It took me several days to find all the ingredients for a local Singaporean dessert which I had always assumed “easy to make”. It involved going to a Chinese medicine shop to get sterculia lychnophora (Pang Da Hai), a type of seed from which the soft jelly substance which give Cheng Tng its distinctive appearance comes from.
By the time I was done, there were so many ingredients in the dessert that a friend commented that it didn’t look like “Cheng Tng” anymore. I didn’t realise at that point that Cheng Tng meant clear soup. I followed the Cheng Tng recipe of The Singapore Women’s Weekly (Online), but probably went overboard with the quantity. I was wondering what to do with a potful of it. Fortunately, none of it went to waste as it was so refreshing that it was all consumed within a few days.
After following the recipe faithfully, I realised that the reason why I had thought it was an easy-to-make dessert was because the Cheng Tng sold in hawker centres and foodcourts doesn’t have all the ingredients of the original recipe, which has been passed down from generation to generation (pearl barley, white fungus, lotus seed, dried longan, ginkgo nuts, red dates, dried persimmon, cane sugar, pandan leaves and water).
Food is indeed part of culture. The more we learn about the food of each country, the more we appreciate the richness of the culture and history contained in each recipe.
(Go to the Home Page, click on Menu, and then on HomeGems – Desserts to see more desserts)
By Chayo, Homskil Editor 1, 12 January 2021