Chè chuối: Banana Sago in Coconut Milk

che chuoi banana sago

 

Dearest Readers:  I am sorry for such a long absent, but I am back.  Will try to post more regularly now that I am getting back into the groove. :)

Sometimes markets like to do some quick sales.  In my recently trip to our local Asian market, I found a bag of one pound very ripe baby bananas for 99 cents.  Bananas covered in lots brown spots but no damages;  it was perfect to make banana dessert!  Che Chuoi is a much loved, traditional Vietnamese dessert of bananas cooked with tapioca pearls (sago), coconut milk, and fragrant with pandan leaves.  This dessert has the crunch from the roasted peanuts, the richness from coconut milk, the sweetness from bananas, and a hint of saltiness to enhance the flavors.  If you refrigerate it overnight, it makes a refreshing tropical pudding.

Note: *the amount of bananas use is according to your preference, but use at least 7 regular bananas.
  • 12-15  baby bananas or 8-10 regular bananas*  diagonally sliced 1/2 inch thick
  • 112 g (2/3 cup)  tapioca pearls (sago)
  • 1,000 ml (4 cups) coconut milk (I used Aroy-D brand because it doesn’t have preservatives)
  • 100 g (1/2 cup)  sugar
  • 2 g (1/2 teaspoon) sea salt
  • 4 stalks   pandan leaves (optional) (use green parts, frozen or fresh or 1/2 teaspoon vanilla or pandan extract)

Peanut topping:

  • 110 grams (3/4 cup)  roasted peanuts
  • 16 grams (1 tablespoon) sugar
  • 2 grams (1/2 teaspoon) sea salt

Bring 2/3 pot of water (medium pot) to to a boil, add in tapioca pearls. Let it cook until translucent. drain, rinse in cold water and set aside.In a large pot, add in coconut milk, 1/2 cup sugar, 1/2 teaspoon sea salt, and pandan leaves. (If using extract, wait until the end of cooking) Bring it to a boil and then simmers in low heat for 5 minutes.

Add to the pot of coconut mixture,  sliced bananas and let it simmer for several minutes. Then add in the tapioca pearls. Continue to simmer for 1 minute. Stir constantly to prevent pearls from sticking to the bottom. (If you are using extract instead of pandan leaves, add it in now). Remove pot from heat.  As the dessert cools down, make peanut topping.

Make peanut topping:

I find using brown lunch (paper) bag for this next task works better, but you can use a ziplock.  Put roasted peanuts into the bag.  Make sure the nuts are spread evenly in a layer.  Fold the opening and hold that end, but be careful when smashing peanuts. Hold the rolling-pin like a paddle and pound on the peanuts to crush into small bits. You may want to shake the bag up and spread nuts out evenly in between poundings.  Mix in sea salt and sugar. Close the bag again and shake to mix. (Adjust sugar and salt to your liking)

This dessert can be served warm or cold.  Just  garnish with peanut topping right before serving.
Enjoy!

Almond Cookies

Chinese almond cookies

新年快樂! ( Xin Nian Kuai Le!)  Happy New Year!

Let’s begin the year of the horse with a sweet recipe like almond cookies!  I love almond cookies.  It is not impossible to eat a whole box of almond cookies in one afternoon if I can just pretend that there is no consequence. :)  So instead of finding ways to get around it, I have chosen to focus on the how-to bake almond cookies, and it’s a perfect time.  When our friends and families drop by during 15 days of Chinese New Year celebration (January 31st to February 14th), I will serve these homemade almond cookies with barley tea.

I stopped buying almond cookies in the pink box because of the additives or preservatives in those cookies for longer shelf life.  This explain why I was so happy when I stumbled upon Table For Two  post’s on almond cookies.  It’s an easy recipe with pictures that look yummy enough to take a bite!

 As always, I tweaked the recipe a little: reduced the original sugar amounts whenever possible.  Instead of almond flour I used  ground almond meal because I have it in my pantry, and ground almond meal is less expensive.  I creamed the butter to fluffily before adding in other ingredients when I make cookies.  The result was light, chewy-centered, and crunchy over-all almond cookies. (They kind of remind me of Italian almond cookies, ricciarelli).  They had good texture and tasted great even though, they did not have the golden color as Table For Two. (Next time I will try one egg plus a yolk for egg wash to see if I can achieve the golden color).  So without further adieu, here the recipe. 

Ingredients:

  • 160 grams (1 1/3 cup)  ground almond meal
  • 226 grams (1 cup) cold butter, cut into thin slices   ( I left the butter at room temperature for 5 minutes before using)
  • 2 eggs (1 to use for egg wash)
  • 1 1/4 teaspoons almond extract
  • 218 grams (1 3/4 cup) all-purpose flour
  • 200 grams (slightly less than 1 cup) sugar-in-the-raw
  • 1/2 teaspoon baking soda
  • 1 pinch of sea salt
Directions:
Preheat oven to 325 °F (162 °C)
To make cookie dough:
  1. In a medium mixing bowl, whisk together all-purpose flour, sugar, and baking soda.  Set aside.
  2. Add all the slices of butter into a standing mixer, using the paddle attachment beat the butter on low speed until it is fluffy.
  3. Add in the almond flour and salt into the butter.  On low-speed, mix them into the butter to just blend.  It will look coarse.
  4. Add in one egg, and almond extract into the almond-butter mixture until ingredients just come together.
  5. Add to the egg mixture, the dry ingredients (from step 1). Mix ingredients together until just blend.  (don’t over mix to avoid hard cookies)
  6. Transfer the mixed cookie dough onto a slightly flour table top.  Roll the cookie dough into a round ball and then gently flatten it with your hand into a disk.  Wrap the disk with wax paper or saran wrap and refrigerate for 6 hours (Table For Two instructed 2 hours).

To form cookies:

  1. Remove the chilled cookie dough from the refrigerator and leave it at room temperature for 10-15 minutes before baking.
  2. Using a 1-teaspoon scoop scoop a spoonful of cookie dough without leveling the spoon (roughly about 20 grams). Roll the dough into a ball.   Gently flatten the dough slightly, and place on baking sheet.  Set each cookies dough 1 inch apart.
  3. Using the back of a 1/4 teaspoon, press onto the center of the cookie dough to make a small groove.
  4. Gently press in a sliver of almond into the groove.

To Bake:

  1. Whisk an egg in a small bowl.  Dip the pastry brush into the egg mixture then gently brush the tops of unbaked cookies.
  2. Place the baking sheet into the middle of oven.
  3. Bake for 18 minutes.  When done, remove from oven and transfer cookies to cooling rack.  Let cool and store in tight lid cookie jar for up to a week. (It’s so good that you may not have any left to store!)

So let’s say good-bye to the additives laden cookies, and bake yourself and your family a batch of this light, chewy, crispy almond cookies.  Nothing taste as good as freshly home baked cookies just-out-off-the-oven.  One bite and you will understand why I can eat the whole jar of cookies in one afternoon.

Happy Baking!

:)