You will often find Vietnamese desserts topped with a rich and sweet coconut sauce called Nuoc Cot Dua. I like to call this sauce the Asian whipped cream. It is made by simmering coconut milk and sugar, and thickened with a bit of tapioca starch. Pandan leaves (the vanilla extract of Southeast Asia) is then added to steep and flavor the sauce. This creamy rich sauce can be prepared days in advance and can be used either cold, warm or at room temperature.
Nuoc Cot Dua has a mellow sweetness that complements a dessert. I made my sauce simply using canned coconut milk. If you have access to freshly made coconut milk, use that as they yield much better flavor. I added a pinch of salt to balance the sugar and I couldn’t help but also put in a few drops of vanilla extract for that undeniable amazing aroma. Leave out the vanilla extract for a more traditional sauce.
When using pandan leaves, do not cut them. Leave them whole to prevent any of the green color from seeping into the white coconut sauce. You can bend them and then tie them into a bundle with twine or nett yet, one of the pandan leaves.
Sweetened Coconut Milk Sauce for Asian Desserts (Nuoc Cot Dua)
Makes 2 cups
- 1 13.5 oz can coconut milk
- Pinch salt
- 1 tablespoon tapioca starch
- 2-1/2 tablespoons granulated sugar
- 3 whole pandan leaves (use one leaf to wrap the other two in a bundle) or 1/2 teaspoon non-dye pandan extract
- 1/2 teaspoon vanilla extract (optional)
- Using a small heavy bottom saucepan, whisk together coconut milk and salt. Simmer on medium low until wisps of steam are visible.
- Fill can of empty coconut milk half way with water. Add tapioca starch and stir with whisk to dissolve. Add mixture to saucepan and heat for 2-3 minutes. Maintain low heat and stir occassionally to prevent burning.
- Once mixture starts to thicken and wisps of steam are again visible, add sugar, pandan leaves/extract and vanilla extract (optional). Continue to cook on low for additional 2-3 minutes or until thicken to desired consistency and remove from heat. Remove pandan leaves and discard. Allow sauce to cool slightly before serving. This coconut sauce will last all day at room temperature or 3-5 days in fridge.