Lotus seed is a specialty food of romantic Hue. It has been considered as the best lotus seed in Vietnam. Firm, plumpy, crunchy lotus seed turns fragrant, buttery, a little greasy, tender, and a little sticky after cooking. Lotus seed is used to cook a lot of delicious Vietnamese foods including sweet soups. Although there are not less than 10 Lotus sweet soups, the hue lotus seed sweet soup which is cooked from lotus seed and rock sugar has been one of the most favorite foods of local people as well as visitors for its simplicity, typical taste, sweet smell, comfortable, and healthy. Hue lotus seed sweet soup (Chè hạt sen, Che hat sen) is the essence of Hue, the original taste and smell of Hue lotus seed retain in this simple dessert.
A beautiful Vietnamese folk song says:
“Thương chồng nấu cháo le le/ Nấu canh bông lý nấu chè hạt sen”
(“Loving husband, cook porridge with lesser whistling duck/Cook soup with cowslip creeper, cook lotus seed sweet soup”).
To cook this authentic food, Hue people wait until the month of May – the harvest season of lotus seeds in Tinh Tam lake which are smaller and more smelling in comparison to lotus seeds in other places. Hue people do not wash or soak lotus seeds with any mixture of water and other condiments but in cold water to keep its sweet smell. They also do not add vanilla, pomelo flower extract, etc. to the food to enhance its flavor. They would like to cook and enjoy the Lotus seed sweet soup which has the typical smell of lotus seed. There is a folk song which says: “Sen không hương như cá ươn ngoài chợ, như trai ế vợ, như gái góa lỡ thời…” (“Lotus without smell is like not fresh fish at market, man who is on the shelf, old widow…”.
To cook Hue lotus seed sweet soup, Hue people steam fresh lotus seeds, cook them with water and rock sugar until boiling. The cook must keep the medium heat, stir slightly. The lotus seeds should be cooked for enough time. If they are overcooked, they will be too tender and loose its natural smell. Otherwise, the smell will not spread sweetly. Hue people serve this food in the best bowls in their families and eat the food slowly. Both hot or cold Lotus sweet soups are perfectly tasty. Once try Lotus sweet soup, you will remember it forever.
Here is the recipe for Che hat sen:
- Dried Hue lotus seeds: 500g
- Rock sugar: 200g
- Soak dried Hue lotus seeds for 4-6 hours or overnight.
- Steam or cook dried Hue lotus seeds in water until tender but not mushy.
- Cook sugar in water until melted, add lotus seeds and stir for a while before stop cooking.
You might like this: Hue sweet soups – must-try foods in Vietnam