This recipe is inspired by my grandma’s purple yam dessert. I don’t often eat dessert, but if I must have one, this is always my go-to dish. I remember as a kid, whenever I came to visit my grandparents, my grandma always gave me purple yam dessert. Needless to say, it’s on top of my favorite desserts list (when it comes to food, I find it hard to just pick a favorite dish :D).
Purple yam dessert originates from Hue, ancient capital of Vietnam from 1802 to 1945 under the Nguyen dynasty. You may by now notice that my last name is Nguyen but no I don’t come from a royal bloodline, much to my dreamy 8 year-old self’s disappointment. I always find the difference with last name between Western and Eastern cultures interesting. In Western culture, the last name is different from one family to another and if two people have the same last name, often time it’s because they’re related. Whereas in Eastern culture, lots of people have the same last name and they’re not related at all even if you try to trace back the family line to their ancestors. This widespread common last name phenomenal leads to some funny (and not funny) confusion about who is who as occasionally 2 or more persons can have the same last name, first and middle name. In France, I once had a colleague with the same last name as mine and at first meeting people always ask me: “Are you related?” which always leads to a fun discussion about how many Nguyen there are. So next time you meet two Vietnamese with the same last name, just assume they’re not related ;). Now, let’s get back to our sweet dessert.
As I was saying the purple yam dessert comes from Hue. My grandma was born and raised there, so no wonder she made such wonderful dessert. The purple yam dessert is one variation of che, a Vietnamese sweet dessert which is made from all kinds of vegetables, fruits, beans and even seeds. Depends on the ingredients, che can have the consistency of soup, honey or even pudding. The purple yam dessert has the thick consistency of pudding and takes the shape of the mold when it’s cooled down.
It’s the same for this purple sweet potato dessert. It may look like your pumpkin soup at first, albeit a bit thicker, but when it has time to cool down, it becomes creamy thick and goes so well with the coconut milk garnish.
The dessert is quite simple with few ingredients. There won’t be much cooking time either as the sweet potatoes don't take long to be cooked. The dish is built in layers: you get a thick layer of creamy seductive purple sweet potato and then condensed sweet and salty coconut milk as garnish. To finish off the dessert, you can sprinkle on roasted sesame seeds or just stir tapioca pearls in coconut milk before garnishing.
The sweet potato dessert has a creamy texture from sweet potato and coconut milk. Take advantage of the natural sweetness of purple sweet potato and you don’t even need to add sugar. The coconut milk has a consistency of ganache because of kudzu root starch (hello secret ingredient!). It should taste salty sweet. Have you ever had a dessert so sweet that the aftertaste just stuck to the root of your tongue and can’t be washed away with water? Avoid that by adding a little bit of salt when you make this coconut milk garnish. Coconut milk for che must not taste too sweet but a bit salty to provide contrast to the main component. This dessert can be enjoyed in winter as well as summer. I will explain how you can alter the taste just by adding 1 component. Now without any further delay, let’s get to our recipe!
Ingredients: (4 servings)
- 430 gr purple sweet potatoes
- 250 ml coconut milk
- 2 tblspoons of white sugar
- 1 pinch of salt
- 1 tblspoon of kudzu root starch (or 1 ½ tblspoons of corn starch/tapioca powder)
Optional ingredients: roasted sesame seeds or tapioca pearls which you can find at Asian stores
Peel and wash the sweet potatoes then steam them for 15 minutes or until cooked through. You can steam the sweet potatoes and peel them after. I find it a bit messy so I prefer to peel them first. To test if the sweet potatoes are cooked, you can thrust a chopstick through them. If the chopstick comes through easily, it means they’re ready for the next step.
In a blender, pour in 100 ml coconut milk and add the cooked sweet potatoes. Blend well until you obtain a thick creamy mixture. Transfer it into a pot and stir constantly on medium – low heat for 5 minutes.
Pour the mixture into small serving bowls or molds. Leave them to cool down in room temperature then serve with coconut milk or keep them in the fridge for up to 3 days.
To make the coconut milk garnish, put the rest of it in a pot, add 150 ml of water, 1 pinch of salt and 2 tblspoons of sugar to stir on medium – high heat until boiling. When it starts boiling, reduce the heat to medium and keep stirring until the sugar completely dissolves.
At the same time use 50 ml of water to dissolve 1 tblspoon of kudzu root starch or corn starch/tapioca powder. Gently pour this milky mixture into the coconut milk and stir. The heat will thicken the starch and that’s why you need to stir well to distribute the starch evenly. Now the work is done, take the coconut milk off the heat.
To serve the dessert in cold weather, garnish the warm coconut milk on top of the cooled down sweet potato purée, sprinkle on roasted sesame seeds and enjoy when it’s still warm. It is quite hearty and a small portion can keep you full for a long time.
In summer, you can still eat the sweet potatoes dessert with coconut milk. However we will make it fresher by keeping the small bowls/molds into the fridge to enjoy at leisure, you can keep the coconut milk in the fridge too or just make it before you need to serve the dish. When it’s time to serve, take the sweet potato purée out the bowl and put it in a big glass. Next add coconut milk then a generous amount of grated ice. You may want to substitute the roasted sesame seeds for tapioca pearls as sesame seeds are better served with warm desserts. To eat this layered dessert, use a spoon to mix all the components together and smash the thick purée until everything is well mixed. Your spoonful should contain all the tastes from sweet potato to coconut milk and fresh grated ice. In summer the dessert is made so that it’s less sweet but if you prefer a sweeter version, you can adjust the amount of water in the purée or add sugar to your taste.
Enjoy the week-end!
Crumble...crumble...my little winter star...One cannot imagine a wind-howling winter evening by the fire and a cup of tea without at least a crumble....per winter month. Here I am proposing my secret bloody crumble recipe, taking merely 10 minutes to prepare and the rest...is oven magic and a symphony of sweet, sour, crispy, juicy.
What you need:
450g red berries, frozen (or canned or fresh). I used a mixture of: strawberries, blackberries, blackcurrants, redcurrants, raspberries, blueberries.
225g brown sugar
100g muesli (with oat, dried fruits and seeds)
a pinch of salt
Preheat the oven at 220C.
In a bowl, mix 125g brown sugar with the flour, salt and sliced butter, with your fingers, until achieving a breadcrumb texture (see above photo).
Add the muesli and mix it in.
Layer the fruits in a deep ovenproof dish (around 5 cm deep), to cover 2/3 of the dish. Make a dense layer, for the crumble dough to not reach the bottom. This particular crumble will produce more liquid and during cooking, the juice will come to the surface of the crumble. I don't mind this, on the contrary, I like its juiciness, but if you want to prevent that, use just half of the berry quantity.
Sprinkle the fruits with the rest of the sugar, evenly.
Flatten the crumble dough over the berries. You can use a fork to carve the surface slightly, for a crispier result.
Bake in the oven at 220C for about 50 minutes, until crispy golden.
Serve with ricotta.
Enjoy your winter evenings, wherever you are!
Today let’s do a vegetable dish, shall we? For the new year’s resolution list, I did remind myself to eat more vegetables as I often forget to do a vegetable side-dish to go with my meaty main course. Sometimes I do remember but am too lazy to prepare them. Well, no more excuses. This year will be all about healthy dishes.
To incorporate more vegetables, I think stir-fry is the best approach. Firstly, it doesn’t take much time to prepare and to cook which is a must for busy folks and secondly it preserves most of the vegetables’ flavor and nutrition to make the dish so tasty. I prefer leafy greens soup too but to savor the natural sweetness of vegetables, I’d opt for stir-fry dish any day.
This stir-fry dish is inspired by Vietnamese vegetarian stir-fried rice noodles dish which is a street food of Hochiminh city. It is sold mostly in the morning to serve as breakfast for students as it isn’t costly yet keeps the stomach full for hours. And since Hochiminh city’s weather is warm throughout the year, there’s no need for heavy hearty breakfasts but a refreshing, delicately flavored dish like this one is optimal. And that’s what we’re aiming for with this dish. I make some twerks with the ingredients by adding more healthy ingredients and ditching the deep-fried tofu. We also will replace the rice noodles with sweet potato noodles. If you read my stir-fried beef noodles recipe, you’d know I’m obsessed with sweet potato noodles. They’re so easy to cook, so healthy to eat that I choose these noodles to begin the new year with. Alright, enough with the rambling, let’s get to the recipe then.
Ingredients (2 light dinner servings):
For the main dish
- 150 gr sweet potato noodles (soaked in cold water for 10 minutes or not)
- 3 dried shiitake mushrooms (soaked in warm water for 15 minutes or more until softened, dried off excess water and sliced thinly)
- 80 gr carrot or 2/3 of a medium carrot (cut into long stripes of 5 cm)
- 100 gr mung bean sprouts
- 150 gr choi sum or bok choy or any leafy green of your choice (cut into long stripes of 5 cm)
- 2 eggs (egg yolk and egg white separated)
- 3 spring onion’s heads (diced) OR ¼ of an onion (sliced thinly)
- 1 handful of roasted peanuts or cashew nuts, slightly grounded
- 50 gr mushrooms of your choice, I use straw mushrooms this time (cut in half)
- 1 handful of coriander (roughly chopped / optional)
- Extra virgin olive oil
- Soy sauce
For the sauce (to serve with the dish if needed)
- Soy sauce
- Lime juice or apple cider vinegar
- Half of a red chili (optional)
To make the sauce, combine 3 tblspoons of soy sauce, 3 tblspoons of water, 1 tblspoon of sugar and 1 tblspoon of lime juice or 1 and 1/2 tblspoons of apple cider vinegar. Add thin slices of chili for a pop of spiciness.
You can find my notes for stir-fried dish with my beef stir-fried noodles here.
The purpose of my stir-fried vegetables dish is to be creative. So you can experiment with different vegetables to discover which texture, flavor and color speak to you. And above all, stay healthy and eat lots of veggies!
Greetings friends! We’re here, at the beginning of 2018!!! I don’t know about you but to me 2017 flew pass so fast I didn’t even have time to settle in. It feels like I just closed my eyes and then the year was gone. No matter how unnerved or excited I am about this challenging/exciting year of 2018, let’s celebrate it with fruit jelly! This is an easy and colorful dessert that is perfect for the holiday or any celebration. Last week Zazulete bravely showcased a fruit pavlova recipe, if you haven’t seen her recipe, check it out here.
Today we also use lots of colorful fruits to fill our party plates but with an Asian flair from agar agar powder. Agar agar powder is made from algae seaweed and used in cooking will give a thickening, jelly-like effect similar to gelatin. It has no color, no taste and no smell which make it one of the most versatile ingredients for desserts. It is also free from calories, sugar and carbohydrate, THAT sounds seductive right? Vietnamese use agar agar powder to make jelly in the summer as it is reputed to reduce inflammation. I know we’re about to enter deep winter not summer, but with all those heavy dishes that we consumed in the past days, this dessert will be extremely beneficial to restore your inflamed organs :).
To make this dessert, it is quite simple. Choose the fruits that you like, I recommend a combination of sweet and sour fruits with different colors to make this dish shine. As for the agar agar powder, we only need fruit juice to dissolve it with. For this recipe, I also add a layer of coconut milk jelly and another one from rooibos and hibiscus tea. I use rooibos tea for its headaches and insomnia relief, hibiscus for its effect on inflammation and digestive problems. Yes we go all out on blasting inflammation. Also these two teas have a beautiful clear red color that I love to add to this recipe. As for coconut milk, why do I use it? Well when it comes to agar agar jelly, coconut milk is the best. The jelly will have a white color with rich flavor, to contrast with the fruitdies. We’ll make some experiments with this so stay tuned!
- 1 sachet of agar agar powder
- Half of 1 ripe mango, about 50 gr (cut into small cubes)
- 1 handful of cranberries
- 1 kiwi (cut into small cubes)
- 1 part of Korean pear, about 50 gr (cut into small cubes)
- Half of 1 kaki/persimmon, about 50 gr (cut into small cubes)
- 50 gr coconut milk
- 1 tblspoon of condensed milk
- 200 ml rooibos and hibiscus tea
- 400 ml pear juice
Prepare the red tea in advance, warm up water and infuse rooibos and hibiscus to make red tea. When the tea cools down to room temperature we can start making fruits agar agar jelly.
- First layer: the fruits jelly
First in a small pot, dissolve 3 teaspoons of agar agar powder with 100 ml of water and 400 ml of pear juice, stir to dissolve the powder well. Put the pot on medium heat and keep stirring until the powder is completely dissolved. That means you no longer see any powder molecule left on your stirring spoon. Add 2 full teaspoons sugar and stir again. (We do a lot of stirring for this recipe). Let the mixture boil for 2 minutes, keep stirring all this time, then take off the heat. Now pour a bit of the mixture into a mold that you like (a round mold will have a cake effect, a square mold will produce cute cubes).
Now wait for the first layer to cool off a bit before placing the fruit cubes into the mold. Distribute all the fruits and mix the color well. When your art work is done, pour in the rest of the agar agar mixture and set the mold aside. (You can put it in the fridge for it to set faster).
- Second layer: red tea
Stir in 1 tspoon of agar agar powder into 250 ml of red tea that we prepared in advance. Repeat the former step we did for the fruit jelly, only that this time we just pour the mixture into the mold without adding any fruit in it. Use 2 tspoons of sugar or more because the hibiscus tea is quite sour.
- Third layer: coconut milk
Again we do a similar step as above, but the coconut milk is quite thick, so add 100 ml of water to lighten it with a pinch of salt. Also add the condensed milk and stir on medium heat. Repeat the first step and pour the mixture into the mold when the second layer is set and firm.
And that’s that. This jelly can be stored for up to 3 days in fridge so you can make it in advance without stressing. When it's time to serve the dessert, put the whole mold in a bit of hot water, run the point of the knife through the edges of the jelly to separate it from the mold. Turn the mold over the serving dish, knock gently on the mold if needed for the jelly to slide down. Cut the jelly into cubes or slices.
The amount of fruits and sugar is subjective, so use more or less to suit your taste.
Let the first layer set in the fridge for 20 minutes, the 2nd and 3rd layers only need 10 minutes each.
The red tea jelly takes like fruit syrup jelly. The sourness of hibiscus tea couples with the red fruits taste of rooibos give this jelly a unique flavor.
The agar agar powder doesn’t have the consistency of gelatin and so the jelly is quite thick, not creamy. It has a fresh taste with busty flavors from sweet and sour fruits. Doesn’t it look uplifting and exciting?
Cover photo: Thao Uyen
A melting pot experience, in more than one way. Welcome to our Epicurean adventure!