Cendol Pizza: unforgivable crime or gastronomical genius?

Cendol Pizza — a completely new take on one of Malaysia’s favourite desserts.

GEORGE TOWN: Shaved ice, mung beans and “wormy” bits of green rice flour jelly bathed in coconut milk and Gula Melaka – cendol is probably the country’s most celebrated dessert, best enjoyed on a scorching hot day or after a super spicy meal.

So, when a Penang-based pizza company created Cendol Pizza, there were mixed reactions when promotional pictures of this new dessert appeared online.

Some netizens heaped insults on it, calling it an unforgivable crime against pizza and an outright distortion of one of Malaysia’s most loved desserts. The more adventurous however, were eager to give it a try.

For US Pizza co-founder Lee Jyh Perng, the Cendol Pizza is counted among the “yummiest warm desserts” the company has ever created.

Lee says the pizza has been a great hit, with over 1,000 sold since it was introduced early this month.

He said the 23cm pizza, that costs RM38, has been a hit since US Pizza began selling them on Sept 3, recording double-digit orders daily.

As at Sept 23, close to 1,000 Cendol Pizzas have been sold.

“I admit, it is tough to change the minds of people. But after our first trial, we realised just how yummy it is.

“But don’t take it from me, go ahead and read the independent reviews online. The people making nasty remarks are those who have seen the pictures but haven’t tried it,” Lee tells FMT.

He says there’s no reason why cendol should only be enjoyed cold and in a bowl. According to him, the warm version, as exemplified in their pizza, is just as good.

“Pizza should not be restricted to Western flavours, it can be adapted to Malaysian tastes, too,” Lee says.

The idea of creating a pizza with a cendol topping first came about when Lee and his partner Jeremy Stevens met at the Penang Road Famous Teochew Cendul shop.

So, the duo and the owners of the cendol shop worked as a team, experimenting for two weeks until they had a really good pizza on their hands.

Lee says making the pizza takes minimal training, and the topping is simpler to put together than what most Western versions require.

A typical Cendol Pizza has a topping of sweet corn layered with mung beans and a mound of green rice flour jelly in the middle. Coconut milk and Gula Melaka come separately and are drizzled onto the pizza at the table just before eating.

“We only had to cut down the cheese a fair bit, after realising mozzarella does not mix well with santan.

“Before preparing the pizza, we first bake the base with a little brown sugar so the taste seeps in,” he said, adding that the cendol ingredients are provided by the Penang Road Famous Teochew Cendul shop.

Syahirah Hilmi, a junior chef, showing off the pizza at the US Pizza outlet in Green Lane, Penang. (FMT)

Apart from the cendol pizza, other best sellers at US Pizza are their Cempedak and Musang King Durian pizzas, available seasonally.

“The Cempedak Pizza was our ultimate best-seller before this. We’d often run out of stock quickly,” Lee said.

The cendol pizza is available at US Pizza’s nine Klang Valley branches and nine other outlets in Penang and Kedah.