unless you are a cendol seller, or you want to make cendol super regularly, you won’t need this item. If you do want to make cendol regularly, a better alternative is to get a potato ricer and use that in lieu of a cendol press.
  2. A steamer basket over a soup pot: this is my preferred method. Place about 4 inches of ice-cold drinking water in the pot (It is super important that the water is drinkable! I don’t want you to risk diarrhea or something.) Place a steamer basket over the pot, place the cendol/dawet paste in the steamer pot, then use a spatula to keep on pressing through the holes until all the paste is now floating in the ice-cold water inside the soup pot.
  3. A big ziplock bag and a soup pot: Transfer the super hot just cooked cendol/dawet paste into a large ziplock bag. Close the bag, and cut one of the corners with a pair of scissors (sort of like a makeshift piping bag). Squeeze the cendol/dawet paste through the ziplock bag hole into a soup pot filled with ice cold water. Obviously, you want to think of a way to protect your hands from the hot paste, so maybe wear a pair of kitchen mittens while doing this.

Palm sugar, coconut milk, and pandan leaves are used to prepare pandan scented palm sugar syrup and pandan infused palm sugar syrup and pandan infused coconut milk.

Palm sugar, coconut milk, and pandan leaves are used to prepare pandan scented palm sugar syrup and pandan infused palm sugar syrup and pandan infused coconut milk.

How to enjoy cendol

Cendol/dawet has no taste. Some people add a very minimal amount of sugar and salt to these, but even these will be super bland. The best way to enjoy cendol/dawet is by preparing es cendol/es dawet! You will need:

  • some cendol/dawet (obviously)
  • some crushed/shaved ice
  • some coconut milk, preferably one steeped with the fragrance of pandan
  • some palm sugar syrup, also, preferably steeped with some pandan leaves

Components of an ice cendol: cendol, crushed/shaved ice, pandan infused palm sugar syrup, and pandan infused coconut milk.

Components of an ice cendol: cendol, crushed/shaved ice, pandan infused palm sugar syrup, and pandan infused coconut milk.

Once you have everything, let’s prepare this super simple version of es cendol by doing the following:

  1. Fill a drinking glass half-way with crushed/shaved ice.
  2. Top with cendol to almost fully fill the glass.
  3. Ladle a generous amount of coconut milk.
  4. Ladle some palm sugar syrup, usually a lesser amount than the coconut milk, but just add the amount that suits your taste.
  5. Enjoy with a spoon, just like how you would enjoy a sundae!

A glass of ice cendol, filled with crushed/shaved ice, cendol, pandan infused coconut milk, and pandan infused palm sugar syrup.

A glass of ice cendol, filled with crushed/shaved ice, cendol, pandan infused coconut milk, and pandan infused palm sugar syrup.