I awoke today to the wonderful news that the NEA will be building new Hawker centres after 26 years! This is great news for all Singaporeans as these Hawker Centres will be run by NEA on a “not for profit” basis rather than being outsourced to commercial operators. Best news is that barren culinary deserts like Pasir Ris and Punggol will at last get a Hawker Centre. Now, the land that has been shrouded in darkness has seen a glimmer of light!
Some people might question whether there will be enough people who actually want to be hawkers? Well, I have personally met some new hawkers recently and I am confident that there are Singaporeans out there who have a passion for good food and an entrepreneurial spirit who have what it takes to become a Hawker Star. Our “dabbler of desserts” today is just one such person!
Calvin Ho used to know squat about how to make a Tau Suan or a bowl of Cendol. What he knows is how to sell you an insurance policy. Then he decided to take over a dessert stall about 8 years ago with no idea what running a hawker stall would entail.
Sometimes it is a blessing not knowing how to make a proper Cendol because that frees you to be innovative. And so it is that through trial and error, Calvin came up with something that is not quite what you would expect Cendol to be, but would make you change the way you might like to enjoy Cendol in the future.
So what makes this Cendol so unusual? Well, the Gula Melaka here has a thick syrupy texture like the hot fudge in a McDonald’s hot fudge sundae. So if you enjoy Gula Melaka, you are going to love this because it is a Cendol where you don’t want to mix everything up before consuming. Here you scoop up the coconut milk infused ice with the sticky, treacley Gula Melaka on the surface, put it in your mouth and experience the contrast of textures between the finely shaved coconut infused ice and toffee like Gula Melaka! Calvin tells me that he stumbled upon the Gula Melaka sensation through experimentation. Basically what gives it texture is the addition of cane sugar which caramelizes during the cooking process.
The rest of the Cendol was, well, pretty pedestrian. I told Calvin that if he would make his own Cendol (the green stuff) or at least source for a better version of it, that he would really hit Cendol jackpot. Aside from that, the fresh coconut milk, finely shaved ice and gula melaka actually good enough to award a 4.5/5.
Another dish which the stall created is the “Gangster?” which, incidentally, is a registered trademark. So just what is the “Gangster?”? Well, in short, it is a take on the Hong Kong style Mango Ice Dessert but with a scoop of Durian Puree on top and finished with some condensed milk.
Why is it call the “Gangster?”? I hear you ask. Well, in Mandarin, Durian-Mango is literally Liu Lian Mang Guo (榴梿芒果). If you take the first word of each fruit and combine them together, you get Liu Mang (榴芒) which sounds like “Gangster” in Mandarin!
Unlike most other Gangsters, this is one that you would actually be quite happy to meet. For $2.50, you get fresh Mango paired with pure D24 Durian puree which is excellent value. Tastewise, well, it tastes very much like Mango, Durian, evaporated and condensed milk. If you love Durian, you would love this. However, I do feel that perhaps the dessert is a bit on the heavy side. Mango and pamelo is nice, light and refreshing, but Mango and Durian isn’t quite as bright and refreshing. However, the combination is definitely still worth a try! 4.25/5
Like everything else in the stall, the Tau Suan also came about only through sheer persistence. They only make one batch a day, so it sells out quite quickly. The starch is sweetened with just enough gula melaka to give it a nice amber colour and rounded flavour but not so much that it reveals its identity. It could do with a bit more beans but otherwise, if you are hankering for Tau Suan, this is a bowl that is worth your calories. 4.25/5
Not your traditional Cendol, but this Power Cendol is true to its namesake. The sticky, hot fudge like Gula Melaka will get your eyes wide open on the first bite and get you thinking about bringing your friends and family back to taste it for themselves.