Last Saturday we drove to a small town called Pedas, south of Seremban, to attend the wedding of a Malay staff. A few kilometers after Senawang, after passing the new Sungei Gadut railway station, we spotted a side stall with many customers. It was selling cendol, a popular Malaysian dessert drink made from pandan, a fragrant leaf, coconut milk, brown Melaka sugar, and green wormy looking jelly made from rice flour. It was a hot day so we decided on the return trip we'd stop by to find out what make this spot so popular.
As we drove into the car park and spotted the banner waving in the wind, the answer was given. Here, a customer after paying for his first purchase is allowed to refill his bowl as many times as he wishes, even bungkus (pack) to take away for no extra charge. Even the barley water was provided free.
I asked the owner operator how he can make money this way and he obliquely asked his workers how many years they have been in business? The answer was 5 years, so he can make money even by giving the dessert away. His charges were not exorbitant, between RM1.00 - 2.00 depending on whether you asked for extra ingredients like glutinous rice and sweet corn.
I topped up my RM2.00 bowl with more ice, more sugar syrup, more greeny worms and more coconut milk. I would have eaten more but found the 'worms' too soft and the coconut milk too watered down and lacking in ooomph. By comparison the cendol sold by James in Sitiawan, Perak is unbeatable. No visitors to Sitiawan can afford not to taste his glorious cendol especially on a warm afternoon.
If you like to enjoy James's cendol find his stall in front of the Hindu temple next to the Store supermarket in Simpang Empat, Sitiawan, along the way to Lumut/Pangkor. There are two stalls there, the operators are both wearing white overalls, but the 'genuine' James stall has his daughters manning it and has a big portrait of James serving cendol to the Sultan of Perak at an official function several years ago.