Grass Jelly with Basil Seeds — sương sáo hột é
Hot. Humid. That 2 words pretty much sum up the last few days around here. New Jersey has seemed to become enveloped in a blazing heat dome with scattered rains serving not to cool things down, but rather impart a steamy humidity that just takes your breath away when you step out of the cool air conditioning.
Days like these remind me of my childhood when our first few homes had no air conditioning. Almost everyday in the summer felt sweltering and I remember my mother making us this dessert to cool us down and combat the heat. My mother always believed that the body is yin and yang, cool and hot auras, and that by eating certain foods, you could encourage one aura to dominate over the other.
On many occasions, Mom gave us grass jelly or sương sáo to help promote the yin within and provide some relief from the summer. Rendered from plants that are a part of the mint family, sương sáo is readily available here in the states and comes in a can, much like how cranberry sauce is packaged. It does sport a slightly translucent black color, but don’t be deterred by that. This is good stuff.
I prefer sometimes to eat a bit plain…it has a slightly lavender like flavor to it, but my main preference is to cube it and mix it with sugar and some chilled water. I take it one step further sometimes and mix it with some soaked basil seeds or hột é for some texture. It’s a little known fact here in the states, but if you soak basil seeds in water, they will expand and begin to look like frog eggs which is actually what their Vietnamese name translates to: hột é literally means seed frog.
All of these ingredients are readily available in most asian supermarkets and are very reasonable. Both the can of grass jelly and bag of basil seeds that I used tonight ran less than $1 each. So the next time it’s hot out there, ahem like tomorrow?, go get yourself some grass jelly, kick back, and let the cool times roll!
sương sáo hột é
1 can of grass jelly
2 teaspoons basil seeds
1/4 cup white sugar
1 cup water plus 1/4 cup
In a large glass, mix 2 teaspoons of basil seeds with 1 cup of room temperature water. Stir and allow to sit for 10 minutes. You will see the seeds begin to poof and develop a white exterior. Drain in a fine mesh sieve and rinse. Set aside.
Remove grass jelly from can and cut into bite sized cubes. I’ve found cutting it into 1/2″ circular slices and then cubing it slice to work best for me. Place in large bowl and add prepared basil seeds. Add in 1/4 cup of sugar and remaining 1/4 cup of water. Stir gently until all sugar has dissolved. You can now either add ice cubes or chill in the refrigerator for about an hour. Enjoy!