Air Kathira (Cooling Kathira drink)

Air Kathira

Air Kathira sold in Bazaar Ramadhan

Air (pronounced as ah-yer) Kathira is a cold refreshing drink made with evaporated milk, pandan (screwpine) flavored syrup, kathira gum, biji selasih (basil seeds) and buah kembang semangkuk (malva nuts). It is one of the popular drinks sold during the fasting month of Ramadhan in Singapore and Malaysia.

There are many versions of this drink. There are bandung (rose syrup), blueberry or chocolate flavored, just to name a few. I have yet to see soybean air kathira with less sugar, it will be a healthier choice for the health conscious?

Kathira is a natural gum extracted from a tree, you can find it in powder form or in small opaque chunks. It’s been told that kathira gum is consumed to reduce heatiness so that is just what we need in hot and humid South East Asia.

Buah Kembang Semangkuk or Malva nut you get from the shops here are sold, dried. It is also known as a coolant and used to treat coughs and constipation but it is not recommended to consume more than 2 seeds per cup of water, in fact, I used about three for a whole jug.

Kathira gum, buah kembang semangkuk (malva nut) and biji selasih (basil seeds) are soaked in water until it turned to a glutinous mass before mixing it with other ingredients. It is so easy to make, economical and you can make it in many different flavors, just be creative!

You can find these ingredients in your neighborhood mamak (Indian) grocery shop or in one of the shophouses selling groceries in Little India in Singapore.

Air Kathira sold in the Ramadhan bazaars are currently selling at about SGD$2 to 2.50 per 250ml bottle and I find the quality can be quite dismal. I spent about less than SGD$5 for the ingredients and with that I can make about 2 to 3 litres (or maybe more).

Air Kathira can be described as syrupy, fragrant, creamy, cold drink containing the glutinous mass of kathira gum, buah kembang semangkuk (malva nuts) and biji selasih (basil seeds) that have been soaked overnight. The glutinous mass is fibrous and slightly chewy.

Below is the recipe to make about a jug or 1-2 litres of Air Kathira. The measurements are just guidelines, you can reduce or increase the amount to your preference (just not too much of the buah kembang semangkuk or malva nuts ok).

Air Kathira main ingredients

Clockwise from top left: To make the glutinous, jelly-like mass. Soak the basil seeds, malva nuts and kathira gum separately overnight.


To make the glutinous, fibrous mass:

  • (a) 1 tablespoon of biji selasih or basil seeds
  • (b) 3 buah kembang semangkuk or malva nuts
  • (c) 1 tablespoon of kathira gum
  • (d) warm water to soak the above ingredients

To make the syrup:

  • (e) 1 cup of sugar
  • (f) 2 cups of water
  • (g) Pandan (screwpine) leaves (2-3 leaves)

Other ingredients:

  • 1 teaspoon of rose water
  • Plain water (enough to make 1-2 litres or 1 jug)
  • 1 can of evaporated milk


Air Kathira main ingredients

Clockwise from top left: Malva nuts, basil seeds and kathira gum that has been soaked overnight turned glutinous or jelly-like.

  1. Soak items (a) to (c) overnight until it turned into a glutinous mass. Remove the skin of the malva nuts and any dirt from the basil seeds and kathira gum.
  2. Next, heat the sugar, water and pandan (screwpine) leaves that is items (e) to (g) in a saucepan until the sugar dissolved. Alternatively, you can use ready made syrup.
  3. In a large bowl, add the soaked items (a) to (c), pour in the syrup (remove the pandan leaves), evaporated milk, rose water and plain water to make a jug or 1-2 litres of air kathira. If it’s not sweet enough, add more syrup and if it’s too sweet, add more plain water. If you want it to be more creamy, add more evaporated milk.
  4. Pour the Air Kathira into a container and refrigerate till cold. Before drinking, stir the contents so that you can pour out the glutinous mass into the glass to enjoy because it tend to settle at the bottom of the container.
Air Kathira

Clockwise from top-left: Making air kathira. You can add food color too but it’s optional.

You can give it a try and share with me how it went. Be adventurous and experiment with the flavors, better yet, improve this recipe and share so that others can benefit 🙂


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