Chè đỗ đen – Black bean soup
It’s really not possible to translate chè, and best to describe what it is. It is a very liquid compote which comes in many variations. Generally, black beans served with sugar feature strongly but, really, there are countless varieties which you will come across at the street vendor stalls in Vietnam where they have them on tap in every color and in huge bowls. You can eat chè warm or with ice cubes, from a bowl or in a glass served with a straw. The Vietnamese love it as a dessert or a snack in-between.
200g black beans
1 fresh coconut or 1 can (250ml) coconut milk
200g freshly grated coconut
Soak the black beans overnight in slightly salted water. Drain the soaking water. Add beans to a pot with 200ml cold water, add another pinch of salt, bring to the boil, and cook for about 1 hour until soft.
In the meantime, preheat the oven to 350° F. Use a hammer and a screwdriver to open up the “eyes” of the coconut. Pour off the liquid inside. Put the coconut into the oven and let sit for 20 minutes. Remove from the oven. Wrap coconut in kitchen cloth and use a hammer to remove the outer shell. Now open the coconut and remove the coconut meat. Keep 1/3 of the meat, puree the rest with around 500ml water in a mixer. Prepare a sieve by lining a big sieve with a fresh kitchen towel and sit it over a pot. Pour the coconut liquid into the sieve. Wring the kitchen towel thoroughly to extract all the coconut milk from the coconut meat.
Now heat the liquid in the pot and reduce it by half over small heat. Grate the coconut meat.
Alternatively, use ready-made coconut milk and freshly grated coconut.
Once the beans are soft, drain them but keep the cooking liquid. Add the sugar to the cooking liquid and give it a brief boil to make the sugar dissolve.
Spoon 2tbsp beans into a tall glass, add ice cubes, fill up with cooking liquid and coconut milk and served with grated coconut and a wide straw.