Under pearly grey clouds and surrounding forests of evergreen trees to shield it from the relentless drizzling rain, sits quaint little Portland. Portland was a story book escape from my little warm desert that has close to the same humidity as the moon. With the most independent restaurant per capita than any large city (and also strip clubs apparently), Portland has become grown a spotlight in the ravenous foodie world. What draws many chefs to the area is not only the quirkiness of its residents, but also the availability of fresh foods. How many places can you go wild mushroom picking in the forest and fish for fresh salmon in your backyard AND still be able to have great bars, clubs and shopping (no sales tax sold me)?
In my foodie expedition in Portland, I was lucky enough to squeeze in some cooking! Our gracious Portland family friends love to eat…and cook, as well! I was able to learn my first che recipe during my stay. Che is a type Vietnamese dessert that is often syrupy or soupy in texture. It comes in many forms, but in general are often sweetened beans in various forms, and drizzled with coconut milk (mmm my favorite!). Typically, Asian desserts are refreshingly sweet, and not overtly like a European pastry or American cheesecake. Che is sweetened mostly by the natural sweetness of the beans, fruits, or coconut flavors rather than sugar.
This che I was taught is che bot bang, consisting of mung bean balls with a chewy tapioca outside and drench in coconut milk. This che is deliciously easy and also easy to eat if you are new to che.
Che Bot Bang – Tapioca Che
- 1 Pkg of Mung Bean
- 1 Pkg of small Tapioca pearls
- La dua/Pandan leaf bunch – folded into a bundle and tied with string
- 2 cans of coconut milk
- 3/4 Cup of Sugar
- 1 box of Rock Candy
- Sesame Seeds
- Vegetable oil
1. Soak mung beans in water for 5-6 hours (overnight works best).
2. Soak tapioca pearls in COLD water prior to cooking. Soak for about 15-20 min and drain.
3. In a medium saucepan, bring water and a good pinch of salt to boil. Add mung beans.
4. Foam will start to form in saucepan. Scoop and discard any foam and be cautious of over boil. Cook mung beans for about 15 minutes or until fully cooked (beans will be softened).
5. While waiting for your mung bean to cook, place your la dua/pandan leaf in a large pot. Add in 2 cans of coconut milk along with 2 cans of water. Place on med-low heat. When it starts to heat, bring it down to low.
6. Water should be absorbed by the beans by now – if not drain beans and return to pot. Add in 3/4 cup of sugar and mix well.
7. Take a masher and mash the beans well (will have a mashed potatoes consistency). Chill in freezer for about an hour or until chilled throughly.
8. Add the box of rock candy, and a dash of salt and sugar to your coconut milk mix. Let the rock candy dissolve on low heat (about 30-40 min). Keep on low heat. (Taste after rock candy is dissolved. If more sweetness is desired, add a LITTLE more sugar. It will be best to fix it at the end when you taste both the tapioca ball and milk together)
9. When mung bean is throughly chilled, take a small scoop and create golf sized balls.
10. Place a tiny bit of vegetable oil in your hand and roll a mung bean ball. Place in tapioca pearls and roll it – covering it throughly. Press the tapioca ball in your hand so that it is firmly placed – you don’t want them falling off!
11. After creating about 20-30 tapioca balls, brush your steamer with oil (so that the balls don’t stick) and steam for 7 minutes. The more space you leave between each ball, the easier it will be to pick it up later (balls can easily stick to the bottom and break easily when being picked up so be careful!!).
12. Place all cooked tapioca balls in the your coconut milk mix.
13. In a small pan, toast sesame seeds for about 5 minutes. Don’t let it burn!
14. Serve in small bowls with about 1-2 balls in each dish. Top with sesame seeds and serve immediately/hot. This is the best time to taste! If more sweetness is desired, add sugar until satisfied. Please note that che is often only slightly sweet, not overtly!
This post is dedicated to Auntie Trang who welcomed me into their home and allowed me to share this recipe with you.