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Authentic Vietnamese recipes from the Motherland

Vietnamese Mung Bean Pudding (Che Hoa Cau)

Chè is a type of Vietnamese dessert. Some are made of glutinous sweet rice, beans and peas such as mung beans and black-eyed peas, and/or tubers such as cassava and taro. They are cooked in a thick sweet sauce, made up of water, sugar and tapioca starch, and topped with creamy coconut sauce. Others are more like fruit drinks with edible goodies (tapioca, fruit jellies and/or fresh fruit chunks). When it comes to chè, the combinations are endless, and this is what makes chè so much fun to eat and drink.

My favorite c is the simplest of them all: Chè Hoa Cau. It is named after the flowers of an Areca Nut Palm Tree because of the resemblance of the flower petals and the cooked mung beans. The main ingredients are mung bean and coconut milk. It's simple, sweet and delicious. But my favorite is its texture. It's gooey and sticky, and this is why I never call this dessert by its proper name. I have a very special name for it, snot pudding (it sounds even more "glamorous" in Vietnamese). It is my favorite chè since childhood and I still inadvertently refer to it as such. Even my mom had a slip of the tongue and called it snot pudding at my formal engagement party. She was mortified. Luckily, it simply broke the ice with the future in-laws, and we all had a good laugh.

Vietnamese dessert mung bean pudding coconut milk
Vietnamese Mung Bean Pudding Che Hoa Cau

Vietnamese Mung Bean Pudding (Che Hoa Cau)

Serves 4

Ingredients

Mung Bean Pudding

  • 1/2 cup peeled and split dried mung bean (rinse a couple of times until water runs clear; soak in water the night before)
  • 1 liter water
  • 1/2 cup tapioca starch
  • 3/4 granulated white sugar
  • Pinch salt

Coconut Sauce

  • 1 14-oz can coconut milk
  • 1/4 teaspoon salt
  • 1/3 cup granulated white sugar
  • 1 tablespoon tapioca starch

Instructions

Mung Bean Pudding

  1. Drain the mung bean from overnight soaking. In a small pot, add mung bean and just enough water to cover. Cook on medium low until soft (about 10 minutes). Once cooked, toss lightly, making sure not to break the beans. All water should have been absorbed. If not, drain the mung bean then set aside.
  2. In another pot, add water (1 liter), tapioca starch, sugar and salt. Whisk until fully dissolved. Heat pot on medium high and cook until sauce thickens.
  3. Once the mixture is at a pudding-like consistency, add cooked mung bean and mix well. Turn off heat.

Coconut Sauce

  1. In a small sauce pan, combine all the ingredients and mix well until fully dissolved.
  2. Heat pot on medium high until sauce thickens to desired consistency. Only add coconut sauce onto mung bean pudding when ready to eat.

Sea Snails in Coconut Milk (Oc Len Xao Dua)

The best way to explore a culture is through its food, and my favorite thing to do when visiting Vietnam is eat my way through the many street food carts that crowd the warm city streets of Ho Chi Minh City (Saigon). Not only is the food delicious, exotic and cheap, but trying to sit on a flimsy plastic stool that really should be for age 5 and under is all part of the experience in eating like a local.

My favorite street food snack is sea snails in spicy coconut milk (Oc Len Xao Dua). Cooked in coconut milk with fresh lemon grass, garlic, Vietnamese Coriander (Rau Ram) and chili, this dish is packed full of flavors. The fun part of the dish is extracting the snail from the shell. To extract the snail, you suck on it. Sometimes it comes out easily with one slurp. Other times you have to pucker up and take a deep long breath. If that doesn't work, I find sucking on the other end and flipping it back to the larger end helps loosen up the snail. Eating these snails without choking is all part of the fun.

Sea Snails in Coconut Milk (Oc Len Xao Dua)

Sea Snails in Coconut Milk (Oc Len Xao Dua)

Garlic, lemon grass, chili peppers and Vietnamese Coriander leaves

Garlic, lemon grass, chili peppers and Vietnamese Coriander leaves

Sea Snails in Coconut Milk Recipe (Oc Len Sao Dua)

Serves 4

Ingredients

  • 1 lb fresh coned-shaped sea snails (Len Snails)
  • 1 tablespoon vegetable oil
  • 1 tablespoon minced garlic
  • 2 stalks lemon grass (minced the tender white parts of one and cut the tender white parts of the other into matchsticks)
  • 1 cup coconut milk
  • 1 teaspoon salt
  • 1 teaspoon sugar
  • 1 cup minced Vietnamese Coriander leaves (reserve a tablespoon for garnish)
  • 1 Thai chili pepper (optional)
Saute sea snails with garlic, lemon grass, chili peppers, coconut milk, salt, sugar and Vietnamese Coriander leaves

Saute sea snails with garlic, lemon grass, chili peppers, coconut milk, salt, sugar and Vietnamese Coriander leaves

Instructions

  1. Soak the sea snails in water with a little bit of salt for at least 30 minutes to purge the grit and sand. Then thoroughly wash and scrub. Carefully hack off the coned end of each snail to loosen up the suction.
  2. In a medium-sized pan, heat vegetable oil on medium high.
  3. Add garlic and lemon grass. Saute until fragrant but not brown (2-3 minutes).
  4. Add the sea snails and saute for 2 minutes.
  5. Add coconut milk, salt, sugar and cook for 5 minutes to allow the snail to suck up all the saucy goodness.
  6. Add Vietnamese Coriander leaves and Thai chili pepper.
  7. Cook for another minute.
  8. Garnish with fresh Coriander leaves and serve.
Top with fresh Vietnamese Coriander leaves and serve

Top with fresh Vietnamese Coriander leaves and serve