Chè refers to a variety of traditional Vietnamese desserts. Pudding is probably the closest translation for chè, since it often has a thick texture. The number of dishes with the prefix chè are nearly endless, and the best places to try chè are at Vietnamese markets, bakeries, coffee/tea shops, and chè shops themselves (mostly in Southern California). In Vietnam, chè is typically sold by street vendors. Chè can be made with various combinations of rice, fruits, vegetables, and legumes: banana, coconut, corn, dates, jackfruit, lotus seeds, lychees, plantain, red bean, rice, seaweed, tapioca, taro root, white bean. Coconut milk and tapioca pearls are usually used to give the chè a creamy texture. Some chè dishes can be topped with sesame seeds or peanuts.
To introduce you to chè, I’ve chosen a very simple recipe, Chè Bắp (Sweet Corn Pudding).
Chè Bắp – Sweet Corn Pudding
For the pudding:
• 4 ears of fresh corn
• 6 cups of water
• 1/2 cup of sugar
• 4 tbsp of corn starch
For the coconut sauce:
• 4 oz of coconut milk (1/2 can)
• 1/2 tsp of vanilla extract
1. Cut the bottom of the corncob. Stand the corncob on the cut end. Using a sharp knife, shave the corn off the cob with long smooth downward strokes until you reach the core, rotate the cob as you go. Save the shaven cobs.
2. Place the shaven corncobs into a boiling pot of water on medium heat. Bring it to a boil and then simmer over medium high heat for 30 minutes to create a corn stock. The volume of the stock should decrease by a 1/3.
3. Remove corncobs from the pot. Add the corn kernels and sugar into the corn stock and bring to a boil.
4. Mix the cornstarch with a few tablespoons of cold water. Stir the cornstarch mixture into the simmering corn stock and bring to a boil. The stock should thicken by now. Remove from heat and immediately ladle corn pudding into individual serving dishes.
5. In a small saucepan, add coconut milk and simmer over low heat. Add vanilla extract and bring to a low boil. Remove from heat. Drizzle 2-3 tbsp of coconut milk over each corn pudding dish.
6. Serve warm, room temperature or chilled (2 hours in refrigerator). Can be kept in the fridge for 2-3 days.