Tuesday, November 11, 2008

Che Thai (Tropical Fruit, Agar, and Tapioca Covered Water Chestnuts in Coconut Milk)

I really don't know the origin of this common Vietnamese dessert, but according to my hubby, his Thai daddy had always brought this kind of dessert home to him when he was younger, and I remember at our engagement luncheon many moons ago, hubby's Thai aunt came up to me and said something like, "Oh this is Thai dessert!" So I'm thinking this exists somewhere in Thai cuisine, but I haven't found a recipe for it anywhere in my research to compare. The only thing that comes close is Thab Tim Kraap, which consists of fake pomegranate seeds (the tapioca covered water chestnuts) in coconut milk. No fruit involved here.

This recipe comes to me courtesy of my parents' close friends, who are Vietnamese, but beats me where they got it from. Che Thai is sold often in Vietnamese snack shops, so I'm thinking that this is a Vietnamese version of thab tim kraap. Someone care to enlighten me? Otherwise I'll just have to make it a point to ask hubby's cousin one of these days.

Here are the ingredients you'll need for this delicious dessert. This makes a catering sized pot of the che, large enough to serve a party of thirty or so. Be prepared to eat this for a week and gain a few pounds if you're not willing to cut down the ingredient amounts accordingly. Also, although I used canned fruits, kudos to you if you can find and afford fresh ones!

5 quarts of water
red and green food coloring, five drops each
1 package of agar agar powder (6 oz, makes six cups of agar agar)
2 cans of jackfruit (20 oz. each can)
2 cans of longan (20 oz. each can)
1 can toddy palm seed whole or sliced in syrup (20 oz.)
2 cans sliced water chestnuts (8 oz. each can)
16 oz. coconut cream (you can substitute coconut milk also)
12 oz. rock sugar
14 oz. tapioca starch

First you'll need to prepare the agar agar. Prepare it according to the package, chill, and then cut the agar into thin matchsticks. My mom usually grates these with a special wavy peeler that she got at an Asian supermarket and then cuts them up into thinner strips. Since I couldn't find my peeler, I just cut it up with a knife.

Next comes the fun part (not). Dice up the water chestnuts into centimeter sized pieces. Then the actual fun part (really!). Place half of the water chestnuts in a bowl that won't stain and add in enough water to cover them. Add in about five drops of the green food coloring. In another bowl, do the same with the other half of the water chestnuts but add in the red food coloring. Let these sit while you prepare the fruits.

Dice up the jackfruits and cut the longans into smaller pieces (halves or quarters). Rinse the toddy palm seeds to remove as much of the syrup as you can.

Now remove the water chestnuts from their food coloring, rinse them off, and then add enough tapioca starch to cover them with a nice coating.

Bring the pot of five quarts of water to a boil and then add the rock sugar and the tapioca balls in. Once the tapioca balls start floating to the top, you can start adding in all the fruits and the coconut cream. Stir well and then refrigerate until chilled.

When I'm ready to serve, I will usually add in some ice cubes to keep it really cold. So you see this is a very time consuming dessert to make, so I don't do it often. I'm filing this under Vietnamese until I find out more about its origin (if I ever do).

Andrea at Viet World Kitchen also has a version of Che Thai that employs real pomegranate seeds. Yum!


dz said...

coooool! with the colors it looks really retro, in a cute way.

and the word verification for this comment is "loove," which amuses me.

Wandering Chopsticks said...

My mom coats the water chestnuts first, actually I think she uses jicama. Anyway, she coats them first and then dyes them so the inside stays white like real pomegranates.

Family First said...

Had this in Thai restaurants .. so could be similar to the vietnamese version as well. nevertheless, its a beautiful dessert!

imjustatree said...

if you ever make a lee's near mt. sac, you'd be rolling in cash....

beautiful picture, and will have to try this out sometime...i don't know that many asian dessert recipes

Food For Tots said...

What a colourful dessert! Looks delicious! ;)

shavedicesundays said...

smorgasboard, I didn't even see the retro in it until you pointed it out. Thanks for visiting!

WC, hmm I didn't to dying it afterwards. Good tip!

Family First, yeah I've seen it at Thai restaurants too but wasn't sure if it was authentic Thai or not.

mothermayi, maybe you can open up a Lee's? Pretty please, I'll be your first customer.

Food For Tots, thanks, I think your son will like this one if you have the time to try it.

Tastes of Home said...

looks soo beautiful! will try this soon :) thanks for sharing!

TAN said...

Sweet coconut milk with crunchy water chestnut filled gluten, chewy doughballs, diced taro & agar, and slivers of jackfruit. And red ruby is main. We make sometime for do merit by temple or party at home. Always favorite.

Thank you for stopping in my page with lovely comment.

Have a nice weekend.

shavedicesundays said...

tastes of home, Thank you for the lovely compliment, and you're very welcome!

tan.wiratchada, ah that confirms that there is a Thai version! Thank you so much for the info.

Cate said...

thank you! i had this dessert at spice market in nyc a few years back and was dying to have a recipe for it. it's seriously delicious, and now we'll know how to make it at home, rather than shelling out our whole month's rent.

shavedicesundays said...

Hi Cate, thanks for visiting and you're very welcome! Is Spice Market a Thai or Vietnamese place?

Unknown said...

after you put in all the fruit and coconut cream, do you stop the cooking right away? or u still cooking it for a little bit then take it off to chill?

Thank you for the recipe.

shavedicesundays said...

Cory, you can stop the cooking as soon as the milk and fruit goes in. Thanks for reading!

Mrs.S said...

Thank you! I'm so glad to know I'm not the only one confused! I first came across this fabulous dessert at a Vietnamese restaurant. The owner said it's "che thai" and he offered to teach me how to make it! Unfortunately I never took him up on it and they are no longer there. :( I've looked everywhere for this! Hubby and I went to a local Vietnamese restaurant a couple of weeks ago (cause I was craving this so badly) and when I ordered Che Thai, she brought back boba and fruit in a cup. So I dunno... but this recipe looks great and I'm excited to try it! Thank you! :)

shavedicesundays said...

Mrs. S, awww it would have been good to compare recipes and see the variations. LOL at the boba in a cup. That's really funny!

Fishi said...

Haha, thanks used this information to make an informal presentation about this dessert. At first my friend was like this is Vietnamese but since it had Thai in it i wasn't sure. So with this i guess i can use this in my Vietnamese presentation! And the ingredient names helped me too! Thanks!

shavedicesundays said...

Joey, yes seems like there's a lot of mystery about this dessert! You're very welcome, and I hope the presentation went well.

Anonymous said...

Keep on posting such stories. I love to read articles like this. By the way add some pics :)