Tuesday, March 9, 2010

Three Layer Tea aka Teh 'C' Peng Special

I love this drink!  It's called Three Layer Iced Tea, also known as Teh 'C' Peng Special.  For some, it's Sarawak Three Layer Iced Tea.  As far as I know, 'C' stands for 'cair', a malay word referring to 'susu cair'; the evaporated milk, as opposed to the condensed milk, referred to as 'susu pekat'.  Of course some articles explain that 'C' refers to 'Carnation', the brand of the evaporated milk.

The word 'peng' comes from the Hokien dialect which means iced.  Some Sarawakians also use 'peng' to refer to 'turned turtle' in car accidents.  Don't ask me why.  Maybe 'peng' came from the sound that follows, like 'kapow' or 'bang' or 'boom', big badda boom!

Ok, enough with the sound effect.

I'm not very sure if this drink originated from Sarawak but it is very popular there.
.Ok, I Googled (after one hour of research and distraction), some swear its Sarawak, Kuching to be specific.  At a 7th mile coffee shop called 7th Mile Food Court.

Before my research and distraction I was pretty sure the drink is poured starting from the top layer downward, i.e. starting with the tea, then the evaporated milk and finally the palm sugar, due to the different density of the ingredients.  Palm sugar being the most dense is poured last, after the evaporated milk and tea. However, all of the articles I found about this drink (maybe I haven't seen'em all) say the preparation starts with palm sugar poured in over ice cubes first, then the evaporated milk followed by the tea; all with slow pouring motion to avoid mixing of the layers, hence the three layers. But hey, what does it matter when you have to stir for a thorough mix before consumption. 

But hey again, it does matters when you have '3 Layer Tea' in your menu.  Nuff said.

I've tried to recreate this drink only to fail time and again.  It's not the layers that bugs me the most.  You see, the palm sugar I used is actually 'gula melaka' found here in the KL.  They come in dark brown cylindrical shape, about the size of a kopitiam coffee cup and they're usually hollow in the middle.  Back in Sarawak people use 'gula apong'; essentially palm sugar but prepared differently, and it taste different as well. Some call the palm sugar 'gula atap', which I'm pretty surre its the same thing, or maybe I'm completely wrong.  It's been a long while since I 'balik kampung' you see.

Fortunately, thanks to several articles I Googled, the palm syrup is conveniently packed and sold in grocery stores and supermarkets.  Now if I could only recall seeing them here in KL before.

Nope, not in KL.  Apparently, this product is only available in Sarawak.  One of the manufacturers, in fact, the only manufacturer I found listed on the net is Leaves Food Industries. Maybe it's time I give them a call, because to me, the most important ingredient in Teh 'C' Peng Special is the palm sugar. It gives the drink that smoky coconut flavor which people so love about the drink.  The taste is like a cross between chendol and iced tea., Well, maybe if you pour milk tea over the chendol juice, you'd get the same taste.