Vietnamese corn, coconut, and tapioca dessert soup (Che Bap)

I'm circling back to corn.  As I mentioned, seeing and tasting the amazing fresh corn available right now had me thinking about different ways of cooking with it.  One of the things that popped into my head was the memory of a Vietnamese cooking show I'd seen where the host was scraping corn and using the corn milk to make some kind of sweet dessert soup (I don't remember what it was exactly).  That got me searching for Vietnamese dessert soups featuring corn and I ended up here with a delicious one, called "Che Bap" ("che" refers to a sweet dessert soup or pudding, and "bap" means corn).  
A chilled dessert soup, made with fresh corn kernels, light coconut milk, tapioca pearls, and topped with toasted sesame seeds
Dessert soups are very common and beloved in Asian culture - both hot and cold.  Once in a while, you might find an Asian dessert house that serves only that.  I love nearly all varieties of these soups and I can now add this one to the list!   

So this isn't the recipe I vaguely recall from the cooking program but I'm happy that it inspired this discovery.  This Vietnamese corn pudding, or dessert soup, features fresh corn kernels as well as coconut milk and small tapioca pearls.  When I hear there's coconut milk involved in a dessert soup, I'm fairly confident it's going to be good.  In fact, coconut milk and tapioca pearls make a great base for many kinds of dessert soups.
I used light coconut milk in this recipe.  It may sound silly but I'm quite proud of that because I did it despite seeing recipes that specifically said not to.  I'm a very reluctant rule-breaker, you see!  I used Trader Joe's light coconut milk, which I really like and have had a lot of success cooking with.  It's not as thick and rich as regular coconut milk but it's still so flavorful and fragrant.  And get this: you're consuming 70% less fat and 65% less calories by using the light version!  I didn't miss the extra fat at all, and you're not sacrificing flavor or texture.  In fact, you don't feel weighed down after eating this.
I had some tapioca starch on standby in case I needed to thicken the soup with a slurry.  I decided I didn't need it and I'm glad I held back.  The soup is relatively thin when it's hot off the stove but this kind of soup made with coconut milk and tapioca pearls thickens pretty significantly after it's been refrigerated.  While you can certainly enjoy this hot or warm (both good), I prefer it cold in this instance.  It is summer, after all.  

After it's chilled, the soup is thick but not so thick that you need to dilute it with water (what you'd likely need to do if you went with the full-fat coconut milk...so you see, the light version actually works better!).  I wasn't sure I'd like the toasted sesame seeds suggested as a topping for this che bap but I did.  It adds a nice nuttiness to the sweet soup.  And this is indeed a lovely dessert soup, mostly sweetened by the fresh corn kernels.  The natural sweetness from the fresh corn was seriously intense!


I had planned to use bi-color corn for this but when I started to prep the corn I brought home, I realized that I somehow had white corn instead.  I think some yellow would add a nice pop of color to this dessert soup but any fresh corn tastes great.   In fact, my white corn kernels were so sweet, it almost hurt our throats going down (in a good way, of course).  That sounds totally crazy but it was that sweet!

The soup gets its wonderful corn flavor not only from the sweet kernels but also by simmering the corn cobs in the water to make something like a corn stock first.  I thought that was a very practical way to use the corn to the fullest and to make this as much about the corn as possible.
The Che Bap just finished...the soup will thicken after chilling
Given the sweetness of fresh seasonal corn (not to mention the coconut milk), start with a small amount of sugar in the dessert soup base and add more at the end, if necessary, after tasting it.  I made mine using a scant 1/4 cup of sugar and felt I could've held back a bit more since the corn turned out so sweet.

As you can see above, the consistency of the soup is pretty thin when it's first done.  After chilling, it will thicken just right.  No need for a slurry/thickener in my opinion.  
I really enjoy having something a little different for dessert once in a while.  This is both a change of pace as well as a kind of familiar comfort food for me.  It reminds me to make and savor dessert soups more often.  They're totally delicious!


Recipe:

Vietnamese Corn, Coconut, and Tapioca Dessert Soup (Che Bap)
Adapted from The Kitchn

- For approximately 4 servings - 

2 medium-size ears of fresh corn (for about 1 1/2 cups of kernels), shucked
2 cups water
3 tablespoons small tapioca pearls
1 (14-ounce) can light coconut milk
3 tablespoons granulated sugar, or to taste
Pinch of salt
Toasted sesame seeds, for topping

Stand corn cobs upright in a bowl and carefully run a sharp knife down the ear of the corn to remove kernels.  Set kernels as well as the corn cobs aside.

Place water and corn cobs into a medium-size pot (if necessary, break/chop each corn cob into two to fit into the pot).  Bring to a bowl, then cover, reduce heat and let simmer for 30 minutes.

In the meantime, place tapioca pearls in a small bowl and cover with about an inch of cold water and let stand.

Remove corn cobs from the pot and discard.  Add light coconut milk, corn kernels, sugar, and a pinch of salt into the pot.  Stir together and bring to a boil.  Then let simmer until corn is tender, about 8-10 minutes.  Taste and add more sugar, if desired.  

Drain tapioca pearls through a fine-mesh strainer and add to the pot.  Simmer for another 2 minutes.  Given the soup a stir and remove from the heat.  Let cool to room temperature and refrigerate for up to 2 days.  

You can eat this dessert soup hot, warm, or cold (my preference in this case).  The soup will thicken as it chills.  When ready to serve, sprinkle the top with toasted sesame seeds.  


  




40 comments:

  1. I don't have tapioca pearls at home now...do you think sago will work too?
    This is my kind of dessert! Simply love anything with coconut.

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    1. I think sago would work very well, Angie. The corn kernels would stand up against the slighter larger sago. Thanks and enjoy the rest of the week!

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  2. This is awesome, Monica! Love the fresh corn!

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  3. Hi Monica, I am loving summer corn right now it is the best, love, love this recipe. Will be picking up some tapioca pearls today just for this.

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    1. I know it - I am thinking about your fresh corn salad right now! I'd love to know what you think if you make this...

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  4. Hehe, congrats on your rule-breaking ;) It's always fun to do that now and then...especially when, in this case, it just makes something healthier. This soup sounds so refreshing. It's so sad but I finally bought my first corn of the season this past weekend- coincidentally at the Farmer's Market in your town! I should have thought to ask you to meet me there!!

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    1. I am such a rule-follower and totally unoriginal, I'm afraid. haha.
      That's too funny about the farmer's market! I actually had to skip it this Sunday since we were heading out. I did use corn I got from there..it's achingly sweet (sounds like I'm complaining but I'm not).

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  5. I've never had a dessert soup before but you have me really wanting to try! I'm with you on being completely obsessed with fresh corn right now ... I cannot get enough of it. This looks delicious! And you rule-breaker you with the light coconut milk! haha I love it

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    1. It must sound a little weird to you if you haven't had it or didn't grow up with it. I suppose it's kind of like pudding really in the case of these thicker "soups". Fresh corn reminds you of what corn should taste like, right! I was so daring on the light coconut milk, wasn't it?! ; ) lol

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  6. I love Vietnamese savory and sweet dieshes, but it's my first time learning about this dessert corn soup and I love it! Oh coconut milk and tapioca alone is my favorite kind of dessert, and adding corn? WOW, it's going to be just good as taro soup and others. Thank you for sharing this recipe Monica! It's the best corn recipe I've seen this year! Saving it now. Yay!

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    1. Same here, really, Nami. I hadn't been aware of dessert soups in Vietnamese cuisine but I'm happy to try this one. I love coconut, tapioca with taro and I'll be using light coconut milk for it going forward. : ) I'm happy you like it. Yay!

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  7. Replies
    1. Dessert soups are really common and popular in my world...I love them! Thanks

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  8. yum! this looks like a great dessert! i wonder if we could order it in our local Vietnamese restaurant!

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    1. You know it's funny - I forgot to mention that of all times I eat at Vietnamese restaurants, I rarely have room left for dessert. I recall jellies and ices but never remembering seeing dessert soups on Vietnamese restaurant menus. Need to look closer next time!

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  9. Thank you for this recipe! I love this dessert so much but have never made it.

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    1. Well, someone who finally knows of it already! This one with corn was new for me but you can't go wrong with coconut and tapioca anyway. The corn sweetens it further and adds a nice crunch.

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  10. Wow, looks tasty and nutritiously desser!!!
    The question is, why i found this kind of dessert in any chinese restaurant around my place, but non in two vietnamese restaurant???

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    1. Yes, I know what you mean! Dessert soups can be found in Chinese restaurants and some Malaysian restaurants but I don't remember seeing dessert soups in Vietnamese restaurants! Maybe we're too busy deciding which pho to order? : ) Need to investigate.

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  11. This looks so so good! Dessert soups are one of my favorites but I don't think I have ever had ones with corn but it sounds incredible since I love anything with fresh corn :) Haha so glad to hear the light coconut milk was worth breaking the rules ;) I am a sucker for tapioca and coconut so this is definitely must try for sure!

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    1. It's so hot and crazy around here lately that I forgot to say the same thing when I was writing up this post. Part of my excitement of trying this recipe was I'd never had one with corn in it...not for a sweet soup anyway! It's interesting. Corn is so likable and I feel the same way about tapioca and coconut milk. And yes, breaking the rules paid off this time. : )

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  12. So a little bit like rice pudding but with corn and tapioca? Sounds heavenly to me.

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    1. You know, Joanne...I'm not sure I've ever had rice pudding! Yikes. But this has to be similar. It's like a tapioca pudding with the corn and this is a little looser with the light coconut milk. So, so tasty.

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  13. Oh sweet corn and tapioca pearls - wow! Thanks for this - we love new recipes especially the not so typical southern pile-o-sugar desserts I always make - haha. Lovely! Have a great weekend.

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    1. What?! "Southern pile-o-sugar desserts" are the best! Luckily, there's room for everything. I like a nice rotation of desserts. : ) TGIF!

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  14. This looks AMAZING! I love coconut milk like crazy, and I'm a huge fan of tapioca pearls - so I not only love this, but I have to make it! Seriously - I am LOVING this! :-)

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    1. Big fan of coconut milk myself, Kristi! Glad you like it!

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  15. Another "exotic" recipe that has me hooked! That top photo has my mouth watering, Monica! You introduced me to dessert soups with your glutinous rice ball soup (YUM!) and I am more than ready to try another. :) Sweet "broth" with something chewy seems to be the way to go. I can even get all of these ingredients at my regular supermarket!

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    1. I was excited to find the recipe, too, Wendy! You were so adventurous to seek out the ingredients and make that glutinous rice ball soup - this will be a breeze too! I hope you try it and enjoy it. Enjoy your Sunday!

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  16. This is different and beautiful. I love love coconut and corn paired together so I have a feeling that this will be a winner!

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    1. Thank you, Monet. The coconut milk just infuses everything and the corn, well...it's sweet, gives a little bit of texture...it's nice. : )

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  17. Yum! I love tapioca desserts and this is one of my favorites. :) Used to get these at a Vietnamese dessert place.

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    1. Oh, I'm glad to hear someone has had this at a Vietnamese dessert place! Sounds wonderful. Thanks, Amy.

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  18. Awh Monica this sweet soup looks so good! I bet that fresh corn makes it amaaaaazing, and if coconut milk is on the ingredient lis, you know that the otcome is going to be fantastic! I just love this <3

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    1. Fresh corn is a new thing for me with dessert soups...but coconut milk - that is a given and so good! Thanks, Consuelo!

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  19. Ooh coconut milk and tapioca pearls in this dessert soup. Sounds delightful! (:

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    1. Assuming you like dessert soups, Monica - I'm thinking you'd definitely enjoy it. : )

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  20. this looks absolutely delicious, Monica: all the things i miss when i'm on vacation! I'm saving this one to make before all the corn goes away again.

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    1. Hi Shannon - we just got back from a vacation ourselves so I totally know what you mean about missing home food!

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