When I was young and still living with my Grandma, she loved taking us to little Chinese eateries around town that serve simple food like wonton noodle soup, fried kwetiau, curry rice noodles, or century egg pork porridge. Little mom-and-pop eateries like this typically serve drinks such as Chinese herbal tea (liang cha), winter melon drink, and barley pandan drink. The drinks are served in recycled soda bottles, like Coca Cola, Sprites, or Fanta bottles; and these are placed on tables alongside condiments and tissue-wrapped flatware and chopsticks. Most serve one or two signature dishes, and you can tell what food they sell from the store front since the kitchen is right at the entrance and you can see what they are cooking. You place your order by stopping by the front kitchen, then you proceed to find a table and wait for your food to be cooked and served. For drinks, you just pick the bottles on the table. And when you are done with your food and drink, a waiter will come up to your table, count the number of empty plates/bowls and empty bottles, write you a receipt, you go to the front cashier, pay, and say your good byes. Most mom-and-pop eateries in Indonesia still follow the same operation to this day.
Today I have a simple recipe for barley pandan drink. This is a super simple drink made by boiling together barley (job’s tear or asian barley), pandan leaves, sugar, and water. Be warned that Western barley is different than Asian barley, so it is best if you buy your barley from Asian grocery stores. The fragrance of the drink comes from pandan leaves, and you should think of pandan like the vanilla of the east, so this is a very crucial ingredient for many of our desserts and sweet soup or sweet drinks. Pandan leaves are most likely sold frozen, and you should stock up on them if you rarely visit Asian market.
- 200 gram asian barley (job's tears)
- 2 pandan leaves, knotted
- 8 cups (2 liter) water
- 150 gram sugar
- lime/lemon wedges (optional)
- Wash and drain barley until water runs clear. Boil barley, pandan leaves, and water in a pot. Reduce heat to a simmer, cover, and cook until barley is soft, about 45 minutes to 1 hour.
- Increase heat to a medium, and add sugar. Stir until all sugar has melted. You can increase the amount of sugar if you like sweeter drink.
- Serve the drink hot or cold. Some like to add a squeeze of lime or lemon to brighten the drink.