As some of you may know from earlier posts, I am originally from Surinam. That beautiful, but for many unknown, country right above Brasil and smack in the middle of British and French Guyana. In older days it would also go by the name of Dutch Guyana as it was a Dutch colony for many centuries. The Dutch traded Surinam for what is now know as New York with the British in 1674. Many think that was a stupid move on the part of the Dutch, but I am sure these critics have not been to Surinam yet…. I will save giving full praise of my country of birth for after I’ve gone back to visit it again and can share some pretty pictures to support my case. But since my recent trip to Bali my beloved Surinam has been on my mind a lot. Although the two countries reside on totally different continents they remind me so much of each other. The same tropical climate (that suits me sooooo well), the same vegetation, the same fruits and vegetables. Some that I had not seen for years. And even very similar population.
See, after the abolition of slavery in 1863 (The Dutch were the last slave trading country in the world to end slavery…. And yes, I am rolling my eyes as I write this!) no ex slave wanted to work on the plantations, that had been a source of hardship and humilation for them for so long, anymore. So other cheap labour needed to be found as a great deal of the Dutch economy still depended on the winnings from the coffee and sugar plantations. (By the way, if health issues alone were not enough to stop you from eating white sugar until now, try reading an account or two of the going abouts on sugar plantations during slavery times. As sweet as the crop might have been sugar plantations were infamous for the extreme cruelty used towards the slaves working them. Hope that cures you from your addiction.) So back to that cheap labour. It was at this point that the Dutch started recruiting immigrants from poor countries in Asia, luring them with tales of fortune, fame and glory overseas. First they shipped in the Chinese, mostly from the Macau area. Followed by people of the Indonesian island Java. And later came the Portuguese and Indian workers. So already from the 1860-ties Surinam has known a large Javanese community that has contributed greatly to the culture and food landscape of the country. As not to insult anyone, I do get that Java is not Bali. Every Indonesian island of course has its own unique cultural identity. But still I couldn’t help but feel a tiny bit “home away from home” on Bali as the sights, smells and even language were all so familiar to me.
As I was planning for my next pop up event on March 16th all that inspiration I got on beautiful Bali urged me to create a Balinese inspired (or to be more culturally correct, an Indonesian inspired) high tea menu. And so I did. And I can tell you I am so excited about this one! I will share the whole menu after the event but couldn’t wait to pen down this one recipe now as I have been experimenting with it all week. If you have ever been to Indonesia (or Surinam for that matter!) you will be familiar with that very popular, extremely sweet and sometimes dangerously pink coloured dessert or drink called Tjendol. Or cendol as some sources write it. In Surinam the Javanese version is called Dawet and is made from coconut milk, very sweet and artificially coloured rose syrup and the infamous glutinous green sticky, almost dumpling like, strings made from corn or rice flour. The original Indonesion version makes these from ground up mungbean flour instead. I was never a very big fan, mostly because I found the drink cloyingly sweet and having the word artificial written all over it. Plus, when it comes to Dawet or Tjendol, you either love or hate the slimy dumpling thingies that are the pride and joy of any Indonesian mama. I never cared for them very much. But gladly make an exception for this special high tea.
However I did need to solve the problem of this pretty drink ranking number 2 (just after the unbelievable green Fernandez pop soda of Surinam! Don’t ask!) on the list of artificial drink power houses before I could even think of putting it on the menu. So my experiments started… And it is with great delight that I present you my totally upgraded, 100% natural Tjendol version today! Which after tasting it not only had me lip smacking, but even running back to the kitchen for seconds.
All these raving credits aside I still have to say that this drink is for pleasurable purposes firstly and health purposes thirdly or fourthly or fiftly….So don’t be drinking it like some kind of health booster and than come knocking on my door later, you hear! Especially you Vata’s out there who are great at hearing only what you want to hear! I know your kind (I am one of you, remember!).
This drink is best for Pitta on a hot summers day as coconut milk has a very cooling effect, especially combined with evenly cooling rose water. The sweet taste is also soothing for Pitta. So the coconut palm sugar is great to that end. Don’t be tempted to sweeten the rosy coconutmilk when tasting it after you’ve blendered it. It will become much sweeter when mixed with the syrup later. The sweetness of Tjendol is fine for Vata on occasion in summer but try making it with almond milk sometime instad of coconut milk. This drink should not be consumed by Kapha’s but on a rare occasion. (Like when visiting your home country after many many years of missing it, for example. Sigh… ).
Finally a word on the slimy, glutinous green thingies that you either hate or love. At my very well stocked Asian supermarket I found tapioca pearls made from 100% manioc flour and naturally coloured and flavoured with pandan leaves. So I decided to use these, as the process of making them yourself with the more traditional mungbean flour is lenghty. The green colour is part of the fun but if you really dislike the texture just leave them out. I also added some slivers of very young coconut flesh as an extra but this is totally optional. And for the fussy amongst my readers, yes I am aware that it isn’t strawberry season yet. But see, I found out on my recent trip to Bali that (contrary to Surinam) strawberries grow profusely on certain parts of the island. So much so that an entire mountain was named after it; strawberry hill. So as a homage to Bali I am using imported Spanish strawberries just this once. (Does it help if I say they were organic? -:)
Palm sugar syrup
- 3 tablespoons coconut palm sugar
- 200 ml water
- 2 kaffir lime leaves
Bring everything to the boil in a small thick bottomed pan. Cook on medium high until the liquid has reduced by 2/3rd and you remain with a thick dark coloured syrup. Let cool completely and remove the lime leaves before using.
Pandan tapioca pearls
- 2 tablespoons tapioca pearls (I used the smallest size)
Fill a small pan 3/4 up with water and bring this to the boil. When boiling add the pearls and lower the heat. Simmer for about 3 to 4 minutes until the pearls start to float to the surface and have become completely translucent. They should not have a white center anymore. Pour them through a sieve and rinse with cold water. Let cool and save for later.
Coconut and strawberry milk
- 6 big strawberries, plus one extra for garnish
- 400 ml coconut milk
- 1/2 banana coarsely chopped
- 3 teaspoons organic rose water
- dash of salt
- 2 tablespoons of young coconut flesh in slivers (optional)
Remove the green tops from the 6 strawberries and quarter them. Pour into a blender and add all other ingredients,except the coconut meat. Blend really well into a thick and smooth pink milk shake consistency.
Now take 2 glasses and fill each with 2 or 3 tablespoons of the coconut palm sugar syrup. Save the rest of the syrup for when you end up running to the kitchen for a second pouring of deliciousness…. Now add a big tablespoon of the tapioca pearls to each glass. If you want add 1 tablespoon of young coconut meat to each glass as well. Finally pour the strawberry shake on top slowly so the layers of the drink don’t mix. Garnish each gass with half a strawberry, or if you really want to take the excotic route, with an edible orchid. Slamat makan!