Although Sharbat originates from Middle East, it can also be found in Penang. Here we call it Ais Tingkap and the catchy name was translated from the the given name of Window Sherbet by the Englishmen. They gave it this name because it was indeed sold over a glass window when it first started in the 1930s. This drink is one of its kind, unique only to Penang and you can’t find it anywhere else in Malaysia.
It does look like a glass of sirap with lots of frog eggs, doesn’t it? Not even close.
Ais Tingkap is intended to be a cooling drink with health benefits due to its ingredients like kembang semangkuk (malva nut or known as ‘pangdahai’ in Mandarin, often used in Chinese tongsui) and coconut water for their cooling effect on human body. Basil seeds (biji selasih) that become gelatinous when soaked in water are used for its medicinal properties. While rose essence gives the drink that attractive red color. A glass costs only RM1.20 while takeaways are RM1.50 for a big packet.
There are quite many steps involved to make even just a glass of Ais Tingkap. Firstly the ice cube is shaved and then filled into the glass in handfuls until about half full.
Then what follows in great speed are a drizzle of sugar syrup, a spoonful of expanded kembang semangkuk, a few scoops of basil seeds and rose essence, approximately six to eight sprays of fragrant Indian herbs, some coconut water, a few slices of young coconut meat and finally topped with even more shaved ice.
The finished concoction is a sweet and chilling drink intensely aromatic with rose flavor. And if this is the first time you are drinking Ais Tingkap, you will be guaranteed of a taste like nothing you have ever-experienced before. Besides drinking only, you would also be occupied with chewing the basil seeds and slurping the jelly-like getah anggur.
If compared, the purest form of Ais Tingkap when it first started in the 1930s actually contains 25 types of herbs as opposed to only a few used currently. It was revealed that back in the old days when they were spraying the herbs, the fragrance was so strong you could smell it even from afar.
It’s sad to know that we will never be able to taste Ais Tingkap at its best but this is unavoidable due to the difficulties in securing the traditional herbs from the local supplier.
Currently the stall is being run by the youngest of the seven brothers who is only in his 20’s. A few years ago you would have seen his elder brother making the Ais Tingkap instead. All the brothers in the family actually took turn to run the stall before they moved on to their own interests.
This is to ensure Ais Tingkap will not be lost as well as fulfilling their grandparents’ wish to continuously maintain this traditional family trade for years to come. And if you are wondering, the cucur udang stall operating in front of the Ais Tingkap is in fact run by the eldest brother.
Here I attach a video of the making of Ais Tingkap, trust me it is very interesting.
If Cendol and Ice Kacang are the only desserts on your Penang-food-to-try list, I would highly suggest you to add Ais Tingkap into the list and make it the top priority. Simply because this is just too rare, something you can only find in Penang!
Ais Tingkap can be found at Lebuh Tamil just off Penang Road after passing the nutmeg and biscuit stalls on your left and Mydin on your right. If you are travelling by car I suggest parking your car at Jalan Kampung Malabar a few streets away and take a walk instead.
Lebuh Tamil/Tamil Street, Penang.
GPS Coordinates: N5 25.068 E100 19.878
Open daily 12pm to 8pm (Closed on Sundays)