Hanoi in autumn is the most beautiful in the whole year. It is also the time when the glutinous rice fields start turning buds to paddy. Young rice still excreting milk while being nail-pressed, under mothers’ and sisters’ hands, has been processed into delicately scented, mushy, green flakes. Who could resist being astounded at the image of female vendors dressed in traditional style with fold-in foulards and blouses of collar in lotus leaf shape, shouldering a pair of bamboo baskets? At one tip of the rattan carrying pole hangs a bunch of greenish young rice straws, and a flat winnowing basket lies upside down on one end of the bamboo basket, arranged with some lotus leaves for wrapping the green rice flakes. Under the skillful hands of the head chef of Rex Hotel Royal Restaurant (Ho Chi Minh City), young rice flakes aroma mingled with the inside of longan, added with strips of young coconut copra. The longan balls sunk in the buttery coconut milk render such delicate sweetness which thaws right when you just recognize it at the tongue tip, conceding to the elegant flavor of green rice flakes and the buttery taste of coconut milk, so passionately delicious. This Che is easy to cook, served hot in the early chill of Hanoi Autumn or banked cold in cool Saigon evenings; both deserve being gifted dishes for dessert.
CHE: LONGAN STUFFED WITH FLAT GREEN-RICE FLAKESPrint This
- INGREDIENTS FOR THE FILLING
- 500g longan
- 100g flat green-rice flakes
- (of the North)
- 75g white grated coconut copra
- 65g sugar
- 80ml water
- INGREDIENTS FOR THE SYRUP
- 250g rock sugar
- 1 liter water
- 20 jasmine flowers
- INGREDIENTS FOR CONDENSED COCONUT MILK
- 500g white grated coconut copra
- 300ml lukewarm water
- 1g salt
- 5g sugar
- 5g tapioca flour
Make the filling: Bring 80ml water to boil, put the flat green-rice flakes in, stir well. Turn off the oven for the flakes to rise thoroughly, soft and not soggy. Mix in 65g sugar till it dissolves in the flakes, then add 70g grated coconut copra. Stir well until the batter is gummy soft.
Stuff the filling in: Peel off the skin and deseed the longan. Stuff the filling in each longan till it is rounded and full.
Make the rock sugar syrup: Bring to boil 1 liter of water plus 250g rock sugar until the sugar until the sugar is completely dissolved; strain the syrup through a mesh strainer.
Whisk the condensed coconut milk: Pour 300ml of lukewarm water into 500g grated coconut copra, knead regularly then squeeze to obtain coconut milk. Put this into a pot, add 5g of granulated sugar, 1g salt, 5g tapioca flour; stir until all the ingredients are well blended. Cook on low heat while regularly whisking the substance till the floured coconut milk becomes clear, cooked and gelatinous. Turn off the oven.
Arrange the longan stuffed with green-rice filling onto a small bowl. Pour the syrup and coconut milk on top, relish with jasmine flowers for fragrance.
The soup is delicately sweet; the longan is crunchy; the green rice is chewy and scented.
Choose the sufficiently aged coconut (the one for serving with cooked sticky rice) to make the filling, since it will be crunchy, buttery and not dreggy.
If the Southern type of young rice flakes are used, then boil 80ml of water, put the rice flakes in, stir well and turn off the oven for the flakes to rise, becoming soft and not soggy
EFFECTS OF THIS DISH
This dish helps strengthen the body, nourish the nerves, increase energy, calm the mind, relieve thirst, create new lymph, support digestion. It is a laxative, a diuretic and helps eliminate accumulated residues inside the body. It can reduce bad cholesterol in the blood, prevent cancer. It is useful for persons infected by the following cases: weakening body strength, low blood count, lacking minerals, exhaustion from overwork, hard of digestion, upset stomach, intestinal disorders. It is also helpful for persons in an over-sensitive mental state, feeling thirsty, having heated and irritating body; people with feeble heart, insomnia, nervousness, worrisome problems, nightmares, calculus of kidney and ureter.
KHAU VAN DUONG Rex Hotel Saigon (Ho Chi Minh City) Runner-up in the Southern Regional semifinal round of the Golden Spoon Awards 2013