Black or White Delight: The Harmony of Soya Cincau, ‘Michael Jackson’ Drink

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It’s not every day that a beverage gets nicknamed after a global pop icon. But then again, not every drink is as compelling as Malaysia’s “Michael Jackson,” a nickname affectionately given to Soya Cincau – a drink as smooth and captivating as the late singer’s moonwalk. With a playful nod to the pop star, this beverage harmonises the silken tones of soya milk with the enigmatic shadows of grass jelly in a performance that captivates with every sip.

But why “Michael Jackson”? It’s said that the drink’s name was inspired by the King of Pop’s hit single Black & White! The soya milk represents the white, and the cincau, with its dark jelly appearance, symbolises the black. The combination, much like Jackson’s message in his music, is a harmonious blend of contrasts.

A Harmony of Health and Flavor

Much like the King of Pop’s hits, Soya Cincau is a chart-topping refreshment in Malaysia. Its foundation, soya milk, is a powerhouse of nutrition, rich in protein and a lactose-free alternative that serenades the health-conscious. The added cincau, or grass jelly, made from the Mesona chinensis plant, not only contributes a jazzy jolt of texture but also brings cooling properties, making it a favourite for beating the heat in Malaysia’s tropical climate.

The combination is not only refreshing but also light on the stomach, making it a perfect beverage to enjoy any time of the day. It’s particularly favoured during the fasting month of Ramadan, where it provides a soothing respite during Iftar, the evening meal when the fast is broken.

Crafting the Culinary Moonwalk

The recipe for Soya Cincau might be simple, but the flavours are anything but. The drink starts with the silky smoothness of freshly made soya milk, subtly sweet and thoroughly chilled. Then, it’s the grass jelly’s turn to shine – prepared by boiling the plant with potassium carbonate and a touch of starch until it sets into a gelatinous consistency, traditionally set in trays and then cut into cubes or strips, its slightly bitter undertone balances the sweetness of the milk.

In Malaysia, vendors often sell Soya Cincau from street carts or in cafes, sometimes adding additional sweeteners or flavours like pandan or ginger to create a variety of options for every palate. The drink’s popularity has endured over the years, reflecting Malaysia’s penchant for preserving tradition while embracing innovation.

A Taste of Cultural Fusion

Soya Cincau isn’t just a drink; it’s a representation of Malaysia’s diverse cultural tapestry. The soybean came to Malaysia through Chinese immigrants, while the use of grass jelly in desserts and drinks is a tradition that spans across various Southeast Asian cultures. The combination of the white soya milk and the black Cincau is visually reminiscent of the yin and yang symbol, representing balance and harmony in a glass.

Sip the Legend

To indulge in the Michael Jackson drink is to enjoy a melody of flavours that echoes the legendary artist’s blend of pop, soul, and funk. The sweet, creamy notes of the soya milk hit high notes of comfort, while the grass jelly’s subtle, earthy undertones provide the bass that grounds the experience. It’s a drink that invites you to beat it – the heat, that is – and to enjoy a thriller of a refreshment that’s as legendary as its namesake.

So, raise your glass to the King of Pop with Malaysia’s own pop royalty in a cup – the Soya Cincau, and let the rhythm of flavours take you on a moonwalk of culinary delight.

Article curated by Himavee Jayaweera.