Chè Bắp or Sweet Corn Pudding is a delicious Vietnamese sweet soup elevated by the crispness and juiciness of corn. It can usually be eaten either hot or cold and served with a creamy coconut sauce. This dessert is dairy-free, naturally vegan, and gluten-free.
Vietnamese people also use corn in their desserts besides using them in savory dishes (such as chicken corn soup and sautéed corn). This sweet corn pudding is a variety of chè or a Vietnamese sweet dessert soup, which you can find in many regions of the country. There are multiple variations of this dessert depending on the area, though there are two main variations of this Vietnamese sweet corn pudding.
Variations of Chè Bắp
The people from the North of Vietnam have their own version of the pudding, which they call “chè ngô,” while the people from Southern Vietnam call it “chè bắp.” The first version, the one in the North, usually uses whole kernels, while the second variation, the traditional southern version, adds sticky rice (gạo nếp) and uses shaved corn kernels.
Both Northern and Southern variations require corn on the cobs. You can use a knife to cut the kernels off from the cobs for the Northern version. For the Southern one, it’s best to you utilize a box grater to shave off the kernels from the cobs.
The people from the Northern region of Vietnam rarely saw yellow sweet corn and usually cooked the dessert using the white corn variety (bắp nếp), which had a bit of a chew and was less sweet. These days, people prefer using yellow sweet corn in soups since it has a more beautiful color and tastes sweeter.
The Northern variation of sweet corn pudding will require a thickener like the kudzu root starch (the traditional choice), cornstarch, or tapioca starch. On the contrary, the Southern version, chè bắp, is naturally thickened with the starch of the sticky rice.
You can use rock sugar, which gives off a mild sweetness, to sweeten the Vietnamese sweet soup, or use the regular granulated sugar.
Both versions of each region are served with coconut sauce, so you’ll also require cornstarch and coconut milk to thicken it.
Regardless of which sweet corn pudding version you decide to cook, you’ll first need to simmer the corn cobs with water to extract its sweet flavor. If you make chè bắp, which includes sticky rice, remember to stir the rice after adding it to avoid scorching, most especially near the end.
Please feel free to modify the level of consistency and sweetness of your pudding. Some like it thick, while others prefer it thin. But really, it’s all just a matter of personal preferences.
How to Serve Chè Bắp
You can eat the Vietnamese sweet corn pudding at room temperature, warm, or cold. Place the dessert in serving bowls and drizzle some coconut sauce on top.
If you’re making the whole corn kernels variation, it’s best to eat it at room temperature or warm, as the texture is a bit odd when eaten cold. On the other hand, the version using sticky rice and shaved corn kernels is better to eat cold. It still holds its texture well even after being refrigerated.
The latter version, or chè bắp, offers a more interesting blend of texture: soft and slightly chewy from the sticky rice and crispness from the sweet corn.
How To Make Chè Bắp
Making chè bắp at home takes a bit of effort, but if you follow this recipe’s instructions down to a tee, you’ll be successful in cooking your very own sweet corn pudding.
- 3 large ears corn (shucked)
- 4 cups water
- 2 pandan leaves (tied together into a knot) (optional)
- 1/4 cup small tapioca pearls
- 2 (14-ounce) cans of coconut milk
- 1/2 cup granulated sugar
- a pinch of salt
- 2 tablespoons toasted sesame seeds
- Hold up every ear of corn in a bowl and, keeping it sturdy, run a sharp knife down the whole length of the ear to shave off the corn kernels. Set them aside.
- Combine the water, corn cobs, and pandan leaves (optional) in a pot and bring to a boil. Cover the pot and reduce the heat. Let it simmer for 30 minutes.
- Meanwhile, place the tapioca pearls in a small bowl. Pour in cold water by up to half an inch and let stand.
- Remove the pandan leaves and corn cobs and from the pot and dispose of them.
- Add corn kernels, coconut milk, a pinch of salt, and sugar to the pot and stir to mix. Return to a boil, then simmer for about 10 minutes until the corn is tender. Taste and adjust the salt and sugar, if desired.
- Stir the tapioca pearls in the pot and simmer for 2 minutes.
- Remove from the heat to cool. You can refrigerate the pudding for up to two days. If it gets too gloppy and thick, use water to thin it.
- Serve cold or warm in glasses or bowls. Garnish with some sesame seeds right before serving.