Roselle Cordial


There were lots of roselle for sale at the Satok weekend market in Kuching, Sarawak. I haven’t seen these fruits in years, and certainly never thought I’d one day have to buy them. We used to have roselle bushes in our garden, and they grew everywhere in the neighbourhood.

The roselle belongs to the hibiscus family. If there is such a thing as trend in gardening, then there was a time when it was fashionable to plant roselle. They were real pretty too, with their vivid red berries.

The roselle plants grew well, yielding generous harvests….not that I ever tended to the garden then. I only remember that we love roselle because it was like the poor man’s substitute to Ribena (blackcurrant drink). It was sweet, and had a more tangy edge… but it had a pleasant berry-ish taste and it was real refreshing with lots of ice.

We must have made bottles and bottles of cordial from the roselle in our garden. I don’t remember when the roselle bushes disappeared from our garden and the neighbourhood, and I never gave it much thought.

I bought a basket of roselle at Satok because I had a sudden craving for the drink. Besides, a basket only costs RM1. And so I stuffed it in my suitcase, and brought it back to KL.

It’s easy to make roselle cordial. Just peel off the calyx (your fingers will be stained red) and discard the seedpod. Wash and rinse well, and then boil in water with loads of sugar. I had started out taking careful measurements, but lost track of how much sugar I used as I added the sugar twice more while making the cordial. The roselle is sour-ish, so you need a bit more sugar. It’s also nice to make the cordial thick.


My RM1 of roselle yielded a small bottle of cordial, and it’s as good as I remembered it to be – sweet with a pleasing sourish tinge – exactly the drink for hot afternoons.


And the kids like it too, and at least we know that there is no preservatives or artificial colouring in ths cordial ….. just copious amounts of sugar!


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