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 chè 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 cooked mung beans to the flower petals. 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 Mung Bean Pudding (Che Hoa Cau)
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
1 14-oz can coconut milk
1/4 teaspoon salt
1/3 cup granulated white sugar
1 tablespoon tapioca starch
Mung Bean Pudding
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.
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.
Once the mixture is at a pudding-like consistency, add cooked mung bean and mix well. Turn off heat.
In a small sauce pan, combine all the ingredients and mix well until fully dissolved.
Heat pot on medium high until sauce thickens to desired consistency. Only add coconut sauce onto mung bean pudding when ready to eat.