MUSLIMS breaking fast during Ramadan like first to have icy drinks to cool the body down, says Marzuki Mohamed Noor, the Malay chef at the Petaling Jaya Hilton.
"The ingredients for the drinks are specially chosen for this purpose."
Chef Marzuki, who helms one of the most successful Ramadan buffets at the hotel, attracting at least 450 people daily, has recipes for 30 types of drinks for breaking fast. At any one time, nine of these are on the buffet table.
The individualistic Marzuki recalls how, even as a child, he had his own way of breaking fast, making up his own drinks for this.
He had discovered his mistake initially when he drank too much syrup water on breaking fast, and promptly fell asleep at the dinner table!
Two of his most popular drinks are Ais Cha Cha and Ais Asam Jawa. The first is a light version of bubur cha cha, with diced sweet potatoes and yam, bull's eye sago and coloured bits of boiled tapioca flour in it, immersed in sweet santan.
"It's my fastest-selling item." One could see why. It involves stationing a person at the buffet table, to add shaved ice to the cha cha and serve immediately.
"If you let the ice stand, the santan will separate," Marzuki explains. Ais Asam Jawa has strained asam jawa juice mixed with water and syrup. To this Marzuki adds chopped longan and lychee and cincau.
As a last, delightful final touch, he tops it up with ice-cream soda. "This makes it a nice, fizzy sweet-and-sour drink," he says.
His more traditional drinks are Air Kembang Semangkok, Air Cendol Bandung, Air Selasih, Air Cincau, Air Nau and Air Mata Kucing.
He gets the seeds to make Air Kembang Semangkok from a kampong supplier.
"They are soaked in water till they kembang (swell up), as big as the tip of a thumb." He then cooks syrup with pandan leaf and kayu kastangi (like cinnamon) for flavour, and soaks the seeds in this.
Air Cendol Bandung is I think, Bee Tai Bak to the Penangites. Thin, short noodles made from rice flour but coloured red (unlike cendol) are immersed in syrup and served with santan.
Marzuki makes his own northern version of Air Nau, which is called Air Buah Gabong in the south. The white fleshy attap seeds (you can find it in ais kacang) are combined with diced agar-agar, syrup and evaporated milk.
A tinge of yellow colouring makes it more interesting. He also makes some unusual fruit drinks. His Air Jambu Batu has the blended fruit mixed with chopped lychee and longan.
For his Air Buah Buahan, he liquidises pears as the base for the drink ("It gives it a lemak taste"), and finishes it with cubes of pineapple, jambu air and watermelon. Air Getah Anggur involves using a very Chinese ingredient - snow fungus.
This is boiled till soft, strained and cooled. Young coconut is scraped and mixed with it, together with syrup water, and left to stand. It is served chilled. The Marzuki touch is evident in his Air Sagu Mata Kerbau (big sago).
The sago is boiled, and condensed milk or coconut, and syrup is added. Yellow colouring makes it more attractive. Then there is is Air Mata Kucing, in which he boils dried longan in water and brown sugar, and serves with crushed ice. Here are some recipes for your drinks ☺
AIS GETAH ANGGUR
30g snow fungus
2 young coconuts
Sugar syrup boiled with pandan leaves
1. Boil snow fungus for 20 mins till it is soft. Strain and leave to cool.
2. Break a young coconut. Pour the water in a bowl and scrape out the soft flesh.
3. Add the coconut flesh, snow fungus and sugar syrup to taste to the coconut water. Leave to stand for one hour. Then chill in the refrigerator.
AIS CHA CHA
1 litre water
1 medium-sized sweet potato
A handful of bull's-eye sago Sugar syrup boiled with pandan
1. Add one litre water to the scraped coconut and squeeze the santan from it.
2. Tie together two pandan leaves, put on a low fire and bring to a slow simmer, for a few minutes. Cool santan.
3. Dice sweet potato and yam. Boil each separately in enough water to soften it - about 15 mins. Boil the bull's eye sago till soft.
4. Strain the sweet potato, yam and sago.
5. Add together all the ingredients in a bowl, with the santan and syrup to taste, and chill in the fridge. Alternatively you can put all the ingredients together, add shaved ice and serve immediately.
AIS ASAM JAWA
30g asam jawa (the brown variety)
2 litres water
1/2 can longan
1/2 can lychees cincau sugar syrup boiled with pandan 1 bottle ice-cream soda
1. Mix asam jawa with a little water, strain and put aside.
2. Add in water and syrup to taste.
3. Dice longans and lychees and put into asam water, together with the cincau.
4. Chill in the fridge.
5. Top up the drink with ice-cream soda for a nice fizz just before serving.