This is chè hạt sen (lotus seed sweet dessert).
Everyone in Vietnam knows that Huế, the old capital, is the place for this. They say that in the past, this delicate dessert was for the royal family only, and the lotus seeds had to be harvested from Tịnh Tâm pond inside the Palace. The seeds there, they say, are more fragrant, and the taste would remain in your memory longer than any other dessert can last.
My original plan for tonight was to make matcha shortbread for our upcoming tea party (yes, we are holding a tea party soon to welcome friends to our new launch). However, that did not work out and I decided to make this instead. At least, we can have a treat after a long working week.
Despite the simple look and ingredients, this dessert actually requires more effort than you think. First, lotus seeds are soaked in water to be softened. Although some would use diluted ash water, Hue people think this would take away the precious lotus scent, and they use pure water instead. The traditional Hue recipe would then steam the seeds instead of cooking them straight in water, as this preserves the flavour to its fullest. The cook would then prepare two pots of water, one very sweet and the other with milder taste. Rock sugar would be used, rather than refined sugar. Again, to keep it most natural. Steamed seeds would then be cooked in the sweeter pot at very low heat. The reason for the very sweet water pot is for the sugar to penetrate the seeds quickly, without making them too soft and therefore break the form. Once sweetened, lotus seeds are then transferred to the other pot, whose sweetness is carefully adjusted to taste.
The dessert is then served, with utmost care of how it it presented.
In the end, it is the effort and the heart that craft something beautiful.
Shall you join me for some sweetness?