A Frosty Showdown in Taiping

The battle of cendol like you’ve never seen before.

There have been many a battles fought in Taiping over the course of the years, but none has been as chilly as this one specific row between two cendol vendors in town. To outright call it a fight would be an overstatement – it’s more of a simmering unspoken competition fuelled by the locals.

Both Ansari Famous Cendol and Bismillah Cendol are historical; just that one is richer in history than the other. But then again, who’s looking at historical value nowadays when it comes to food anyway – it’s all about how Instagram-able they look and taste barely comes in second.

Thankfully both cendol vendors look similar when it comes to appearances – small stalls occupying a low-roofed shoplot selling pasembor on the side. However, what differs are their unique backgrounds and of course, the taste.

Restoren Ansari Famous Cendol

Dating back to the year 1940, Ansari Famous Cendol is one of the pioneers of cendol scene in Taiping, having been operating since before independence, when the railway workers from the nearby Taiping Railway station would visit to quench their thirst after gruelling hours under the sun. It was founded by one Abdul Kader and has been passed on to the third generation cendol-maker in the family.

So renowned is Ansari that as years went by they officially added the word Famous to their name. They even opened a second branch a stone’s throw away from the original stall to accommodate the high volume of customers, especially during holidays, when locals and out-of-towners come out in full throng in search of cendol.

Wrapped in banana leaf, the glutinous rice is grilled until its just crispy enough.
The glutinous rice and kidney beans.

Now, let’s talk about the taste. Although some may say a cendol is a cendol, there are some varieties when it comes to the local dessert depending on the maker. The signature delicacy at Ansari comes with the staple – green worm-like rice flour jelly, coconut milk and palm sugar syrup. You could also throw in some of usual options such as the kidney beans. However, what makes this cendol stall unique is the addition of grilled glutinous rice that is cooked in banana leaf. The crispiness of the slightly charred pulut perfectly complements the sweetness of the cendol broth, and all is well in the world.

Bismillah Cendol Taiping

Beginning operations in 1993, this cendol destination may not be as historically-rich as its competitor literally 500 metres away, but it still packs a punch when it comes to the amazing dessert. As is the case with Ansari, Bismillah also plays the role of the warm host when tourists and locals alike ascend onto Taiping town for a big slice of history and a cool sweet local delicacy to wash it down.

Somewhat a victim of gentrificiation, Bismillah originally operated from under a large, before it was cut down to make way for development. Nonetheless, it has turned out to be a good thing for the vendors, who have since expanded to the size of two small shoplots. The options for the cendol is similar here too, with options of kidney beans and/or grilled glutinous rice.

In this battle of cendol the real winner – believe it or not – are the consumers; the tough competition between the vendors keeps the price low – from RM1.60 to RM2.40 (Bismillah prices are slightly more expensive comparatively) – and the dessert just as tasty.

Takeaways are common as patrons will just drive by and order from their cars.

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Vimal Palasekaran

Vimal Palasekaran

Loud laugher. TV buff. Hispanophone.
Vimal Palasekaran

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