Springtime calls for a celebration drink—something bright in color and in taste, something to make a person feel special. With the advent of Mother’s Day and all mom-related memories, I think of a dessert my mother and I love to share: chè ba màu, or “three-color pudding.” It’s also sometimes called Rainbow Dessert, because of the vibrant colors in the dish.
What is Chè Ba Màu?
Chè is a general category of Vietnamese dessert that encompasses puddings, soups, and drinks that are sweet and often composed of multiple components. The “ba màu” part of the name refers to the striking red, yellow, and green layers of the chè. Chè ba màu is assembled from disparate yet complementary layers: sweet red beans, yellow mung beans, pandan jelly, crushed or shaved ice, and a salty-sweet coconut sauce.
The heartiness of the red beans plays well with the creamy mung beans, while the grassy, floral lightness of the pandan jelly adds a springy note. And my favorite part is the coconut cream that cuts through all the sugar with a velvety richness. It’s a wonderfully balanced and complex dessert that manages to be refreshing and filling at the same time.
Homemade Means More Control
No one’s ever said that chè ba màu is quick or simple. In fact, its very decadence comes from the fact that it’s a celebratory kind of dessert parfait, something you have when you’re craving a special moment. Chè ba màu is typically served at restaurants or roadside stands, but when you make it at home, you have more control over the ratio of ingredients and the overall sweetness. I’ve had some chès that are teeth-rattlingly sweet, and others that feel more mild and balanced.
Tips for Making Chè Ba Màu
Most of the ingredients can be found in an Asian grocery store or online. You can make the minor substitutions noted below, but for the best results, you’ll want to use the actual ingredients.
- Serve this in a tall glass, so that you can dredge a spoon through all the flavors.
- Don’t skimp on the coconut cream. It can be harder to track down than coconut milk, but the texture adds an imitable touch.
- The work in this dish is the prep, but once that’s out of the way, you can enjoy the dessert with a crowd. Consider making an event of it—double or triple the recipe, invite guests, and let them top their own chè!