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Thursday, September 15, 2016

Chè Hạt Sen Nhãn Nhục Đười Ươi Hạt É (Summer Sweet Dessert Drink)

The cold mercilessly penetrated through my skin and bone as I walked my girls to school this morning. The change in weather was so sudden. Some students with short sleeves, and shorts were shivering as they weren't prepared for the cold harsh air. I was observing a classmate of my daughter snuggling onto my little one's shoulder to keep warm. I knew summer is fading quickly. It reminded me to rush home and finish up blogging about a summer sweet refreshing drink recipe that I've been wanting to share with you.

Chè is a general term describing a traditional Vietnamese sweet dessert in the form of pudding or plain drink. It is available in both hot and cold versions, and usually served in a small bowl or in a glass over shaved ice, therefore, it makes a nice sweet treat for any season of the year, but best served during the summer of course.

Most of the Vietnamese desserts frequently use coconut milk as a base, but this dessert recipe that I am sharing with you contains  rock sugar, coconut water, and four dried ingredients - basil seeds, malva nuts, lotus seeds, and dried longan. These ingredients are available at any Asian markets.

All of these dried ingredients have been used for their medicinal properties. According to Chinese medicine, the use of these four dried ingredients is to remove heat from the lung, cure cough and sore throat, counteract toxicity, and relax the bowels, decrease the body temperature and treat intestinal infections. It is believed to have an effect on relaxation, benefits to the kidneys, helping to restore vital energy within the body. How about that for a dessert drink?!

This recipe is not intended to treat any ailments but is offered mainly for your enjoyment. It is quite refreshing and delicious, making it much easier to beat the wicked heat.
RECIPE: Summer Sweet Dessert Drink
make about 6 quarts
printable recipe

sweet refreshing drink with goji berries

1/2 cup basil seeds (hạt é)
1 cup lotus seeds (hạt sen)
Malva nuts 1 cup (county orangutans)
1 cup dried longan (longan flesh)
1 bag rock sugar
8 cups (2 quarts) water
12 cups (3 quarts) coconut water
Cooking Syrup

Boil water with sugar until dissolved. Adjust sweetness if necessary. This is a refreshing drink so I like it with just a slightly taste of sweetness. Let it cool down.

Soaking Basil Seeds

My daughters called these basil seeds "frog eggs."
Place the basil seeds in a large strainer and quickly rinse them under running water to remove any dirt, then add water and basil seeds in a large bowl, soak for about 10 minutes or until the seeds become gelatinous.  Soaking in hot water shortens the process. Strain the seeds and set aside.

Soaking Malva Nuts

Đười ươi - malva nuts or poonparai are fruits collected from Scaphium macropodum, sometimes called Scaphium lychnophorum or Sterculia lychnophora. The flesh surrounding the dried seeds swells to eight times its original volume when soaked in water, forming an irregularly shaped, reddish gelatinous mass. Pretty cool huh?

Quickly rinse the malva nuts to remove any dirt, then soak them in a large bowl of water for about 30 minutes or until they swell. Separate the flesh from the skin and seeds, discard the skin and seeds. Squeeze out as much liquid as possible. Set the malva nuts flesh aside.

Cooking Dried Lotus Seeds

Instead of dried lotus seeds, I sometimes prepare this refreshing drink with trom latex (mủ trôm) from a trom tree with the scientific name sterculia foetida tree. Since I ran out of trom latex, and my husband brought home a necklace of dried lotus seeds, it was a perfect replacement.

Wash and rinse dried lotus seeds thoroughly. Bring a pot of water to a boil. Add lotus seeds and bring them back to a boil. Reduce to a simmer, and cook;  covered until lotus seeds are tender - usually takes 40 minutes to 1 hour. When the seeds are soft and friable, they are fully cooked.  Strain the lotus seeds.  Place them in the syrup to impart sweetness.

Cooking Dried Longan

Rinse dried longan quickly under running water to remove any dirt. In a small pan, bring some syrup to a boil. Turn off the heat then add dried longan. Let it sit for about 20 minutes until dried longan are soft.


Combine lotus seeds, basil seeds, flesh of malva nuts, and coconut water into the longan syrup pot, stirring well.

Transfer it into a pitcher and keep it chilled in the fridge before enjoying.

Sometimes, I add fructus lycii, also called wolfberry or goji berry in this refreshing drink. Fructus lycii is also used for centuries in traditional Chinese medicine.  Some of its interesting claims include nourishing the liver, promoting vision, invigorating the kidney, and replenishing essence (whatever that means). To prepare fructus lycii, bring some of the syrup to a boil then add fructus lycii.  Turn off the heat and let it steep for a couple minutes.  Add fructus lycii and the syrup to the mixture and what you have is a gorgeous, exotic dessert waiting to be devoured.

Eat well.  Stay healthy. 


  1. Looks so pretty. Can I ask where did you get your wine glass from? Thanks!

    1. I got them at Cost Plus (World Market) a few years ago. They were clearance items. However I do see them at Crate and Barrel.