Teh Tarik (Malaysia and Singapore)

Batam, Indonesia - Teh TarikIn fact, I had this drink at an Indian restaurant in Batam, Indonesia, but that island, as close as thirty-five minutes to Singapore by boat,  is so filled with unscrupulous Singaporeans – like the city-state itself – that it remains a valid place to try today’s subject,
teh tarik.

Yes, teh tarik, a sweet drink composed of black tea and sweetened condensed milk, calls Malaysia its home, though it’s nearly as ubiquitous in Singapore.  Though, I have a few bugaboos when it comes to food and drink, and not one is terribly logical.  The one involving teh tarik regards my mostly blanket disapproval of artificially sweetened beverages – does passion fruit juice really need Splenda? – but this Malaysian specialty is a notable AND rare exception.  I mentioned that it’s not a logical gripe, primarily because I have no problem with pairing teh tarik with kaya toast, aka buttery Singaporean goodness.

As for the meaning of the name, teh signifies “tea” and tarik is “pull” in Indonesian and Malay.  Pulling tea sounds like an act of torture in that part of the world, and in some respects, it is.  The origin stems from the act of the vendor having to quickly pull the concoction between two vessels, in order to skillfully mix the condensed milk with the tea.  For a clearer example of what that means, check out this video (it’s the same thing on mute).  The allure to some customers is that, while the peddler is preparing the sugary stuffr, not even a drop of it is splashed onto them, even though your expectations lead you to believe you’d become a teh tarik manusia, or human pulled tea.

Have you tried this before?  Feeling bushed after just two sips?

This entry was posted in Dessert, Drink, East & Southeast Asia, Indonesia, Street Food and tagged , , , . Bookmark the permalink.

8 Responses to Teh Tarik (Malaysia and Singapore)

  1. I loved this stuff. I only bought it a few times, it felt like it was a guy’s drink whenever I ordered it. Did you get that impression, too?

    • Salamat for the like, Jennifer!

      Are there any Malay restaurants in San Diego? Even if there aren’t, it’s quite easy to make…though on that point, I’ve only ever seen men prepare it. However, if it’s cousin is milk tea, that’s usually for women, no?

  2. andmorefood says:

    artificially-sweetened, in the sense of condensed milk? it’s too sweet for me to drink at all, though I’m in Singapore!

    • If it’s a fruit juice – regardless of whether or not the fruit is in season – I’ll order it without sugar. But, if it’s a flavor of soda/a drink I’ve never tried before, then just to try it out, that’s an exception. Teh tarik is even more rare in that it’s a repeat visitor to my restaurant tab.

      If teh tarik is too sweet for you, what do you like drinking in Singapore?

      • andmorefood says:

        I drink my teh neat, no sugar or milk or anything like that – much the way Chinese tea is drunk! it’s sometimes a little tannic, but I sorta like that too 😀

  3. expatlingo says:

    Oh, Batam, a place almost mythical in my mind. Having not actually been there, I imagine it solely as a rather seedy border town, but perhaps there is more?

  4. Pingback: Kajang, Malaysia’s Satay City « buildingmybento

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