Updated: Sep 26, 2020
In Chapter 4, Hedda Hieu talks about purchasing hella cups of chè. Any of us can agree that we’d buy multiple cups of chè too. That’s how much we all enjoy eating this Vietnamese dessert.
Che is a Vietnamese dessert that can have a soup or pudding-like texture and with ingredients such as beans, tapioca, and various fruits. While there are many types of Vietnamese chè, and some Viet-American fusion ones too, here is a short list of our favorites that we’ve had growing up.
Hương's favorite: Chè Bắp (Sweet Corn Pudding)
As a child, when it came time to make chè bap, I was so excited both to eat it and watch how all the corn kennels fell off the cob as Me took confident strokes of the knife down the sides. She didn’t let me do it myself because I was so young and the cobs were so tough that it could be difficult to slice at times. Instead I was allowed to scrape the edges with a spoon after she got the kennels. I’m not sure she used any of the products I created. By the time I was in middle school, I was allowed to officially become a sous chef and assist in slicing the kennels.
Ingredients: Corn, Mung Bean, Tapioca, Coconut Milk
Texture: Pudding like (due to tapioca)
How to eat it: Warm or chilled. That’s why it’s perfect in any season!
Karin Hạnh's favorite: Chè Bánh Lọt (Pandan Jelly Dessert)
I used to think Mẹ was eating worms when I saw this dessert. Literally meaning “fallen cake”, chè bánh lọt is literally made from fallen batter. The pandan mung bean batter is pushed through a potato ricer and “falls” into cold water to make these “jelly worms”. Mẹ has always purchased this at a store and I was always fascinated by the odd texture and the way it looked in a cup. It just looked cool. And turns out, I like eating jelly worms. There’s something about the slimy and squiggly jellies on a spoon that makes it a bit more fun and enjoyable.
Ingredients: Rice Flour, Mung Bean Flour, Pandan, Coconut Milk
How to eat it: Enjoy at room temperature or cold with some ice cubes stirred in. To prepare, add jelly into a glass and scoop 3-4 spoonfuls of sweet coconut cream on top. Perfect dessert on a warm summer day!
*Google Search Photo
Hedda Hiếu's favorite: Chè Thái (Fruit Cocktail)
It’s not so much my favorite because of the taste, but my favorite more so because of the memories I have in learning to make this dessert. When Ba Ngoại had passed away, we lost our family matriarch and family cook. Cậu Dương, her eldest son and my uncle, spent every Saturday with my siblings to teach us how to make various Vietnamese dishes. Of course, we had to earn our food and that meant both playing a game of tennis (which he always won against all 3 of us sisters) and then actually shopping for the ingredients. So imagine after 60 minutes of running around, losing several sets of a tennis match, and collecting tennis balls because we lost, we finally got a sweet coconut dessert that was both hydrating and soothing, after losing so many matches.
Ingredients: Nhãn (logan), Mít (jackfruit), Grass Jelly, Coconut Jelly, and Coconut Milk (or half and half/whole milk)
Texture: Soup-like and textured with the different fruits and jellies
How to eat it: Chilled. If you have shaved ice, this is the best addition.
Ben Hoàng's favorite: Chè Ba Màu (Three Color Dessert)
In 6th grade, I was really interested in learning to cook and bake, often researching recipes or watching videos online. Happily, Mẹ supported my interest by buying ingredients and making the recipes with me. One of the first recipes we prepared together was chè ba màu -- that is, if you define together as Mẹ doing work while I read her the instructions. At one point, I was in charge of adding the sugar to each layer so I took the liberty to sneak in a couple more spoonfuls, just to make sure every part of the chè was going to be sweet :). Overall, I really love how colorful this dessert is and I think it is an easy dish to prepare and share with friends and family!
Ingredients: Red Kidney Beans, Mung Beans, Pandan
Texture: Mixed. It’s a very textured dessert with soft mung bean and red bean and the bouncy jelly.
How to eat it: Cold, great for summer!
Growing Up Nguyễn is a story of four siblings holding onto our identity while fulfilling our parents’ dreams: the blessings and challenges of being Nguyễn in America.