Hue cuisine with various authentic dishes is well-known by Vietnamese people and foreigners for the simplicity but elegance. Hue lotus seed and longan sweet soup (Chè hạt sen nhãn lồng, Che hat sen nhan long) is a famous dessert which has won the hearts of all ages. The typical smell of lotus seed and sweet taste of longan flesh of the dessert are unforgettable. In addition, the dessert is refreshing and rich-nutrient. Lotus seed and longan sweet soup was served to royal families in the past. In the recent, Hue people serve this to valuable guests and on important occasions. This food has been more and more popular around the country.
Hue people prefer to use fresh lotus seeds which are grown in Tinh Tam lake to cook Che hat sen nhan long. Tinh Tam lake is the best place to grow lotus, the lotus flowers in the lake are the most beautiful, the lotus seeds in the lake are small but smelling and sticky. Tinh Tam lotus seed has become a specialty food of Hue for many years. Longan trees are grown along the streets around Hue Imperial Citadel. Longan fruits are protected in spathe with fragrant jasmine flower. There are two kinds of longans: wet and dry. The wet longan flesh is juicy and soft. The dry longan has thick, crunchy flesh and small seed. The dry is preferred to cook Hue lotus seed and longan sweet soup. The seed of longan grown around Hue Imperial Citadel and Tinh Tam lotus seed are the same size. So that Hue people skilfully fill the longan flesh with a lotus seed, the longan with lotus seed filling looks like a beautiful flower with yellow nectar. After steaming the longans filled with lotus seeds, cook them in water with rock sugar (or regular sugar). The cook should use enough sugar so that the dessert is not too sweet and not too light. It is a wonderful blend of two main ingredients for this sweet soup: the buttery, sticky, tender, smelling and sweet, juicy, crunchy longan flesh.
Hue lotus seed and longan sweet soup is the essence of Hue old citadel of Vietnam. It reflects the characteristics of Hue which is gentle, graceful but warm and delicate. Coming to Hue, do not miss tasting this wonderful dessert.
Below is the recipe for lotus seed and longan sweet soup:
- Fresh lotus seeds (or Dried lotus seed): 100g
- Fresh longan: 500g (or dried longan flesh: 100g)
- Rock sugar (or regular sugar): 250g
- Remove the hearts of fresh lotus seeds, cook them until tender but not mushy or broken. (If you use dried lotus seeds which hearts have been removed, soak them in water for 4-5 hours, then cook like the fresh). Drain off the lotus seeds.
- Cook sugar in water until melted, add cooked lotus seeds, cook for 10 minutes to make the lotus seeds sweet, separate the seeds from the water sugar (syrup).
- Use a knife with a sharp point to peel the longans, skillfully remove the seeds but do not make the flesh torn. (If you use dried longan fleshes, reconstitute them by soaking them in warm water until plump). Fill each flesh with one cooked lotus seed.
- Cook the syrup until boiling, add the fleshes filled with lotus seeds, cook until boiling.
- The sweet soup is served hot or cold.