Why It Works
- Aromatic pandan leaves complement the banana and canopy the much less contemporary style widespread to canned coconut milk.
- Pisang awak bananas have a fragile sweetness and mellow tang that add layers of taste to the soup.
Each few months or so, my mother and father obtain a care bundle from my aunts and uncles, who dwell in Bến Tre, a province about three hours southwest of Ho Chi Minh Metropolis. The large burlap sack they ship is overflowing with seasonal fruits from their backyard, like coconut, lime, banana, mango, and longan, in addition to mushrooms and wild greens that they forage. “You by no means discover such great things within the metropolis,” my aunt says. What will we do with this bounty of bananas and coconut? We make chè chuối, a candy soup of bananas and tapioca pearls simmered in coconut milk.
Chuối means banana, and chè is the generic Vietnamese time period for candy soups, which embody an enormous world of saucy and soupy treats comprised of fruits, legumes, tubers, and different native produce. The interpretation “soup” is incomplete although–some chè, like chè sen (lotus seed chè), are mild and refreshing; some, like chè bắp (corn chè) have a pudding-like consistency; and a few, just like the chè chuối featured right here, fall into the wealthy and creamy class. Most chè are one-pot fare with fewer than 5 substances, however you too can discover extra sophisticated ones that contain a bit bit extra finesse and time, like chè trôi nước, rice balls in gingery syrup, usually a celebratory deal with.
Like many forms of chè from southern Vietnam, the bottom for chè chuối is coconut milk, which I like to infuse with the brilliant grassy perfume of pandan leaves, a preferred flavoring in Southeast Asian cuisines. I tie the leaves right into a compact knot, let it simmer within the soup, after which fish it out to discard on the finish. If you cannot discover pandan, you’ll be able to substitute with vanilla extract. It is essential to make use of one or the opposite, as these fragrant substances not solely add an important perfume but additionally assist counter the tinny style that generally comes with canned coconut milk.
In Vietnam, chè chuối is all the time made with chuối xiêm (or chuối sứ), a banana cultivar often known as pisang awak and recognized by its brief and stout form. In comparison with the widespread Cavendish bananas bought in most North American markets, pisang awak have a extra delicate sweetness, punctuated by a mellow tang that provides one other dimension to an in any other case candy soup. Pisang awak bananas are additionally utilized in savory soups and curries. Most frequently, you’ll discover them within the frozen part in Asian grocery shops (I’ve but to see contemporary ones the place I dwell). They might really feel mushy upon defrosting, however relaxation assured, they will stand up to the cooking, and even a number of rounds of reheating, with out breaking down the best way a Cavendish banana would.
Though not preferrred, plantains could be substituted on this candy soup with some modifications. Ripe plantains (with black spots on their skins) will provide you with the closest texture, however their taste is far milder. To attract out their sweetness, I macerate them in sugar earlier than including them to the coconut milk. I additionally examined this recipe with Cavendish bananas, which I don’t suggest right here. Whereas they’re aromatic and candy, they collapse and switch to mush shortly within the scorching soup.
Go to a random chè vendor in Vietnam and chances are high you’ll see chè chuối on the menu. Wealthy, creamy, and solely mildly candy, it’s interesting as each a pleasant snack when you’re craving one thing candy and a heady dessert to cap off a meal. It’s greatest served scorching or heat, garnished with crushed roasted peanuts for a textural distinction.