Tuesday, 24 February 2009


AIR BANDUNG is the name of a popular drink in Malaysia and Singapore consisting of milk, flavoured with rose cordial, with gives it its distinctive pink colour. The drink is said to have originated during the British colonial days of Singapore.

According to lore, the drink was concocted by an Englishman during his stay in Singapore. He has a distaste of tea, to which he is reputed to have said, during an afternoon tea session with the British officials as "foul-smelling and foul-tasting as dung".

The story continues that in his wandering around Singapore, he came across an Indian drink made of rose extract. The drink consisted of roses dipped in small amounts of water mixed with some spices in water. According to him, when he tried mixing the water with black tea, it merely diluted it and the foul smell still remained. However, he found that when he mixed it with milk tea and sugar, the milk ‘thickened’ the drink and the sugar removed the foul taste. When his colleagues asked what he was drinking, he replied, ‘Banned Dung’, to which his colleagues thought was the mispronunciation of a city in West Java - Bandung (which he had visited on a missionary mission). Hence, the name AIR BANDUNG (‘air’, pronounced ‘ah’ ‘ir’ meaning water or drink in Malay).

In later years, street vendors added red food colouring (which made the drink pink when milk is added) to attract buyers as consumers were confusing the drink with teh tarik, a frothy milk tea, unique to Malaysia and Singapore (which looks like a chai latte). However, these days, AIR BANDUNG only comes in pink.

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