*There’s a video tutorial at the end of this blog post.
I made this dessert about two weeks ago when we invited our friend Peter, a retired Australian chef living in Hoi An, over for dinner. Most restaurants in Hoi An serve Western cakes for dessert, and you wouldn’t discover the Vietnamese traditional desserts without a local “connection”. Plus it was raining cats and dogs that week, so I decided to make a Vietnamese traditional warm dessert, chè trôi nước, for that dinner.
In Vietnamese, chè refers to our popular bean-based dessert. It’s usually different kinds of beans stewed in sugar water, served cold in the summer and warm in the winter. It could be thick like purée or thicker like a paste, or as in this case, just regular sweet ginger water. The trôi part in the name of this dish (chè trôi nước) means to float, as the mochi floats when it’s done, and nước means water, as opposed to a thicker version of chè.
My late grandmother used to make chè trôi nước once a year on our traditional mochi day in early lunar spring. It was really labor-intensive because back then people made everything from scratch. I remember my grandmother, my mother, and women in the neighborhood heartily gathering in our joint front yard from early morning until late afternoon. They ground rice using a heavy stone mill, and crashed whole beans using empty bottles. Life was difficult then, but when it comes to traditional food for special holidays, only the best home-made ingredients were used: selected rice and beans harvested in the previous fall, freshly unrooted ginger from the garden, pure home-made orange extract…
When I was 6, my grandmother moved to live with my uncle in a Southern city far away and since then I didn’t see my family making mochi again. For the traditional mochi day, my parents would just pick up some from the market. I don’t blame them. You need patience and a love for cooking to spare time for these mochi. Since I got married to an American husband, I’m inspired to make traditional food again, most of which he likes fortunately. This was actually the first mochi I made just based on my memory of watching my grandmother make it, and my memory served me well after 22 years.
With an outer coating of rice flour and inner filling of mung bean, this dessert qualifies as vegan, gluten-free and pretty low sugar for a dessert. Made fresh, it provides a lovely mix of tastes and textures, from the silky coating of rice flour dough to the grainy interior mung bean paste. The mochi floats in a very light syrup of ginger, and with optional sesame seeds and coconut milk you can add more sweetness and texture as you desire. All of this is incredibly delicious and immediately enjoyable to even the most die-hard western palate!
Watch the video below to see how to make it for yourself! Chúc ngon miệng!
VIETNAMESE MOCHI IN SWEET GINGER WATER
Ingredients: (for about 15 pieces)
– Mung beans: 50 grams or 1/10 lb
– Sweet/Glutinous rice powder: 200 grams or 1/2 lb
– Sugar: 3 tablespoons
– Brown or palm sugar: to taste
– Minced ginger: 2 tablespoons
Step 1: Prepare the mung bean filling
– Soak mung beans in cold water for 1 hour. This helps the beans cook faster.
– Strain and add mung beans to a sauce pan. Add water to cover. – – Add a pinch of salt. Simmer until the beans are soft.
– Mash the beans using a wooden spoon. Add 3 tablespoons sugar. Cook over medium heat and stir constantly until the beans become paste.
– Set aside and let it cool. Round the beans into balls using your finger. (Watch the video)
Step 2: Prepare the dough and make the mochi
– Slowly add 150 ml lukewarm water into the flour. Stir until combined. When the mixture is non-sticky, you’re ready to make the mochi. (You might want to add a little bit more water or flour to make the mixture non-sticky depending on the flour quality.)
– Divide the dough into balls that are double the size of the mung bean balls.
– Flatten a rice ball. Add a mung bean ball in the middle. Wrap around like making dumplings. (Watch the video to see how I do this step).
Step 3: Boiling the mochi
– In a sauce pan, add brown sugar, ginger, water (enough to cover the mochi when added).
– Bring water to a boil. Add mocha. Simmer until mochi floats.
Serve in small bowls with roasted sesame seeds and coconut milk.
Chúc ngon miệng!