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Chè Chuối, a Vietnamese Banana and Tapioca Sweet Snack

I’ve been to Vietnam twice in two of its biggest cities and yet I was not able to try one of its most iconic sweets. Chè is a sweet made coconut milk and beans, fruits, tubers, jelly, cereals or a mixture of two or more of them. There are so many varieties of chè including those with savory ingredients like sausages, roast pork or eggs.

How to Make Chè Chuối, a Vietnamese Banana and Tapioca Dessert

And that makes it difficult to label chè especially with Westerners. In the English-speaking world, I have come across definitions of chè as a sweet pudding, a dessert soup or a sweet beverage. None of which encapsulates what chè is. To be fair to the Vietnamese, chè is a class all its own.

To understand chè, one has to view it in the context of Asian sweet snacks. Because, yes, it is essentially a snack. And it is has siblings all over Asia. Think of the Malaysian cendol, the Filipino halo-halo and the Taiwanese baobing.

Cendol: a Malaysian sweet snack
Malaysian cendol. Photo taken at a food court in Singapore.

What makes it difficult for non-Asians to understand this vast array of sweet snacks is that they are sometimes listed as a desserts in restaurants. Not because they are desserts (dessert is a Western concept, really, that has been adapted in Asia) but to make it simpler for Westerners to make them fit into their meals.

It’s not that hard to grasp. Westerners eat cakes and pastries not always at the end of a main meal as dessert, but as snacks, with or without coffee. We Asians have our own sweet snacks.

That said, here is a delectable recipe for chè chuối, a version of chè with banana and tapioca balls. Remember that you don’t have to reserve this dish for the end of your meal. Enjoy it any time of the day.

Chè Chuối, a Vietnamese Banana and Tapioca Dessert

Chè Chuối, a Vietnamese Banana and Tapioca Sweet Snack

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Course: Dessert, Snack
Cuisine: Vietnamese
Keyword: banana, coconut milk, tapioca
Prep Time: 1 minute
Cook Time: 18 minutes
Resting time: 30 minutes
Total Time: 49 minutes
Servings: 4 people
Author: Connie Veneracion

Ingredients

  • 6 tablespoons small tapioca balls uncooked
  • cup coconut milk
  • 3 tablespoons white sugar
  • 1 generous pinch salt
  • 4 ripe bananas peeled and cut into half-inch cubes
  • ¼ teaspoon vanilla extract optional

Instructions

  • Measure three and a half cups of water into a sauce pan. Add the tapioca balls. Bring to the boil. Cook the tapioca balls, stirring occasionally, until swollen but the centers still opaque.
  • Stir in the sugar, salt and coconut milk. Bring to a simmer.
  • Stir in the cubed bananas and vanilla extract, if using.
  • Turn off the heat, cover the pan and allow the tapioca balls to cook fully in the residual heat (see notes after the recipe).
  • Serve the chè chuối warm or at room temperature.

Notes

Tapioca balls are opaque when uncooked. They double in size and turn translucent after cooking.
The technique in this recipe is to partially cook the tapioca balls in boiling water then let them continue cooking in the hot liquid after all the ingredients have been added. This is to allow some of the starch in the tapioca balls to get mixed in the liquid to thicken it.
Leftovers can be stored in the fridge for a day or two. Chè chuối can be served cold straight out of the fridge.
Recipe for Chè Chuối, a Vietnamese Banana and Tapioca Dessert
Written By

I travel to eat, drink and learn new cuisines. I do some shopping too. Between trips, I write travel stories and share travel-inspired recipes. That is my idea of retirement with purpose.

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