Longan and lotus seed sweet soup is a summer favorite and it is believed to help release stress and promote deep sleep.
Everyone knows that the best time to eat fruit is when it is in season.
Blessed with tropical abundance, Vietnam has several fruits in season throughout the year.
And whether you have a sweet tooth or not, fruit-based desserts are always a treat.
To give yourself a special treat, though, you cannot go wrong with the sweet soup made with longan and lotus seeds.
Although this dish can be made all year round with dried ingredients, summer is the best time to enjoy this one because both longan and lotus are in season.
If you live near the northern province of Hung Yen or get a chance to visit the place in summer, the special treat becomes even more so, because the best, most tasty variety of longan grows here.
At the peak of summer, bunches of brown longan are sold everywhere in the area. Locals are also beginning to harvest lotus seeds and the small black seeds can be found in many village markets as well as in the baskets of street vendors in Hanoi.
Local people have created a wide collection of good dishes from these fresh and nutritious ingredients including longan mixed with yoghurt, glutinous rice steamed with lotus seeds, chicken simmered with lotus seeds, and of course, the sweet soup with fresh longan and lotus seeds.
Like many other people living in Hanoi, I consider it a summer drink. These ingredients are abundant at this time, it is simple to make, and the combination is a sure winner.
I didn't remember exactly the first time I helped my mother prepare the dish but it has been one of our family's most popular summer dishes for a long time. We usually cook it three times a week.
To prepare enough for our family of five members, we need 1 kg of fresh longans, 400g of fresh lotus seeds, 500g of sugar and 3 tbsp of tapioca powder.
First we have to peel the longans and carefully remove the seeds without breaking the fruit flesh. Next we the peel lotus seeds and take out the little green sprouts. These two steps take quite a lot of time but when we have all the ingredients ready to cook, the final stages are very quick and simple.
We boil lotus seeds and add sugar before inserting each of them in each longan and bringing them back to boil again. Then we mix tapioca powder with cold water and add the mixture slowly into the pot while stirring gently until it boils again. We scoop this into small bowls and let cool. Add in some drops of grapefruit flower extract before serving. This dish tastes better served cold.
It is fragrant and cooling, and in the burning heat of the Hanoi summer, I can never get enough of it.
Here is the clincher though: the soup is not only delicious but also very good for our health. It is believed to help release stress, promote deep sleep and improve our appetites.
If you don't have time to cook your own dish, you can enjoy it at every "chè" shop in Hanoi. Don't wait. Just go for it.