Foodiva's Kitchen: Matcha Cendol and Faux Red Ruby Dessert - A twist on two Asian classics

Monday, April 11, 2011

Matcha Cendol and Faux Red Ruby Dessert - A twist on two Asian classics

The great thing about living in Asia, particularly Southeast Asia, is that you can get several versions of the same dish. Usually by the way it's served, you can tell which country it is from. Same, same….but different, as the popular phrase goes.

L-R: Rice flour, mung bean flour and matcha powder

Take cendol, for example. This is a Malay dessert - short, green noodles made from mung (or green) bean flour, served with palm sugar syrup and coconut milk. Pandan (screwpine leaves) are used to flavor the noodles and impart the green color. The Singapore version uses only green bean flour, but the Malaysian version uses rice flour and sometimes tapioca starch as well. Tapioca starch makes the noodles more stretchable, whereas green bean flour gives the cendol a slightly springy texture. The Indonesian version often uses a mix of rice flour and sago flour. The Singaporeans and Malaysians serve their cendol with red beans over crushed ice while in Indonesia, cendol is served with sliced jackfruit. As for us in Brunei, we tend to eat our cendol plain because that’s how we like it. The simpler things we know are often the best, although a heavy dose of coconut milk helps too (bad, bad, bad for the heart…I know!)

For this post, I wanted to do a fun take on two classic Asian desserts: Malay Cendol and Thai Red Ruby or Tub Tim Grob. Tub Tim literally means 'ruby', and Tub Tim Grob means 'crunchy ruby'. Red Ruby is essentially chopped water chestnuts encased in tapioca flour and served with coconut milk. The chestnuts are colored red and when they are cooked, the tapioca coating turns translucent, making them look like shining rubies. The first time I had this dessert, I was only a tiny tot and forgivably mistook the rubies for pomegranate seeds!

I’m always up to playing around with ingredients in my kitchen so for the cendol, I did away with the pandan flavoring and substituted matcha (green tea) powder instead. That gave the resulting cendol an ever so slighty bitter matcha taste but hey, still maintaining the traditional green color. For the Red Ruby, I couldn’t be bothered to mess around with water chestnuts (the dastard peeling….gah! Luckily, I didn’t have any in the house), so I replaced that with a crisp, green pear instead. I liked that the pear retained some crunchiness after being boiled for only a few minutes, and it also gave a soft fragrant to the rubies upon chewing.

Now you and I know that everything tastes a gazillion times better when it’s frozen. With this valuable insight in hand, I decided to freeze the accompanying condiments of coconut milk and palm sugar in pretty ice cube moulds to make them more interesting – plus you can actually see that they are part of the dessert. It’s just a whole lot more fun to eat this slowly in pace with the melting of the ice cubes!

Okay, let me focus on some technicalities here, in order to make those cendol noodles you would need special equipment. The pros use a cendol press, but not everybody has one at home. I will therefore make life easier for you (and me) by recommending that you use one of these makeshift equipment* that works wonders as well:
  • A large holed potato ricer
  • A colander with round holes
  • A metal ladle with holes (I used this)
  • A cookie press using the attachment with many small holes
  • A clean, durable, food grade ziplock plastic bag (To make a hole, snip off a small corner about 2-3mm) 
Did you get the key word? HOLES…the more the better! The last suggestion is probably the best because ziplock bags are available everywhere so now there's no reason for you not to try out this recipe!

Matcha Cendol and Faux Red Ruby Dessert
Serves : 4
Matcha Cendol “Noodles”
½ cup rice flour
½ cup mung/green bean flour
2 tablespoons matcha powder
3 cups water*
3-4 cups soybean milk

1. Before you start, prepare a basin of ice water. You will need to press the cooked flour mixture straight into this mixture to solidify it into cendol.
2. Mix all the above ingredients together and cook on low heat until mixture thickens, stirring constantly to prevent burning.
3. Fill mixture into the equipment* you're using (see post above). Press dough down with a spoon or squeeze, dropping the mixture into the ice water. Work fast as the mixture solidifies quite quickly!
4. When the cendol mixture has all been squeezed into the ice water, keep cendol in the fridge together with the ice water until ready to use. Use a slotted spoon or sieve to scoop cendol out.
5. Reserve soybean milk for the dessert assembly.
* You can substitute the water with pandan juice: Just blend 1 cup loosely packed pandan leaves - washed, snipped with scissors - with 3 cups water and strain to get the pandan juice. If fresh pandan juice is not available, just use 2 teaspoons green pandan paste/essence with 3 cups of water.

Palm sugar ice cubes
150g palm sugar
2 tablespoons caster sugar
500ml water

Place palm sugar, caster sugar and water in a saucepan and boil until sugar has melted. Continue to simmer for 2-3 minutes until syrupy. Let the mixture cool in pan to room temperature, then pour into ice cube trays and place in the freezer until frozen solid.

Coconut Milk Ice Cubes
500ml coconut milk
Pinch of salt

Simply add the salt to the coconut milk and stir until dissolved. Warm mixture in a pan on low heat, if necessary, them cool. Pour mixture into ice cube trays and place in the freezer until frozen solid.

Faux Red Ruby
1 cup chopped pear (pea-sized)
1 cup tapioca flour
5 drops red food coloring (or 1/2 cup beetroot juice)

1. Place pear pieces into a bowl and add red food coloring, mix well and leave to soak for 5 minutes.
2. Next, turn the pear pieces into 'rubies' - Spoon tapioca flour into a ziplock bag and add the pears. Shake well to coat the fruit pieces, leaving them in the bag until required. Remember to shake off excess flour using a sieve before cooking.
3. Bring a large pan of water to a rolling boil and add half the pears at a time. Stir to separate while cooking, it should be ready when the flour coating becomes translucent and the pear pieces float to the surface (2 minutes).
4. Scoop out rubies with a strainer and place into a basin of ice cold water. Drain and add to the final dessert.

Planning and assembling dessert
1. Make the Palm Sugar and Coconut Milk Ice Cubes a day ahead. On the day of serving, make the Matcha Cendol first, then the Red Ruby.
2. To assemble, you would need soy bean milk as a liquid base. Pour about 1/3 to 1/2 cup soy milk into each bowl, add the strained Matcha Chendol and Ruby Reds and dump in the ice cubes (a piece each of coconut milk and palm sugar, or to individual taste). Serve immediately.


cajunlicious said...

Buzzed this & New follower!
- Jessica

Foodiva said...

Thanks Jessica, so glad you dropped by. I love your blog too!

Indonesia Eats said...

I was just thinking to make cendol from natural colour too last night after visiting Anh's blog.

Have you ever heard of daun suji? We use that leaves to colour the green and pandan is only for flavouring.

Sandra said...

I need to get those molds..this dish is far from boring..looks delicious and so pretty!!!

Foodiva said...

Pepy, no I've never heard of daun suji before but will research more about it. Thanks for the useful tip, I'm so clueless about many Asian dishes and ingredients still. It really drives my mother and husband crazy!

Foodiva said...

Sandra, I'm sending some molds your way! Soon!

Carolyn said...

Wow, Maya, another striking dessert. Simply awesome!

Jennifurla said...

wow, visually this is so stunning, Love it.

Roxan said...

Mmm Maya, this looks SO good! I bet it's nice and refreshing on a hot day. I just love matcha - it's my favorite ingredient. I just made cupcakes with it recently!

PS I saw your comment about the ice cream... I make it vegan because we are watching our cholesterol! We are cutting back on dairy - especially eggs - so I don't make custard/ dairy based ice creams. :)

the [sugar] apothecary said...

OH MY GOODNESS. That looks unbelievable! Gorgeous colors, and an awful lot of work! Seriously, it's beautiful. The little green bits threw me at first, I had to investigate to see if you put string beans in your dessert :)

Evelyne@CheapEthnicEatz said...

All so beautiful and exotic tasting. I just bought yesterday similar molds that you used for your ice cubes. A great inspiration. Love it!

Spicie Foodie said...

You had me at Matcha. This looks really good and with all the hard work and love you put into it would make it taste that much more delicious. Asian desserts are always so intricate but in a good way. So much attention is paid to the presentation. You shared so many great tips and info too, thanks.

Torviewtoronto said...

beautiful and delicious looks like Summer

Foodiva said...

To everyone who thinks this dessert is hard work, it's NOT! Everything takes just minutes to cook once you've lined all the ingredients up. Just make sure you've got a dedicated washer-upper on standby because the mess you'll make in the kitchen will be monumental...Haha!

Victoria said...

It's true that different cultures make the same foods differently. I like that you were able to find a balance between these different techniques and make a truly Maya dessert! The presentation is beautiful, and though I did not grow up eating either of these classic components, I love what you've put together! Also, I think using pears is a great substitute to water chestnuts.

Foodiva said...

Victoria, I never realised there were 'truly Maya' desserts but I guess you're spot on with this one. I just thought I'd substitute the less common ingredients (pandan & water chestnuts) with the more commonly available (matcha & pear) so that anyone can try to make this at home. Just call it my effort at community service :-).

Juliana said...

Foodiva, I love the flavors and the colors of this dessert, not to mention the variety of yummie. Have a great week ahead :-)

Cheryl and Adam @ said...

This is fascinating and beautiful and delicious! Love the flavor and color, can't wait to try it for myself.

Magic of Spice said...

What a creative and beautiful dessert...the the mold used to freeze the coconut milk, such a pretty touch :)

Joy said...

OMG I have mung bean flour at home and I had no idea what to use it for. Where did you get the forms? I have been looking for ones like that everywhere.

Foodiva said...

Alisha@Magic of Spice, those silicone molds are really handy and they make an ingredient look really pretty too!

Foodiva said...

Joy, it looks like everyone is loving these flower molds. I'm going to send them out to you too, I have loads at home!

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