Cendol is a shaved-ice dessert served in Indonesia, Malaysia, Singapore, Thailand and Vietnam. It is made of pine-flavored, jelly-like noodles made of rice or mung bean flour.
Sweetened by palm sugar and made creamy by coconut milk, cendol has many renditions. Ingredients that go into a bowl of cendol vary (they may include beans, corn, durian and even jackfruit for flavor) depending on where it is served, as well as the preferences of its makers.
I recently had a refreshing bowl of cendol at Makansutra Hawkers in SM Megamall, courtesy of chefs JJ Yulo and Him Uy de Baron, local partners of Makansutra.
Later, Makansutra founder K.F. Seetoh from Singapore joined us, along with chefs Sandy Daza, Ed Bugia and Sharwin Tee.
Among my favorite stalls at Makansutra is Hong Kong Street Old Chun Kee, which serves mouthwatering Prawn Paste Chicken. Fried to a golden brown, it was delicately crisp on the outside.
Biting into a piping-hot wing, I saw steam coming off my mouth, with the juice oozing out.
The aroma from the prawn paste was very inviting. The taste was not overpowering, and neither was it salty nor pungent. There was a hint of Mei Kuei Lu Chiew (Chinese rose wine), giving it a subtly floral, multidimensional twist of flavor.
Another Makansutra favorite is Ah Tee which offers Teochew street food classics. I like the oyster omelet—crispy outside, creamy inside, stir-fried with plump fresh oysters and served with a dipping sauce of garlic-chili vinegar.
My friends and I wondered what made the oyster cakes very creamy. Perhaps it was due to pig’s brain, the secret ingredient of many old oyster omelet recipes.
Another interesting stall at Makansutra is Jin Ji, operated by Melvin Chew, a Singaporean and second-generation member of the family that owns it.
Its specialty, slow-braised duck, was rich and rounded in flavor. Paired with yam rice, it was soft—melting in the mouth while retaining the bite and texture of duck meat.
Alhambra Padang Satay boasts delectable chicken satay. The divine little skewers were heavenly in every bite— charred yet tender, tasty and perfectly marinated. The peanut sauce enhanced the satay.
Sam Hussin is a second-generation street food hawker of the now defunct Satay Club in Singapore. His Indonesian Padang-style skewers were prepared with 12 ingredients and carefully grilled over a wood fire.
At Gooba Hia, owned by chefs JJ Yulo and Him Uy de Baron, the twice-cooked crispy beef ribs with braised sauce hit the spot—the generous sauce giving the dish a homey, hearty feel. With rice, it captured the description of comfort food.
The halo-halo at XO 46 reminded me of summers spent in my hometown, Agoo, La Union.
Owner Sandee Masigan said that their halo-halo was inspired by Digman in Cavite which she used to frequent as a teenager.
The XO 46 halo-halo had homemade sweetened banana, mongo, leche flan, ube halaya, coconut cream, slushed milk, and topped with finely crushed ice.
It was served with a large straw since XO 46 halo-halo could be slurped. It was delicious.
XO 46 Heritage Bistro is at S Maison, Conrad Manila; Valero Street, Makati; Estancia, Pasig; Century Mall, Makati; and SM Aura, Taguig.
Milky Way’s ‘ginumis’
A personal favorite dessert is a sublime and sophisticated take on the classic ginumis, available at Milky Way.
It consists of sago, gulaman, coconut cream, freshly toasted pinipig and a scoop of divine panocha ice cream, which gives its extra rich, creamy flavor.
Milky Way, 2/F, Milky Way Bldg., 900 Arnaiz Ave. cor. Paseo de Roxas, Makati; tel. 8434124