At Es Campur Ko Acia, Half a Century of Ice Desserts

by Runi Cholid
5th July 2024
The mixed ice desserts at Es Campur Ko Acia in Sawah Besar, Central Jakarta are crafted with over 50 years of expertise by its founder, Nio Nguan Lie, better known as Suyanto.

Nio Nguan Lie, better known as Suyanto, started making es campur as a 17-year-old working for a relative in Pontianak. And he never stopped. Half a century later, the mixed ice dessert remains the signature of his streetside stall, Es Campur Ko Acia in Sawah Besar, Central Jakarta.

‘Ko Acia’ is what his customers call him, a nickname he adopted when he opened his stall in 1980. Started as a simple wooden shack in an empty lot, the small shop is now part of a vibrant strip of street food finds on Dwiwarna Raya Street, squeezed between a bakmi shop and an eatery serving rice and homestyle dishes. But one thing remains unchanged: a solitary tree stands guard, offering shade to diners (from school kids to delivery couriers and families around the block) who sit on the wooden benches eagerly digging into their cold bowls of es campur.

A classic pick is the es campur with brown sugar and coconut milk, a medley of homemade crushed ice, basil seeds, various jellies and mung bean porridge as well as fresh longan and avocado.

But if it’s a ‘Ko Acia specialty’ you’re looking for, go with the es sarang burung. Not to be mistaken for the bird’s nest soup (since sarang burung directly translates to bird’s nest), the treat is a cut-down and lighter version of es campur; in lieu of milk, a squeeze of lime and a splash of syrup lends a sweet and sour note to pair with the assortment of jellies and longan.

With more than 50 years of practice, Suyanto can whip up these bowls faster than the eye can follow. He has to, with the stall easily selling around 400 to 700 bowls a day. But pay close enough attention, and one might be lucky enough to catch him smiling in the act. When asked if he was ever bored of doing the same type of menu over the years, the 70-year-old unhesitatingly answered, “Not at all.” Almost as if the very idea seemed silly to him.