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Sep 1, 2008 06:50 AM

September COTM “Vietnamese”: Desserts & Sweet Drinks

September 2008 Cookbooks of the Month:

Pleasures of the Vietnamese Table by Mai Pham and Into the Vietnamese Kitchen by Andrea Nguyen.

Please post your full-length reviews of dessert and drink recipes here. Please mention the name of the recipe you are reviewing and the book or author and page number, if possible, as well as any modifications you made to the recipe. This thread includes:


Chapter 8: Sweet Things (Desserts and Sweet Drinks)


Chapter 11: Sweets and Palate Refreshers

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  1. Vietnamese Fried Bananas with Ice Cream (chuo chien voi kem), Pham - PVT, p. 208

    Oh boy were these good. The batter was slightly sweet, puffy and light on the inside but crispy on the outside. Filling too - one banana each was plenty. If you make this, plan ahead as the batter (flour, potato starch, baking powder, sugar, and water) needs to sit for 30 minutes. I also had a bit of a problem with the bananas sticking to the bottom of the pan. This was a great dessert, and I served them with vanilla ice cream.

    7 Replies
    1. re: Rubee

      That looks glorious, Rubee. Would you please come to New York and help me with my deep-fat frying technique? My oil gets too hot too fast and then cools down too much too quickly. Any secrets you'd like to share?

      1. re: JoanN

        That is exactly what happens to me when I deep-fry and I meant to post about it. Would love tips as well.

        1. re: MMRuth

          I know exactly what you both mean. I had lots of trial and error.

          Now I use a round, deep (5/1-2 quart) Le Creuset with a candy thermometer. I use my largest burner and heat the oil up somewhat slowly on medium-high, making sure it stays at the right temperature steady for about 5-10 minutes before I start frying.

          I probably fry much more than I should. Tonight is spring rolls!

          1. re: Rubee

            Ah - I think the bit about keeping the temp. steady before starting must be the key. The minute my oil hits the called for temp., I start frying! I bought a fancy digital candy/frying thermometer recently, which I love.

            1. re: Rubee

              Yes, I agree. Excellent advice about keeping the temp steady before adding the food. I've never done that either. And the Creuset is a good idea, too. Mine is a bit of a pain to haul down so I often use my wok. But I'll bet the Creuset helps to keep a steady temperature better. I won't be so lazy next time. Thanks.

            2. re: MMRuth

              I thought maybe I was the only one with a fear of frying. Maybe Rubee's advice will get me trying it.

              And the bananas look Amazing.

          2. re: Rubee

            Oh those look wonderful! I just gained 10 pounds looking at the picture.

          3. Banh Chuoi (a banana cake) Nguyen, pp. 292

            I made this recently. Lovely, dense little cake (8" round cake pan). It has sort of a pudding-like quality, moist, with A LOT of bananas. It calls for 1 1/2 pounds, which turned out to be 4 big bananas, thinly sliced. I'm not a baker, but managed just fine. I'll make this one again, for sure. First post to COTM! I do love Nguyen's cookbook!

            11 Replies
            1. re: Pat Hammond

              Hi Pat!

              That sounds great. I was planning on making banana bread today, but now I wish I had the book. Hmmmm...what am I waiting for? That's it, I'm going to go ahead and stop talking and just buy it!

              Is the recipe complicated? I'm going to try to see if I can find it on the web.

              1. re: Rubee

                I'm really glad that I have both books, for what it's worth. Do you want the recipe for tonight? I'll type it up for you if you do.

                1. re: MMRuth

                  If it's not too long - that would be great! I've been googling but haven't found it yet. Thanks so much MMRuth.

                  1. re: Rubee

                    HAHAHA! I Googled it , too, Rubee as soon as Pat posted about it. It sounded so delicious I wanted to have a peek at the recipe to see if it could be something I could bring to an upcoming work potluck thingie, but not be too calorie-tastic (so as not to interfere with my un-ending diet.)

                    No luck with the google. Will have to wait to look at my book tonight, unless MMR types it up before I get a chance to!


                    1. re: The Dairy Queen

                      Hey DQ

                      I'm going to make it tonight - I'll be sure to report back.

                      (Edited): It's in the oven, and it smells great!

                      1. re: Rubee

                        So jealous! It sounds delicious!


                    2. re: Rubee

                      Banh Chuoi

                      1 1/2 pounds extremely ripe bananas
                      1 egg
                      1/4 cup unsalted butter, melted and cooled
                      1/4 cup whole milk
                      1/2 cup plus 1 tsp sugar
                      3/4 cup AP flour

                      Preheat oven to 375, put rack in middle of oven, oil eight inch round pan, and line bottom w/ parchment paper.

                      "Select the firmest, bruise free banana and put half of it aside for the top." Peel the rest, and slice into 1/8 inch slices and put in a bowl.

                      In a bowl, beat the egg lightly, add butter and milk and beat. Add 1/2 cup sugar, stir gently. Sift in flour and stir to incorporate. Pour the batter into the pan, and shake a bit to level the batter.

                      Peel the half banana that you've set aside - 1/16th inch slices. Arrange nicely on top of cake. Sprinkle w/ the 1 tsp. sugar.

                      Bake for 1 1/4 to 1 1/2 hours, or until toothpick comes out clean. Place on rack to cool completely. Cake will deflate a bit while cooking. Loosen cake with knife, put on serving plate, and slice to serve.

                      1. re: MMRuth

                        Oh, so quick too! Thanks so much. I'm going to try it tonight.

                  2. re: Rubee

                    It's very easy, or I wouldn't have attempted it! And I see (below) that MM provided the recipe! I had one mistake that I've decided was caused by not having the egg, butter and milk pretty much at room temp. Something caused the butter to congeal, in any event. I started that part over, since I didn't know how to correct it. It also could have been beginners bad luck! Do let us know how you liked it. It does smell divine as it bakes.

                    1. re: Pat Hammond

                      See what you started? ; )

                      Banh Chuoi - Into the Vietnamese Kitchen by Andrea Nguyen, p. 292

                      I agree - very easy, moist, and full of bananas! I had used room temp butter and taken the egg out ahead of time so it only congealed a little bit. That's a good point to make; I can see having a problem if everything is very cold. I didn't have a round 8-inch cake pan so used an 8-inch pyrex and non-stick spray. Because of the pyrex, and the fact that I baked it in a convection oven, the cake only took about 45 minutes.

                      What an easy recipe and a great use of four extremely ripe bananas. Mine were so soft that when I stirred the batter, they didn't stay as slices. I also didn't have enough 'firm' pieces to decorate the top. Either way, this is a winner. Thanks Pat! I agree - I'll be making this again.

                      1. re: Rubee

                        Funny about decorating the top...In the book, she describes this part by saying "this is your art". I wish you could have seen MY art. My 5 year old grandaughter could have done better. My bananas had just begun to "freckle" and were easy to slice to 1/16" size, and they did caramelize nicely. My cake baked for 1 hour 15 minutes in a conventional oven. I did line the pan with parchment.

                2. Almond Cookies (ItVK page 290) served with
                  Lemongrass Ice Cream (ItVK page 283)

                  Straightforward recipe for the cookies, but I made a rookie mistake. Pulled the butter out of the freezer before I left in the morning so it would be at room temp and didn’t realize until the evening when I was ready to start baking that I taken out salted, rather than unsalted, butter, which I practically never have on hand but had bought by mistake. Didn’t seem to make a difference. Left out the salt later in the recipe and I doubt anyone would be able to tell. I couldn’t.

                  Made the cookies with the optional caramel sauce glaze and took them out of the oven. After they were cool, I tried one. Then I tried another. Then I took all the ones that didn’t look perfect and ate those. Uh, oh. These were supposed to be for a dinner party a couple of days later. But I didn’t need that many for the dinner party so I tried a few more.

                  OMG, these are good. Yet another run-don’t-walk recipe from Andrea Nguyen.

                  A note: she says they can be made up to three days ahead of time and stored in an airtight container. When I first took these out of the oven, they were crispy around the edges with a dense, slightly chewy interior. After sitting in the cookie tin a couple of days they had lost all crispness, which I really liked. So before serving them for the dinner party I put them in the toaster oven for about two minutes. It worked perfectly, restoring them to just-out-of-the-oven texture and flavor.

                  The ice cream is Asian style, made with milk and thickened with cornstarch rather than made with cream and thickened with eggs. I have a really cheap, old Donvier ice-cream maker, so my ice creams are always a bit more the texture of sorbet. But that was okay with me. This was delightful and, as one of my guests said, “Sooooo refreshing!”

                  2 Replies
                  1. re: JoanN

                    I've been dying to try that lemongrass ice cream for the longest time...thanks for the report!

                    It sounds like I'd better stay away from the almond cookie recipe as I don't think I'd have any better luck than you controlling myself around them!


                    1. re: JoanN

                      I need to make these cookies. Thanks for the report - sounds heavenly.