There are so many varieties of che including those with savory ingredients like sausages, roast pork or eggs. Che chuoi is a variant with banana and tapioca pearls, a sweet snack that can be enjoyed any time of the day.
First, about tapioca pearls. They are not the same as sago. Before tapioca pearls were catapulted into global fame, there was sago. My family has a long history with sago which, today, is often mistaken for tapioca pearls or boba, as tapioca pearls are more popularly known. Again, they’re not the same thing.
Sago comes from the sago palm Metroxylon sagu while tapioca pearls, as the name so obviously makes it clear, is made with tapioca, a starch extracted from cassava, a root vegetable.
In commercial usage, however, they have somehow become interchangeable. These days, buy sago and what you may be getting are tapioca pearls instead. And vice versa.
Tapioca pearls are opaque when uncooked. They double in size and turn translucent after cooking. The technique in this recipe is to partially cook the tapioca balls in boiling water then let them continue cooking in the hot liquid after all the ingredients have been added. This is to allow some of the starch in the tapioca balls to get mixed in the liquid to thicken it.
Vietnamese banana and tapioca pearls in coconut milk (che chuoi)
- Measure three and a half cups of water into a sauce pan. Add the tapioca balls. Bring to the boil.
- Cook the tapioca balls, stirring occasionally, until swollen but the centers still opaque.
- Stir in the sugar, salt and coconut milk. Bring to a simmer.
- Stir in the cubed bananas and vanilla extract, if using.
- Turn off the heat, cover the pan and allow the tapioca balls to cook fully in the residual heat.
- Serve your che chuoi warm or at room temperature.