Bandrek is a traditional Sundanese herbal spiced tea from Western Java in Indonesia. This isn’t a tea in the true sense of the word tea, because it doesn’t contain leaves of the tea plant. That means this cozy drink is also caffeine-free. This warm hug of an herbal beverage offers an aromatic journey that’s as soothing as it is invigorating. The perfect stuff to curl up with a good book.
Bandrek (pronounced like bun-drag), in the Sundanese language, translates to ‘warm,’ and indeed, this tea wraps around your senses like a comforting blanket on a chilly evening. Some classic Indonesian desserts like martabak and biji salak can be a wee bit filling. So bandrek can also serve as a healthier, lower-calorie alternative. It provides a sweet and aromatic ending to a meal featuring Indonesian classics like urap sayur or sambal goreng tempeh over nasi minyak.
Let’s dive in and bring the warmth of Sundanese tradition to your kitchen. Meet your new favey warm drinky-drink!
🥰Why you are going to adore the ever-loving heck outta this recipe
✊ Vegan AF: This Bandrek recipe is 100% plant-based and is completely gluten-free, and soy-free. For those who don’t mess with refined sugar, you will be psyched that this drink is traditionally sweetened with palm sugar or coconut sugar.
🥸 Fool-proof Method: With step-by-step photos and well-dialed-in instructions, the Bandrek recipe is a breeze for beginners and seasoned cooks alike. You’ll master this warming brew on your very first attempt, no sweat.
💊 Medicinal Benefits: Bandrek isn’t just a delicious beverage; it also boasts potential medicinal benefits. Some studies suggest that the herbs and spices in Bandrek may help with digestion and boost immunity. The ginger, and pandan are especially valuable here.
✅ Tested and Approved Worldwide: Like all the recipes on my blog, this Bandrek recipe has undergone rigorous testing by a global team of dedicated recipe testers.
🌿 Notable ingredients and substitutions
🌴 Palm Sugar
Palm sugar, known as Gula Aren in Indonesia, is a natural sweetener extracted from the sap of palm trees. It lends a rich caramel-like sweetness to desserts like kuih dadar and is the star ingredient in the famous Indonesian dessert Klepon. Nutritionally, it contains essential minerals like potassium and iron. Substitute it with coconut sugar or brown sugar if you can’t get palm sugar.
Lemongrass, or Sereh in Indonesia, infuses its refreshing citrusy aroma in recipes from mee rebus to tom yum paste. It’s not only a flavor enhancer but also offers potential health benefits, such as aiding digestion and reducing inflammation. If you can’t find fresh lemongrass, dried lemongrass with a couple of drops of lemongrass oil can be substituted.
🌿 Pandan Leaves
I don’t know why, but the unique fragrance of Pandan leaves always reminds me of sweet breakfast cereal. Known as Daun Pandan in Indonesia, the leaves have a sweet, vanilla-like scent and add a pleasant green hue to taro pudding as well as the pandan jelly in che ba mau. While pandan leaves are irreplaceable for authentic flavor, you can omit them if unavailable or use a drop of pandan extract sparingly. Most pandan extracts aren’t totally natural, so I stick to getting the fresh or frozen leaves at my local Asian grocery store.
🥥 Condensed Coconut Milk
You can make this recipe without adding condensed coconut milk. But if you want to make this drink milky, this is the stuff. I have tried a lot of different milks for making Bandrek Santan, and decided through trial and error that condensed coconut milk is the absolute best. It provides a luscious, sweet, and coconutty richness without dairy. You can try other milks, but in my testing, the only thing that works perfectly in place of condensed coconut milk is to use a thinned coconut sauce like you might serve with taro pudding or tupig.
*See the recipe card at the bottom of the page for exact quantities, nutritional info, and detailed cooking directions.
🍋 Turmeric ginger bandrek
I could write a damn steamy romance novel about how much I love drinking warm drinks with turmeric in them. There is something so soothing about it as a nighttime ritual. I like adding about a dozen thin slices of turmeric root to my bandrek. A little extra ginger or a few black peppercorns make the turmeric more medicinally beneficial. A tiny squeeze of lemon juice instantly turns the tea yellow for some magical reason when it interacts with the turmeric. It’s kinda magical!
🌶️ Bandrek Pedas
A spicy version of this drink served in West Java called Bandrek Pedas will awaken your senses with a little dried chili brewed in it. Use a whole dried arbol chili or dried byadagi chili, and remember to remove the chili before serving.
🥥 Bandrek Santan
To elevate the creaminess, drizzle a bit of susu (milk) over your Bandrek just before enjoying it. I love it with condensed coconut milk, or a different kind of condensed milk such as condensed oat works well too. This version, often called “Bandrek Santan,” has an extra layer of richness. It’s perfect for those who adore the velvety texture of coconut milk.
📖 How to brew perfect bandrek
Making this classic Sundanese drink is a snap with these step-by-step instructions. Or you can follow along with the easy-to-print recipe card towards the bottom of this page.
Release the Flavors!
Using a sturdy knife or cleaver, give the lemongrass stalks a good bash to unlock their flavors. Add them to the pot alongside two knotted pandan leaves. The knotting helps the pandan release more of its flavor.
In a pot, mix four cups of water with your choice of palm sugar, coconut sugar, or brown sugar, along with slices of ginger, a cinnamon stick (or half a teaspoon of ground cinnamon), whole cloves, and cardamom pods.
✅ If you intend to use fresh turmeric or dried chilies in your bandrek, this is where you would add them.
Over low heat, bring the pot to a gentle simmer, covered. Let it bubble softly for about 25 minutes, filling your kitchen with delightful aromas.
Remove Spices and Herbs:
Before serving, remove the whole spices, lemongrass, and pandan leaves using a slotted spoon. Then, portion your Bandrek into cups.
✅ Consider drizzling in condensed coconut milk to taste for an added layer of richness.
Serve your steaming cup of Bandrek alongside some delightful accompaniments to create a memorable experience. If you are drinking it as a digestive aid, consider pairing it with amla candy, also known for its digestive and nutritive benefits.
In the Indonesian and Malaysian cuisine, hot or iced Bandrek finds perfect companions in dishes like sayer lodeh with banana leaf steamed lontong, or tahu goreng over nasi uduk, nasi kunyit (turmeric rice).
- Mindful Spice Selection: Spices lose their potency if they are old-as-hell. They should be fresh and aromatic, as their flavors will define your Bandrek.
- Gentle Simmering: Let your Bandrek simmer gently. Avoid a rolling boil; instead, maintain a low, soothing simmer for about 25 minutes. This slow infusion ensures all the flavors meld harmoniously. Keeping the lid on helps ensure the spices steep, and you don’t lose too much tea to evaporation.
- Balanced Sweetness: Adjust the sweetness to your preference. Start with the suggested amount of palm, coconut, or brown sugar and add more to taste if needed.
Can I use ground spices instead of whole cloves and cardamom pods?
Yes, you can substitute ground cloves and ground cardamom in this recipe, but use them sparingly, as they are more concentrated. I suggest ½ teaspoon of ground cardamom to replace the cardamom pod, and ½ teaspoon of ground cloves to replace the whole cloves.
If fresh lemongrass is unavailable, you can use dried lemongrass or a few drops of lemongrass oil as a substitute.
Bandrek is best enjoyed fresh, but you can store any leftovers in the refrigerator for up to three days. Reheat gently on the stove before serving.
To reheat Bandrek, pour it into a saucepan over low to medium heat. Stir occasionally and gently bring it to a simmer. Once it’s piping hot, your Bandrek is ready to serve.
Can you serve bandrek cold?
Iced bandrek is incredibly satisfying with or without some milk of your choosing. Like iced chai, it is great for a hot day to cool yourself while giving your body nourishment and warming spices. Think of it as a nice icy herbal ginger drink. You don’t need anyone’s permission to know that sounds awesome!
Easy! Srimad bhagavatam. It is the best literature on planet Earth, and if you read a chapter every day, you will finish it in about a year.
☕️ My faves to serve with a cup of bandrek:
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Bandrek (Sundanese herbal spiced tea)
- Sturdy knife or cleaver
- In a pot, combine four cups of water with palm sugar (or coconut sugar, or brown sugar), along with the slices of ginger, cinnamon stick (or half a teaspoon of ground cinnamon), whole cloves, and a cardamom pod.
- Give the lemongrass stalks a good bash with the back of a thick knife or cleaver to release their flavor, then add them to the pot along with two knotted pandan leaves.
- Bring the pot to a gentle simmer over low heat. Allow it to gently bubble away for about 25 minutes, infusing your kitchen with delightful scents.
- Remove the whole spices, lemongrass, and pandan leaves before portioning into cups. Optionally, drizzle in condensed coconut milk to taste for that extra creaminess.