Desserts are pretty amazing no matter how you look at them, but with my insatiable sweet tooth they’re the high point of any meal. Though Vietnamese cuisine doesn’t put as much emphasis on dessert as its American counterpart, there are still some notable ones.
One that I especially like because of its sweet and salty coconut sauce is che dau trang, a sticky rice pudding with black-eyed peas. It can be eaten hot, or in the summer, straight from the fridge. I really liked the batch that my aunt cooked up a couple weeks ago so I called her up and asked for the recipe. The following was what I got from her:
For the pudding:
1/2 cup of nep (glutinous rice)
3 rice bowls of water or so
2 cans of black-eyed peas
A dash of vanilla extract
A pinch of salt
Sugar to taste
For the sauce:
Some coconut milk
A pinch of salt
Just a bit of tapioca
I appreciated her help with the recipe, but I was pretty much on my own since her directions weren’t very…directional and her measures were a bit subjective. I ended up having to buy dried beans because I couldn’t find the canned ones. My aunt likes the canned ones because it’s easier, which I’d have to agree with. No one likes to cook dried beans of any kind, am I right? Anyway, she tells me to cook the rice until the individual grains split, adding water if it starts getting dry. Add salt, sugar and vanilla as you go along. She doesn’t like to add the coconut milk to the pudding itself (as many recipes call for) because the coconut milk tends to go bad faster. This way if the sauce goes bad, the pudding is still good and you can just make more sauce. For the sauce, she says to bring it to a simmer in a sauce pan, adding some tapioca powder mixed with a little water to thicken (I substituted corn starch because I couldn’t find tapioca powder anywhere and it worked just fine). Add a pinch of salt for flavor.
Amazingly, I did a pretty decent job my first time. It could have been a notch sweeter, but it was otherwise pretty edible. The pudding takes a surprising amount of sugar, so next time I’m gonna drown it in the sweet stuff. If you want to try it, here’s a recipe that might be more helpful than my aunt’s.