Che Sam Bo Luong Recipe

Che Sam Bo Luong Recipe Recipe

Several roots, herbs, seeds and grains are known for their medicinal properties called thuốc bắc in Vietnamese. There's a Vietnamese dessert that gathers a collection of these delicious ingredients known as healing in Asian culture. It's called chè sâm bổ lượng and consists of a mix of dried lotus seeds (sen), longans (nhãn), Chinese pearl barley, dried mung beans, dried jujube (táo tầu in Vietnamese, also known as Chinese dates), dried white fungus and ginseng roots.

The natural starch from the barley thickens the dessert. Even though the jujube and longans are naturally sweet, I added a bit more sweetener to the syrup of the dessert with Chinese rock sugar. 

On hot summer days, you could also serve this chilled with crushed ice; it's amazing. 


Yields: 10 servings

1 (8-ounce) "necklace" dried lotus seeds
8 ounces dried longans, unsweetened
1½ ounces Chinese pearl barley (called bo bo in Vietnamese)
5 ounces dried mung beans
dried jujube (Chinese dates)
dried white fungus
dried seaweed (kelp)
8 slices ginseng root (or ginger)
5 large chunks Chinese rock sugar (or 6 ounces granulated sugar), to taste


In separate bowls soak in cold water the mung beans, ginseng roots (no need if using fresh ginger root), Chinese pearl barley, dried longans and dried jujube. Let them re-hydrate overnight. Rinse the following day.

Re-hydrate the white fungus in warm water, then finely chop in small pieces. Set aside.

Place the lotus seeds in a saucepan, fill with water, then bring to a boil. Cook on medium-low for 1 hour. Check doneness; they should be soft when gently pressed between your thumb and index finger. Drain and set them aside. Repeat the same procedure with the barley for about 20 minutes, until soft. 

Blanch (dip for a minute in boiling water then transfer to an ice bath) the dried longans to ensure they're clean. Rinse with lukewarm water and set aside. Repeat the same procedure with the ginseng, white fungus and jujubes. Once cooked, add the mung beans and more water (about 2 cups) and bring to a boil. Cook until the mung beans are soft. Sweeten with 2 chunks of rock sugar (about 2 ounces) and wait until completely dissolved.

Drain the water from the lotus and barley.

Place the longans in a small pot. Add about 1 quart water. Bring to a boil, then cover and cook at a low simmer, stirring occasionally, for about 10 minutes (Note: the longer you cook the liquid, the more intense the longan flavor gets). Add the rest of rock sugar and cook until fully dissolved. Add the lotus seeds and the jujube mixture. Remove from the stove and allow the syrup to infuse for about 15 minutes.

Serve warm or chilled (I prefer it warm ).

Bon appétit!


You can store the syrup, lotus and longans for up to 2 days (3 days at the most) in the refrigerator.

When selecting lotus, go for the white, skinned ones so they're midly sweet with a starchy texture.

You can find all the ingredients in any Asian supermarket.

For a better aesthetic, you could stuff the longans with the lotus seeds; I didn't.

I wasn't able to find kelp (thinly sliced seaweed) and fresh gingko nuts in my kitchen at the time I prepared the chè sâm bổ lượng but I strongly recommend using them to add full nutritional benefits to the dessert. 

If you don't have dried jujube and dried longans, you could replace them with rock sugar or granulated sugar.

For more Vietnamese desserts such as banana fritters (chuối chiên in Vietnamese), click on the links.

Published By: Jacqueline Pham on March 15, 2015.


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