Grass jelly with basil seeds shouldn't really be a recipe. It's so easy to make that it's embarrassing I'm even teaching you how to make it. But I need to spread the joys of this dessert to everyone, so here we are.
This dessert is perfect for muggy, humid summer days. Every day in Vietnam is muggy, hot and humid, so this is eaten year-round. Here in D.C., I look forward to filling up on grass jelly with basil seeds every summer. The lightly herbal flavor of the grass jelly pairs perfectly with the slight crunch of the basil seeds and the toothsome chew of the nata de coco.
You could call this dish a type of chè, or a Vietnamese sweet soup, beverage or pudding. When I think of Asian desserts, I don't think of baked goods like cakes or cookies. I'll always reach for the chè! If you like this one, you should definitely try my sweet corn pudding, or chè bắp.
Grass jelly is made with the leaves of the Chinese mesona plant. It's a member of the mint family and gives the jelly a lightly minty, herbal taste. I like to use canned grass jelly, but you can also find powdered versions that you cook, just like Jello. The canned stuff comes ready to eat.
Nata de coco is made by fermenting coconut water. Don't worry though — it doesn't taste fermented. It has a light coconut taste and a chewy texture I find addictive. You can find it jarred or canned — often in different flavors and colors.
Sweet basil seeds can be found in many East Asian or Indian grocery stores. If you can't find it, you can use chia seeds, though the texture will be slightly different.
You will need:
- grass jelly
- nata de coco
- sweet basil seeds
See recipe card for quantities.
Add water to the sweet basil seeds and set them aside to soak.
Slice the grass jelly and then cut it into 1 inch cubes.
Add the grass jelly into a big bowl. Then, add the nata de coco to the bowl, along with all of the sugar syrup in the can.
Drain the soaked basil seeds and add them to the bowl of grass jelly with nata de coco.
Add more water to your taste, and then add sugar to your taste. Chill for at least four hours before eating.
Hint: If you want to eat this right away, you can add ice to the bowl instead of water to chill it faster.
- Canned grass jelly - You can find powdered grass jelly at most Asian grocery stores. Follow the instructions on the package to cook it. You'll need to cook the jelly and chill it before cutting it up.
- Nata de coco - you can easily omit this and just make grass jelly with basil seeds. Fresh, frozen or canned coconut flesh would also taste great.
- Basil seeds - You can use chia seeds if you can't find basil seeds. Basil seeds absorb water much faster than chia seeds, so you'll need to soak chia seeds for a longer amount of time. Chia seeds also do not become opaque when they absorb water and have a slightly slimier texture.
- Extra coconut - Try using coconut water instead of regular water for extra coconut flavor. You can also top it with some sweetened coconut cream or sweetened coconut milk for a creamy dessert.
👪 Serving size suggestions and storage
You can make this the day before you want to serve it, but the grass jelly will slowly discolor the other ingredients. If appearance is important to you, make this a few hours before you serve it.
This will last in the fridge for up to a week.
Grass Jelly With Basil Seeds (Sương Sáo Hạt É)
- 2 tablespoon sweet basil seed
- 1 cup water
- 19 oz grass jelly
- 20 oz coconut jelly (nata de coco)
- 4 tablespoon sugar
- soak the basil seeds in water and set aside
- cut the grass jelly into 1 inch cubes and put them in a large bowl
- add the nata de coco along with all of its juices to the bowl with the grass jelly
- drain the basil seeds and add them to the bowl of grass jelly with nata de coco
- Add more water and sugar to your own taste (i used 4 tablespoon of sugar) and chill for at least four hours before eating
Note: Nutrition facts as an estimate based on available ingredients and preparation. It should not be considered a substitute for a professional nutritionist’s advice.
🦺 Food safety
- Don't leave food sitting out at room temperature for extended periods
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