Today, my local Asian market carried Vietnamese sweet bananas called chuối xiêm. Chuối xiêm are small, thin-peel bananas that are sweet and very flavorful when they are ripe. I made some coconut and sweet tapioca pudding with the bananas, called chè chuối xiêm in Vietnamese.
Vietnamese desserts are not always the prettiest-looking sweets, but they are very good. They are composed of ingredients different from Western desserts and might look unusual at first. A lot of traditional Vietnamese desserts are made from sticky rice or other starches like cassava.
Bánh khoai mì nướng, literally baked cassava (or manioc) cake in Vietnamese, is a sticky, sweet cake. The cassava provides the starch, the coconut milk provides the fat, and condensed milk is used as a sweetener. It's unlike any Western dessert you've ever tried.
Cassava is a starchy tuberous root that is widely used in South America, Africa and Asia. The flour made from the roots is called tapioca.
Rau câu is a Vietnamese jello cake that is made out of agar agar, which is a seaweed by product similar to gelatin. It's made out of coconut milk, condensed milk and layers of your favorite flavorings like mocha, vanilla, coconut, banana, chocolate and durian (if you're adventurous!).. It has the same texture of pana cotta.
It's a great alternative for vegetarians who do not want to use animal (usually pork) gelatin in desserts.
I made some coconut flavored sticky rice balls but instead of making the traditional split mung bean filling, I stuffed the dumplings with chocolate. I steamed them then rolled them in freshly grated coconut. They're delicious and cholesterol free.