Kolak is an Indonesian treat made from coconut milk, palm sugar, and other ingredients, such as fruit or beans. The dish, which may also be spelled kolek, resembles a soup or stew in appearance. If bananas are included, the food is known as kolek pisang.
Though Westerners might refer to it as an Indonesian dessert, many people might say that Indonesian desserts do not exist in the way Westerners see desserts. Instead, kolak is an example of what Westerners consider to be snack foods. A heavy treat, kolak is usually not eaten after a meal, but after an afternoon nap instead. Some people, however, do eat the sweet as an appetizer.
Coconut milk, or gravy, swims around a variety of ingredients in this dish. Aside from mung beans and bananas, sweet potatoes, palm fruit, and other fruits or roots may be added. Tapioca pearls are another common ingredient. Pumpkin is a favorite ingredient in kolek, as is yuca. Jackfruit is another popular component used in the snack's recipe.
This dish is usually flavored with a screwpine, or pandan leaf, though other flavoring agents, such as cinnamon and clove sticks, are often used as well. Most recipes also call for salt. Fruits and vegetables are washed and cut into cubes before being added to the kolak. All of these ingredients are boiled together in water in a pan until soft, then sweetened to taste before serving with heated coconut milk.
Both sweet and savory, this treat is considered very fragrant. Its scent can be so overpowering that some cooks add additional elements to mask the smell. Pandan leaves are often added for this reason.
When kolak is fresh, it is sometimes served hot. Many people, however, prefer it chilled. The treat may not be kept for more than one day due to the perishable nature of its main ingredient, milk. It is generally cheaper to prepare the dish at home rather than purchasing it at a supermarket, particularly in countries where the ingredients used are rarely found. Kolak is also easily found within Indonesian restaurants, as well as among street food vendors.
The traditional time to serve kolak is during Ramadan, the ninth month of the Islamic calendar. During Iftar, when Muslims break their Ramadan fast, they often serve the sweet. Since much sugar may be lost from the body during fasting, Muslims enjoy this sugary dish after abstaining from sweets for so long.