99% sure I get it from my mom, but I’m a control freak. A huge benefit I like with home cooking is control. You can control everything: the process, timing, ingredient proportions, quality of ingredients, cleanliness. Everything. I love eating out at restaurants, but control over all the little details pulls me back into cooking at home, just like with this dessert recipe.
Che bap is a Vietnamese dessert, and (almost) a one pot wonder, so it is incredibly simple to make on the stove. This one features lots of flavors I like in a single dessert: corn, pandan, and rich coconut cream. This recipe makes enough to split into eight small bowls, but it easily scales up too. You can prepare this ahead of time, and reheat quickly for a tasty after dinner snack too!
The glutinous rice (please do not use regular rice!) provides the backbone, the bulk, the texture for this sweet dessert. Cook it too much and you’ll have soup, too little and you’ll have starchy, crunchy grains. No good.
Ratio-wise, good ol’ corn on the cob comes in second but is what the dessert is named after. Get some in-season corn that’s naturally sweet and you’ll add a much better flavor to this dish, instead of trying to compensate with sugar.
I’ve harped on the wonderful aroma and flavor of using real pandan leaves before in my recipes for banh kep (pandan pizzells), pandan sticky rice, and che choui (banana, coconut & tapioca dessert). This recipe also highlights the leaves wonderfully.
Get fresh leaves when you can, but more often you’ll be able to find good quality ones in the freezer section of your southeast Asian supermarket. It takes way too many leaves to get a green color dark enough so we do cheat a little with a drop or two of artificial pandan leaf extract.
If you’ve been to Vietnamese desserts shops you may have seen this dessert too, but it is typically clear and not green, with yellow corn, but rest assured it is the same dessert and it will be much better made fresh!
This recipe makes about 7-8 small bowls for you to share, or keep in the fridge and enjoy for about five days max. Make sure not to add the coconut cream topping until you’re ready to serve! I like keeping it a bit on the side so you can vary the proportions per bite, and the flavors remain a bit distinct vs. just mixing it all.
Vietnamese Corn & Pandan Rice Pudding - Chè Bắp Lá Dứa
- 12 pandan leaves washed & scrubbed thoroughly (set aside 2 leaves for later)
- 1 cup water
- 2/3 cup glutinous rice rinsed and drained
- 3 cups water
- 1/2 tsp salt
- 500 grams yellow corn kernels raw (~2-3 cups)
- 100 grams sugar
- 200 ml coconut cream ~1/2 can
- 1 tsp vanilla extract or powder
- 2 pandan leaves tied into 2-3" long knots
- 1 tbsp tapioca or corn starch
- 2 tbsp water
Coconut Cream Topping
- 200 ml coconut cream remaining ~1/2 can
- 2 tbsp sugar
- 1/3 tsp salt
- 2 tbsp tapioca or corn starch
- 2 tbsp vanilla extract or powder
- Thoroughly wash and scrub pandan leaves, then blend with 1 cup water until very finely blended. Strain and add pandan water into a thick, medium sized pot.
- Add remaining Rice ingredients, bring to a boil on high, then lower heat to medium low and cover with a lid to maintain a low boil. Cook for 15-20 minutes until glutinous rice is cooked all the way through, and no longer powdery or tough (test by eating a grain, or smashing a grain between your fingers). We want to aim for fully cooked past 'al dente' but not as soft as rice porridge. Stir the pot only once at the ~9 minute mark since stirring too often will release too much starch.
- Add all 'Supporting Cast' ingredients, turn heat to high and bring to a boil. Once it hits a boil, lower to medium to maintain a low boil for ~10 minutes until the corn is fully cooked.
- In a small bowl mix Thickener ingredients until fully combined, then add to the pot. Turn heat to high and continuously stir. When it hits a boil shut the heat off. This step is optional based on your thickness preference (or how much starch from the rice was released)--you can scale up or down as needed, but note that thickening properties of the starch don't take effect until after this hits a boil.
- Using a small sauce pan, combine Coconut Cream Topping ingredients and heat on high continuously stirring. When it hits a boil, shut the heat off. Keep a lid on this afterwards until ready to serve to prevent the top layer from thickening.