Cendol Aka Chendol Has Unclear Origins In Southeast Asia

Chendol — a mound of thinly shaved ice over coconut milk, sweet red beans, green jellies, drizzled with copious amounts of sticky gula melaka syrup. But where does this familiar hawker staple come from?

CNN seems to have a definitive answer to this question — driving a wedge between usually peaceful neighbours.

Funny thing is, the drama stems from the single, most undramatic letter of the alphabet — the letter ‘h’.

And the unfortunate use of a misplaced stock image.

Cendol, Singapore

The lifestyle arm of an American news publisher, CNN Travel released their listicle entitled “50 of the world’s best desserts” on Saturday (1 Dec).

With Portuguese Egg Tarts reppin’ Hong Kong, and Mango Sticky Rice being a clear choice for Thailand, most entries on the list do seem legit.

Then, we mouse over to this entry which struck a chord with Singaporeans and Malaysians alike, but not for the same reasons.

CNN Travel’s endorsement even goes as far as saying,

This…dessert can be found throughout southeast Asia…but Singapore’s take on the classic treat remains especially tempting.

We’d usually take that as a compliment, but get this — ‘Cendol’ is not the typical way we spell the dessert in Singapore.

To complicate matters further, we CSI-ed the photo used in the review.

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The writer seems to have used the first photo that came up on Shutterstock’s search function.

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The picture’s caption is as damning as the “h” that’s missing from Chendol,

Malaysia tradition dessert that called Cendol.

Whoops.

Singapore ≠ Malaysia?

We could come up with a million reasons to explain why a freelance writer for an American publication would choose to use a stock image clearly sourced from “Malaysia” in a review about Singaporean-style Cendol spelt without a ‘h’, but we won’t.


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The Trump-Kim summit has proven that most people know that Singapore’s not a part of China now.

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Here’s a gentle reminder that we’ve been separated from Malaysia for over 50 years now, but remain close neighbours.

Just desserts

Anyway, Indonesia could very well join the fray and lay claim to the origins of Cendol too. At least, if what Wikipedia claims is true.

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But as long as the green worm jellies stay gelatinous, and the coconut milk is not too gelat, we’ll be happy to agree to disagree.

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‘Tis the absence of dessert that truly gets on our nerves. We Southeast Asians take food very seriously after all.

Featured image from Shutterstock and CNN Travel.