It’s a sweltering day in May, and the temperature in Penang is creeping past 30 degrees Celsius. Both locals and tourists are looking for a bit of reprieve, and they know Penang Road Famous Teochew Chendul is the place to find it. Chendol or chendul is Malaysia’s favorite dessert, and this roadside stall turned empire is one of the best places to sample it.
This chendol favorite had humble beginnings starting in Penang in 1936, and today this third-generation stall has over 30 stores in Malaysia and Singapore. But for those in the know, their original spot is the best place for a bowl.
What is chendol? Urban Adventures guide Farah Tan, describes it as, “A sweet treat made of short green strips of dough which are naturally dyed from the juice of the pandan leaves that leaves a lovely fragrance and flavor. It is served in fresh coconut milk, sweetened by a mixture of brown sugar and palm sugar, topped up with stewed red beans and shaved ice.”
There are many variations on this famous treat, but there are a few reasons Penang Road Famous Teochew Chendul is so special. Their rice pandan leaf juice is made of 100% pandan juice, and they only use good-quality, natural coconut milk. The red beans are high-quality and stewed with sugar for six hours to enhance the taste. For an added twist, their chendol strips are al dente instead of soft. Tan Chong Kim, the second-generation owner, likes to say that each ingredient is tasty on its own. Together, this mixture of creamy, crunchy, chewy texture and sweet ingredients creates a refreshing bowl reminiscent of light brown cereal milk.
It’s rumored that when Chong Kim’s father, Tan Teik Fuang, came to Penang from Southern China he learned the art of making chendol from an Indian man. According to Chong Kim, the dishes roots can be traced back to the Indian Muslim community of Malaysia. But Chong Kim’s father wanted to give it a Nyonya, or Peranakan Chinese, flair with their firm chendol strips and flavorful, stewed red beans.
Today the humble stall has upgraded from hand shaving their ice to using machines and the stall has become so famous from media and Instagram that it now takes up four shophouses near Penang Road. Tom Chong Kim is mostly retired, and his sons Tan Chin Ling and Tan Chin Hee now run the operation. But you’ll still find him at the shop most days keeping a watchful eye over his staff.
Once you’ve braved the line and gotten your heaping bowl of chendol, head inside to one of the four shophouses and grab a plastic chair. You’ll see dozens of pictures of celebrities posing with Chong Kim as well as a packed crowd of locals.
Despite its name, Penang Road Famous Teochew Chendul also started specializing in the local favorite, Asam laksa and rojack in the 1990s and 2000s. But their best-seller is and will always be chendol.
Chong Kim doesn’t know exactly how many blue bowls of chendol they serve up a day but estimates well over 1,000. At just 3.20 RM, about .75 USD, and 3.40 RM for take away, it’s no wonder the line stretches down the street for this sugary delicacy at all hours of the day.
How to find it: Follow the line located at Keng Kwee Street, off Penang Road.
What to order: Simply say “one bowl please”.
When to go: It is open everyday from 9:30 a.m. to 6:30 p.m. The line is unpredictable but is usually at its longest in the afternoon, especially during the weekends or school breaks.