Spending the summer on a quest to keep as cool as possible here in Queens, I've tried cholados, I've done raspados, paletas and nieves—but never tire of refreshing summer treats, which brings us to this week's post: Es Teler.
An icy, fruity Indonesian drink, Es Teler is typically a milky, sweet coconut and pandan flavored liquid mixed with ice, and any combination of the following: chunks of avocado, young coconut, palm fruit, grass jelly, and jackfruit. Cold, creamy, chewy and sweet. Of the four Indonesian restaurants in Elmhurst that offer Es Teler on their menus, each drink, while similar in preparation, stood out in its own unique way.
Upi Jaya's Es Teler had the most variety of fruity "toppings" mixed in with the pink, creamy liquid, which tasted strongly of coconut and pandan.
Along with large round ice cubes, I found chunks of avocado, strips of coconut, red palm fruit, green grass jelly, jackfruit, and coconut gel. I enjoyed sipping the milk and then rooting around with a spoon—every spoonful came up with something new.
76-04 Woodside Avenue, Elmhurst Queens (map) (718) 458-1807
Mie Jakarta's version of Es Teler was the only one of the bunch to include tiny basil seeds in the drink. Along with the seeds, I found jackfruit, lots of coconut gel, coconut strips, and creamy avocado, along with some white palm fruit.
The liquid was still as pink as Upi Jaya's, but had less pandan and more coconut, and was not quite as sweet.
86-20 Whitney Avenue, Elmhurst Queens (map) (718) 606-8025
Minang Asli had a mellower, creamier, white liquid, with a soft coconut flavor and no pandan syrup. Three huge chunks of ice bobbed lazily above the jackfruit, avocado, palm fruit, and coconut strips in this cool drink. This was the least sweet Es Teler, with the least amount of fruit mixed in—but I enjoyed it because of its subtle, clean, and refreshing qualities.
86-10 Whitney Avenue, Elmhurst Queens (map) (718) 429-8207
At Java Village, the ice was shaved and the Es Teler served in a bowl. As with shaved ice, I got to choose my own toppings—I chose palm fruit, jack fruit, coconut strips and grass jelly. They then squeezed bright red pandan flavored syrup and condensed milk over the whole thing. Some of the ice melted immediately, resulting in the same pink, sweet, creamy liquid as most of the other drinks; but the ice that remained added a great crunchy contrast to the soft, chewy fruit and gels.
86-10 Justice Avenue, Elmhurst Queens (map) (718) 205-2166
As each restaurant had their own take on the icy Indonesian treat, I appreciated all of them for their unique strengths—Upi Jaya for their seemingly endless variety of hidden fruits and gems, Mie Jakarta for their basil seeds and coconut flavor, Minang Asli for their subtly sweet version, and Java Village for making the ice a part of the dish. What can I say, I liked them all!
What other sweet drinks do you seek out in the summer?
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