Che Chuoi is a popular Vietnamese dessert made from bananas, tapioca pearls, and coconut milk. It's wonderful served hot and even better chilled. Easy to make and dairy-free ^_^
Vietnamese Sweet Soups (Che)
Che is a category of Vietnamese desserts. It refers to sweet soups and pudding.
There are over a hundred types of che, and they are easy to make at home. Che doesn't require any fancy equipment, just a pot, stove, and strainer.
Che is made mostly out of shelf-stable pantry items (like tapioca pearls and coconut milk), so make sure to stock up while you're at the store. Aside from that, all you need is fresh fruit.
Hot Or Cold?
Che is enjoyed both hot and cold. Everyone has their preference. When it's sold at takeout shops, it's usually served cold. At home, I prefer to eat che hot. Try it both ways and see which you prefer...perhaps you'll love both equally ^_^
The Vietnamese name for this dessert is "Che Chuoi."
- Che = this specific category of sweet soups and pudding
- Chuoi = the Vietnamese word for banana
Use The Right Kind Of Bananas
Using the right type of banana is important for this dessert.
If we don't have the right bananas, we won't make this dessert (or we'll use another fruit entirely...like fresh mango or purple sweet potato).
What kind of bananas should you use? Two options:
- Apple Banana - most popular option in Hawaii
- Lady's Finger Banana
Why? Both have just the right level of sweetness (they are sweeter than "regular" bananas). They are also on the slightly more firm, and holds up well to cooking/heat.
Apple Bananas are the preferred choice in Hawaii because:
- Apple Bananas are abundant in Hawaii! Sometimes we have so many we don't what to do with them so we just make tons of this dessert to share with family.
- Apple Bananas don't brown as quickly as other types of bananas. This bodes especially well for desserts because we also eat with our eyes ^_^
Make sure you use just ripe bananas. If the bananas are overly ripe, they they will turn into mush once cooked in this dessert. If they are not ripe enough, the bananas will be too starchy.
Tapioca Pearls and Tapioca Sticks
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We use both tapioca pearls and tapioca sticks (bot khoai) in this recipe.
Tapioca pearls are a must - they are the foundation of this dessert. For details about cooking with tapioca (especially if it is your first time), refer to the "How To Cook Tapioca" section of this post.
Tapioca sticks (bot khoai) are optional, but make this dessert much more special. They are 1-2 inches long and have a fun zig-zag shape. They also come in multiple colors like red, yellow, and green.
Tapioca sticks are chewy in texture and have no flavor of their own. Tapioca pearls are easily found at many different markets, but tapioca sticks are usually only at Chinese and Vietnamese markets.
Use full fat coconut milk. This comes in a can (people sometimes confuse it with the coconut milk that's on the shelf next to almond milk, macadamia nut milk, oat milk etc...that is not the coconut milk you want). Get canned, full fat coconut milk.
My Coconut Milk Pick:
Chaokoh is our go-to coconut milk brand. Growing up, we could only find this brand at Asian markets. Nowadays, I see Chaokoh coconut milk at many mainstream markets.
P.S. If you are in Hawaii, you can also use the Hawaiian Sun brand of coconut milk (though it is lighter and not as flavorful).
Salted Peanut Topping
Don't skip this salted peanut topping! It is easy to make.
All you need to do is combine roasted peanuts and a pinch of salt in a food processor and grind it up. This topping works on nearly all types of che. Keep the leftovers in an airtight container and use as needed.
Tapioca is really fun and easy to cook with...once you get the hang of it. It might be daunting the first time, but just remember a few rules:
1) Cook it in lots of water (I use 10 cups water for 1/2 cup tapioca).
2) Stir the water while you pour the tapioca in (otherwise they will stick to each other).
3) Drain the tapioca under cold running water (to stop the cooking process).
Most people love tapioca chilled (especially during summer). I personally prefer it hot. I'll eat a hot bowl right after I prepare the dessert. Then with leftovers, I just spoon a portion (straight from the fridge) into a small bowl, microwave for a minute, add the salted peanut topping, and eat!
This dessert makes a big potion, so there will likely be leftovers. The dessert keeps 3-4 days in the fridge...though it barely lasts for more that two in this household.
Banana Tapioca (Che Chuoi) Recipe
See below for the recipe and enjoy ^_^
P.S. If you like this dessert, also check out the purple sweet potato version which is another type of coconut tapioca pudding.
- Peel the bananas. Cut them in half horizontally. Cut each piece in half again, vertically. Each banana makes four long pieces. Set aside.
- Prepare the tapioca pearls. Bring 10 cups of water to a boil in a big pot. Add the tapioca pearls to the boiling water (use one hand to pour in the tapioca and the other hand to swirl the water around with a wooden spoon - this keeps the tapioca from clumping together as it cooks). Put a lid on the pot and turn the heat to low. Cook for 10 minutes. You can tell it is done when the tapioca pearls are nearly translucent and you can just see a tiny white dot in the center of each pearl. Don’t overcook, or the tapioca will completely melt.
- Strain the tapioca under cold running water. This will stop the cooking and remove excess starch (which makes the tapioca pearls stick together). Set aside and let drain.
- Prepare the tapioca sticks (bot khoai), if using. Bring 5 cups of water to a boil (rinse and reuse the pot you used to cook the tapioca pearls). Add the tapioca sticks to the boiling water and cook over medium heat for 12 minutes. They are finished they are completely translucent. Do not overcook. Strain under cold running water. Set aside and let drain.
- Rinse out the big pot, then add 2 cups of water, the drained tapioca pearls and tapioca sticks (if using). Bring to a gentle boil. Add the sugar and ½ teaspoon salt. Turn the heat to medium. Stir until the sugar dissolves. Add the coconut milk (don't let the coconut milk boil). Stir to gently mix. Then add the sliced apple bananas. Simmer for a few more minutes to warm the bananas. Turn off the stove.
- Prepare the salted peanut topping: grind ¼ cup peanuts and ½ teaspoon salt in a food processor. Pour into a small bowl and set aside.
- Spoon the finished banana tapioca into bowls, sprinkle the peanut-salt mixture on top, and eat! It’s wonderful hot from the pot. And even better when chilled. Enjoy ^_^