Related Posts with Thumbnails

Chè hoa cau (Vietnamese mung bean dessert soup)

>> Sunday, July 31, 2011

Chè cook off – Delicious Vietnam #16

Chè hoa cau (Vietnamese mung bean dessert 
Surprise! It is all about chè today. I have joined the force with my two favourite Viet girls – Phuoc from Phuoc’n Delicious and Chi Anh from Door to my kitchen – for a chè cook off. Each one of us is bringing our favourite che to the table and share the love.

Chè is perhaps the most important dessert in Vietnamese cuisine. Essentially, it is our version of sweet soup pudding/dessert. More often than not, it is cooked with beans and thickened with tapioca flour to achieve a glutinous texture. Chè is often served over ice, providing instant relief on hot days. In winter, we also serve chè hot as well.

red bean dessert
{photo – my home-cooked version of red bean dessert soup}

One of my favourite chè is also the simplest one - Chè hoa cau. The name of this dessert is utterly poetic – hoa cau means the flowers of betel nut tree. The flowers are tiny and yellow. The appearance of the cooked mung bean in sweetened tapioca texture resembles such flowers, hence the name.

Chè hoa cau involves two major elements – cooked mung beans and sweetened tapioca pudding mixture. The bean is tender and slightly salty, giving a contrast of taste to the sweet pudding. The dessert is often perfumed with pomelo blossom essential oil, something I have missed dearly.

However, lately, I have found a way to give the pudding a floral aroma. I’ve been using Bột sắn (Vietnamese arrowroot starch), which is now available in most Viet shops in Australia. It's unrefined flour, almost. The starch is marinated with jasmine flowers, and has a very refreshing floral tone. We like to make cold summer drink with it (by just adding sugar and water), or cook up pudding.

Bột sắn (Vietnamese arrowroot starch)

Being multicultural here, my Singaporean side of the family calls this dessert Tau Suan, and happily eats it with fried Chinese donut sticks. But for me, chè hoa cau is always a Vietnamese dessert ;).

You can check out the two posts on Chè from Phuoc and Chi Anh!! ChiAnh is also hosting Delicious Vietnam #16, please join us to celebrate Vietnamese cuisne.

Phuoc'n Delicious - Sweet corn pudding
Door to my kitchen - Cốm pudding

 Chè hoa cau (Vietnamese mung bean dessert soup)

Chè hoa cau (Vietnamese mung bean dessert soup)

Ingredients (to serve 8 small bowls)

200g mung beans, soaked for 3 hours
100g Vietnamese arrowroot starch (Bột sắn) or tapioca flour. If using tapioca flour, add in 2 tsp vanilla essence
5 cups water
250-300g rock sugar or raw sugar (to taste)

Drain the soaked mung beans well. Put them in a steamer with a pinch of salt. Steam over medium heat until the beans are just tender. Set aside to cool.
In a pot, bring 5 cups of water to the boil. Add in sugar and stir to dissolve.
Dissolve the Vietnamese arrowroot starch (or tapioca flour) with ½ cup of water. When the water in the pot is boiling, gently pour the arrowroot mixture in. Stir gently over medium heat until the mixture just thickens. Cool.
You can serve this dessert hot or cold. To serve, ladle the pudding into a bowl, and sprinkle cooked mung bean on top.


Corn milk drink (sữa ngô/ sữa bắp)

>> Tuesday, July 26, 2011

{Weekend Herb Blogging}


One can find the most nourishing food in a mother’s kitchen, someone once told me. Wise and true. Some of the dishes I love the most come from my mother. And she doesn’t even cook that often, mind you. I have also learned a lot of home-cooked dishes from other mothers around the world. With the blossom of blogging, learning from others is so much easier. And I am grateful for that.

Recently, I came across a discussion topic, in which a mother was asking others how to make corn milk drink (sữa ngô). Her kids loved it so much, and she wanted to make the drink at home. So that her kids can experience their favourite food at home. Always better, since now it’s made with a mother’s unconditional love.

Corn milk drink (sữa ngô/ sữa bắp)

I made the drink, too, following various instructions. It is a very popular drink in southern Vietnam nowadays. Tasting it, I know why. The “milk” is mildly sweet and silky with a soft aroma and taste of corns. It is a refreshing drink when chilled, and can warm your heart if served lukewarm.

Initially I intended to make a chai version of corn milk with spices for our cold winter nights. But I have since decided against it. The flavour of corn milk is very delicate, and you don’t want to lose that.

This drink is very versatile. I have made it a few times to achieve a ratio of some sort. If you want to make it completely dairy-free, simply add more almonds, or substitute the milk with rice milk. (You can see two lovely versions of hazelnut milks at Indonesian eats and Gourmande in the kitchen).

I know this drink will be a regular in our home. And again, mothers know best!

I am hosting Weekend Herb Blogging this week. You can read more information about this event here, and join us if you can!



Burned bottom milk pudding – Kazan Dibi

>> Thursday, July 21, 2011

{A Turkish style milk pudding}

EDIT - I made some mistakes in the measurement section of the recipe. It's been updated now! Sorry for this, guys!

Burned bottom milk pudding(Kazan Dibi)

I found myself craving for milk pudding lately. Kazan Dibi (which literally means burned -bottom milk pudding), or similar.

In the kitchen, after two litres of milk, a few burned pans, finally I have been able to recreate my favourite milk pudding!

Phew. It’s been long coming, but I have wanted to make Kazan Dibi at home for so long. I first tasted it at a party a few years back. It was made by one of the Turkish ladies I used to know. The taste was lovely – cold, refreshing, creamy, with the caramelised part on top. I remember asking the lady for a recipe, but like a lot of home-cooked dishes, she did not have a proper one. Her descriptions left me clueless without any extract measurement. And of course, there came the language barrier.

The trick to make milk pudding, I found, is in the ratio of starch and rice flour. I first tried a 100% rice flour based pudding, and the result was a bit too heavy and grainy. Greg Malouf has a100% corn starch based recipe, but it lacked texture. A combination of these two flours produces much better pudding.

A few recipes I came across call for the cooked pudding mixture to be beaten in a mixer for around 10 minutes. This step is not essential, but very helpful to keep the mixture lump free and elastic while caramelising the bottom part.

My pictures don’t do the pudding justice. This was an early batch while I was a bit unsure of how long to cook the caramel. My latter attempt yields much deeper color and flavours.

This is a perfect dish to bring to potluck, or if you need to feed a crowd. People are generally very fond of milk pudding. I think this will also work with almond milk if you want to keep it dairy-free.


Burned bottom milk pudding(Kazan Dibi)
Adapted from here and other recipes/instructions

I think mastic-flavoured milk pudding rules! Rose water and orange blossom water can also be used as well. But there is something about mastic fragrance that I really love – deep, refreshing at the same time spicy. Yeah, I am that addicted. :)


Equipment: a round/square pan that can be used on the stove. I used a 30cm diameter aluminium pan.

The pudding (enough to serve 6-8 or more)

6+1/2 cups of milk
½ cup heavy cream (or use 7 cups of milk in total)
4 grains of mastic
1/4 cup rice flour (50g)
3/4 cup corn starch (95g)
1 cup sugar (220g)

The caramel
2 tbp unsalted butter
2-3 tbps sugar



1 – Crush the mastic with a bit of sugar in a mortal and pestle until finely ground.
2 – Combine the two flours in a bowl. Take 1 cup of milk from the milk mixture and gradually dissolve the flours. Make sure there is little lump.
3 – Put the rest of the milk and cream in a heavy bottom saucepan together with the sugar and ground mastic. Slowly bring it to the boil, stir frequently until the sugar is dissolved. Pour the flour mixture through a sieve into the pot to get rid of any lump. Bring the fire to small-medium, stir the milk frequently until the mixture thickens. (it will resembles thick cream or thick cooked custard).
4 – Turn off the fire. Now this is the optional part: pour all the mixture into a bowl of a stand mixer and constantly beat the mixture at small speed while preparing the next step. If you don’t want to do this, set the mixture aside and cover.
5 – Now, the caramel part. Put your pan into the stove with medium-high flame. Melt the butter and make sure that it coats the pan nicely. Sprinkle 2 tablespoons of sugar and rotate the pan so that the sugar is caramelised nicely. Once the sugar is dark, take around 1 cup of the pudding mixture and pour into the hot pan. It will sizzle, and bubbles will develop after 1-2 minutes. Take the pan off the heat and leave to cool down a little.
6 – Gently pour the remaining mixture onto the pan, make sure not to mess up the burned layer. Cool down totally then chill for at least 3-4 hours.
7 – To serve, use the knife to cut the pudding and use a spatula to take the piece and invert it onto a serving plate. Serve chill and enjoy!


Black and White Wednesday #2. NYC

>> Wednesday, July 20, 2011

Susan would remember this scene. :-)

I took it in NYC last October while walking with Susan in NYC, cameras in our hands, forgetting the two gentlemen who were following us around. Such a lovely memory.

Check back on The well-seasoned cook for inspiring B&W culinary images.

{Feasting on the street} - NYC

Feast on the street - NYC


Harvest Joy #1 - French Breakfast Radish

>> Saturday, July 16, 2011

Home-grown French breakfast radishes with butter and sea salt
Radish, butter & sea salt platter

It is a lovely winter day, with golden sunshine which warms up my space. Our family has been down with cold, and the days have been filled with lots of rest, tea, soups etc.

I hate being sick, especially when there are so many things I want to do. Work in the garden has not been progressed much. We intended to build a raised bed to prepare for spring. Patience, I keep on telling myself. I want to enjoy the process, too, and hurrying may lead me to no where.

As a novice gardener, I was so proud to pick up some fresh French breakfast radishes today. I grew them from seeds a few months back, and these little beauties grow so well.


I ordered organic seeds from Eden Seeds, and planted them in a light seed raising mix until they are about 2-3cm high. I then put them in the foam boxes I collected from vegie shop (brocolli boxes are the best). Punch some holes at the bottom for drainage; add in a premium potting mix and plant. Just make sure the box is fairly high so that the root can have time to grow deeply. Oh, put some sugarcane munch on top to keep help retain the moisture in the pots. Also, place them in a sunny sopt and they are good to go. Water the plants occasionally, when the soil is dryish. Once in a fortnight I feed them with seaweed solution.

Inspired by this forum and various spaces, I have been more active in recycling stuff. For example, I grew these salad leaves mix in an old rice bag. Again, punch some holes for drainage and directly sow a mixture of seeds. Two months in, and I am happy to have fresh leaves for salad. I have also been quite successful in growing dwarf Chinese broccoli, rainbow chard in boxes. Oh, and flowers, too!


So what’s next? I am getting the beds ready, and perhaps develop a system where I can get more continuous supplies of veggies. I am excited, can you tell?

Now back to the fresh French breakfast radishes that I dug up just a few hours back. They are pretty, with the pinkish colorand oblong shape. I choose to serve some of them fresh, with butter and sea salt. It’s so good, so so good. The rest will be sliced thinly and toss through lemon juice and olive oil. That’s the way we like to serve radishes around here.


I’m sending this entry to Weekend Herb Blogging, which is hosted by Rachel from The Crispy Cook.

{Resources for novice gardeners}Do you know have more favourite gardening blogs or resources? Please shout out! I tend to spend more time on these than food blogs nowadays. :D

{1} How to grow in foam boxes – excellent tutorial. Plus this site has excellent information on veggies growing.

{2} Seeds company: Eden Seeds - friendly, informative and prompt. The lost seeds for herloom varieties that dated back long, long time in Australia - support this independent business if you can.

{3} A wonderful forum with warm hearted people who are always ready to help out. I love the title, so inspiring, Aussie Living Simply

Home-grown French breakfast radishes


Black and White Wednesday #1. Hanoi.

>> Wednesday, July 13, 2011

Susan from The Well-seasoned cook has started a new photography event which I think is a brilliant idea! - Black and White Wednesday, which focuses on black and white culinary photos.

Now, this is fun and challenging.

During the past few days, I finally had the chance to go through some of my photos in the archive. Two of my favourite shots in Hanoi are here for your viewing pleasure. I edited the tone in the early photography style, since I remember seeing a lot of old photos from Hanoi back in that era.

Pic #1 - Luong Van Can Street. Food Stalls selling fresh wonton wrappers, pastry

Hanoi Old Quarter.

Pic #2 - The old gate. I was wandering with Mr. B to find a famous cafe which turned out to be closed during the holiday period. (Never mind, I got this instead!)

(Okay, a bit of emotional message here. But you know this is the old Hanoi that I miss. I love the city to pieces, so much that Hanoi becomes a character for my wedding album. But I feel disconnected with its newer, more modern side. There is a selfish side of me which wants to hold on these memories of "my Hanoi" forever. Ahh. The sentiment)

The old gate


In the mood for steamboat (lẩu)

>> Sunday, July 10, 2011

{Delicious Vietnam #15}


I admire people who take great photos of restaurants, or “on location”. I try, but often fail quite badly since it is out of my comfort zone as a amateur photographer. This time, though, I am trying to capture one of my favourite Vietnamese meals! The photo quality isn’t the greatest, but I hope you are in for the experience.

This post is for Delicious Vietnam #15, hosted by Lan from Angry Asian creation.

The Vietnamese loves shared meal, and naturally steamboat (or hot pot or lẩu) is one of the most popular forms. The concept is simple but utterly delicious. The central of the table is a hot simmering pot of stock. In that pot of gently boiling soup, a variety of raw ingredients are cooked at the table. The food is steamy hot, and each diner can choose to enjoy the ingredients that they like.

Steamboat (lẩu) is a winning dish for winter and the laziest form of entertaining guests I know of. At our home, we use an induction cooker, which my mother brought me a few years ago all the way from Vietnam. As far as history goes, I remember eating steamboat on mini gas cookers. I always had a weird feeling that they might explode, but that never happened! My in-laws used to have an electric hotpot cooker but that took 10-15 minutes to get the stock to boil. No one would have the patience to wait around that long. Not me anyway.

A good steamboat meal starts with good preparation of the stock. Some people use plain water for it, but I always take time to make my stock a few hours in advance by simmering chicken bones with spices (star anise, cardamom etc.) and dried mushroom. The end result should be a light broth, which will be flavoured even more as we cook our raw ingredients at the table.

Now, onto the raw ingredient galore! We can do a theme for steamboat – chicken only, seafood only or a mixed one. At home I normally opt for the mix style steamboat since preparing single theme hotpot requires more work.


We normally have thinly sliced beef tenderloin, which i like to marinade with some fish sauce and pepper, fresh fish slice (marinaded with salt, pepper and dill), tofu pieces, beef stripe (!), calamari rings, prawns, fresh Asian mushrooms. Oh, and we love our greens! I will have at least two types of Asian greens available (Garland Chrysanthemum is a firm favourite). Of course, we also have some noodles and sauces on the side, too. The list is never fixed and the selection depends on the freshest ingredient I can find for the day.


As we invite our guests to the table and get the broth boiling, I add fresh pineapple pieces to the pot. They make the stock lightly sour, sweet and refreshing. A lady who has a steamboat restaurant in Hanoi once told me that pineapple is a secret ingredient in making good stock. She surely knows her trade!

Now, it’s ready to start a welcoming dinner that warms up our bodies and hearts...

But it’s never a bad idea to munch on home-made fried spring rolls first :).



My Mother's Tofu in Fresh Tomato Sauce (đậu sốt cà chua). A guest post on The Well-Seasoned Cook

>> Monday, July 04, 2011

Hello, how are we?
I am embracing in a four-week leave at the moment to recharge myself, and focus on writing off some existing projects. I haven't totally forgotten the blog world, but during this time, I am trying to limit my internet usage and care for some real life stuff :). Having said that, there are a couple of exciting projects coming. Stay tune!

The first project is my guest post for Susan from the Well-seasoned cook. I have known Susan through blogging for a very long time, and finally last year got a chance to meet her in person. What can I say, she's a sweetie who's always there to answer my queries :).

So, in celebration of My legume love affair, a blog event created by Susan, I have prepared a post about a simple Vietnamese dish that I loved - fried tofu braised in tomato sauce.There will be other guest posts on The well-seasoned cook during this month, too. Don't miss out!

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