In 2018, CNN Travel released a list of the 50 Best Desserts in the World. Cendol was included in the list, but Singapore was named as the country of origin. It is no wonder that this list has caused a debate between Malaysia and Singapore. CNN Travel explained that this cendol ice dessert consists of sweet coconut milk served with palm sugar syrup and pandan-flavored green jelly made from glutinous rice flour.
Although they mentioned that it originated in Singapore, CNN added that cendol can be found in other Southeast Asian countries as well. CNN Travel intentionally chose the Singaporean version of cendol, which includes red beans in it. However, according to Malaysians, cendol in their country also uses red beans. This debate became more intense when many Indonesian netizens claimed that cendol is an authentic traditional dish of the archipelago.
Five years later, the debate over the origins of cendol is still hotly discussed. This led Ming Tang, through Singapore's CNA Insider's Food Fight program (20/04), to investigate the origins of cendol in three countries. Firstly, Ming went to Malaysia, specifically to the city of Melaka, which is famous for its cendol. Cendol here uses palm sugar, which is called gula Melaka. There, Ming tasted cendol at Madam Kiow Cendol, which has become an icon in Melaka and has survived for two generations.
All cendol is made fresh every day, using wheat flour, pandan, and cendol leaves for its green color. When asked where the origin of cendol in Malaysia is, many cendol sellers in Melaka claim that it was the Indians who introduced cendol to them. This is because the concept of cendol in Melaka is "peranakan."
There, Ming met culinary expert Ivan Brehm, who explained that cendol was indeed inspired by a Persian dish called Faloodeh, created between the 1700s and 1800s. It was then introduced to India and named Falooda. In the 1900s, Falooda was brought to Malaysia and developed into cendol. Ivan believes that cendol originated in India.
However, Ming did not stop there. She flew straight to Indonesia, specifically to Jakarta, to meet senior culinary expert Chef William Wongso. Chef William Wongso explained that in Indonesia, cendol has a twin brother called dawet. Dawet can be said to be the predecessor of cendol in Indonesia, as it has been around for 300-400 years.
"Cendol is its international name. But it has another name, called dawet. I'm from East Java, we call it dawet. It was written in the Serat Centhini (Centhini letter) about 300-400 years ago," said William Wongso, who added that cendol and dawet are basically the same, but everyone has a different recipe and composition.
Even in 1866, there was a recipe book that explained cendol or dawet, published in the East Indies Cookbook in Dutch. "This recipe is evidence that cendol has been enjoyed by Indonesians for 400 years," added Ming.
Lastly, Ming flew to Yogyakarta to meet with historian Fadly Rahman, in order to fully investigate the origins of cendol. In Yogyakarta, the name cendol is more popularly known as dawet.
"Cendol or dawet originated from Java Island, we can trace it through an ancient Javanese manuscript, the 'Kakawin Kresnayana' written by Mpu Triguna in the 12th century, from the Kediri Kingdom, East Java," said Fadly.
"Tjendol or cendol means 'swollen'. Because the green beans are shaped like swollen," he concluded.
Ming's journey to find the origins of cendol ended in Singapore. He stopped by to taste cendol at the Geylang Serai Cendol shop, which is said to be the oldest in Singapore.
When asked if cendol originated from Singapore, the shop owner named Rezal Ahmad Yunos doubted it. Because according to him, cendol itself actually came from Java Island in Indonesia.
At the end of the video, Ming finally learned that cendol originated in Indonesia. But each cendol in these three countries has its own distinctive characteristics and different ingredient compositions