Ais Tingkap: The Century-Old Sweet Drink from Penang
Imagine strolling through Penang’s Chowrasta Market amidst the hot tropical sun’s warmth, there’s a small stall tucked along the narrow Lebuh Tamil road serving a legendary refreshment known as Ais Tingkap. It has stood the test of time and has quenched the thirst of both locals and tourists since 1919. Join us as we delve into the fascinating story of Ais Tingkap.
Ais Tingkap, which translates to “Window Ice” in Malay. The drink’s story began with an enterprising man from Penang called Seeni Rawther, who started a humble pushcart business in 1919 selling this cool refreshing drinks mixed with various imported Indian spices for a mere 5 cents per cup. It wasn’t known as Ais Tingkap back then. Its name came about when he upgraded his pushcart to a permenant shop, and began serving the drink from his shop window and people from the colonial period called it Window Sherbet. The name eventually transformed to its Malay name Ais Tingkap. Apart from the name, this drink’s recipe has also transformed over the decades, blending influences from various cultures to create a truly unique taste experience.
At the heart of Ais Tingkap’s allure lies its unique blend of ingredients. Fresh young coconuts water provide the base, offering a naturally hydrating element. The jelly-like getah anggur/gum katira, malva nuts and basil seeds contribute both texture and playful pop to the drink. Shaved ice, coconut flesh, sugar syrup, rose syrup, and a mixture of Indian spices are also added to bring all these elements together, creating a refreshingly vibrant and aromatic beverage that captures the essence of Penang’s culinary heritage.
Today, Ais Tingkap isn’t just a beverage; it’s a piece of Penang’s living history. The story of Ais Tingkap is woven with threads of family heritage and tradition, having passed down through four generations. It is now lovingly tended by seven brothers, and still remained a beloved tradition for locals and unique experience for tourists. So, the next time you find yourself in Penang, don’t miss the chance to savour a cup of Ais Tingkap, a testament to Penang’s essence of family, tradition, and flavours.