Sticky Rice Pudding with Black-eyed Peas
Heading off to college, the thought of missing home-cooking never occurred to me until after about a month of eating the same old cafeteria food (which, might I add, still isn’t very good to begin with). Before too long, I was already suffering through the monotony that was mass-produced “food” and desperately missing some of my favorite home-cooked meals.
I endured it my freshmen year when difficult access to a kitchen made it inconvenient to cook at all (all freshmen are required to have meal plans at my college so kitchens were not top priorities in freshmen dorms). As soon as I had access to a comfortable kitchen however, I immediately started attempting to recreate a lot of my favorite dishes from home. I’m glad to say that meal plans these days are a faraway memory.
While this classic Vietnamese dessert wasn’t the first thing I attempted away from home nor is it my most favorite (although it’s close!), it has been thus far my most exciting accomplishment. I’ve always found Vietnamese desserts to be so daunting to make as their delicately simple yet complex flavors often disguise their easy preparation. Needless to say, I was quite pleased by how well this recipe turned out to be for how easy it was to make.
It is hard to convey the concept of chè to someone who didn’t grow up eating it. While it definitely refers to desserts, the nomenclature doesn’t necessarily denote a specific dish but rather refers to a type of dessert. Just like the word “pastry” can include anything from tarts to pies to even certain types of bread, chè can range from fresh fruits to rice to beans and even to grass jelly.
This particular chè, called chè đậu trắng, is a combination of glutinous or sticky rice, coconut milk, and black-eyed peas (đậu trắng). It is cooked all in one pot and the only other ingredients are sugar, water, and a dash of vanilla extract. It is a completely traditional in all Vietnamese cuisines and very common at parties and celebrations as it is such a universal crowd-pleaser.
Its flavors carry distinct notes of the creamy coconut milk, wherein the sticky rice and peas simmer until the dessert is done. The black-eyed peas add textural relief against the pudding-like texture of the rice while adding a delightfully nutty taste at the same time. As comforting as it is delicious, this chè can stand alone as a snack or complement the end of any meal.
Vietnamese Rice Pudding with Black-eyed Peas
1/2 cup of black-eyed peas, soaked overnight & drained
2 cups of water
1 cup of glutinous rice, uncooked
1/2 cup sugar
1 can of coconut milk, 10.5 ounces
1/4 teaspoon vanilla extract
1. Soak 1/2 cup of black eyed-peas over night and drain. Over medium-high heat, simmer peas with 2 cups of water for about 30 minutes.
2. After black-eyed peas have softened, add the glutinous rice, sugar, coconut milk, and vanilla extract. Cook covered for about 45 minutes over medium-low heat until the rice is done, stirring occasionally.
3. Serve warm with a drizzle of coconut milk on top.
I loosely followed the recipe found here for this dessert, adding an extra ingredient, vanilla extract. I like my chè’s consistency a little bit on the thick side so I used a little less coconut milk.
Actually, my family serves it with the coconut milk on the side so depending on how much you choose to add, you can easily adjust the consistency to your own tastes. A garnish of crushed toasted peanuts sprinkled on top is also another traditional way of serving this and many other Vietnamese desserts.