Chè ba màu is is a staple dessert available anytime of the year. You can easily find it at a Vietnamese restaurant. It is a dessert comprised of yellow mung bean, red beans, and green gelatin strips served with ice and topped with coconut milk. It is usually a time consuming dessert to prepare because you have to make all three components. In this recipe, we will make the mung bean and gelatin from scratch. We will use canned kidney beans to make the red component. The recipe does use a lot of sugar but you will only need about 1 to 2 spoons of each component for 1 serving.
This recipe makes approximately 6 servings, rated medium, and can take over an hour depending on how fast you cook and multi-task.
2 cans of dark kidney beans
1 can of coconut milk
2 cups of dried split mung beans or 2 cans of cannellini beans (if you can’t find dried split mung bean)
Approximate 3 cups of sugar total for the recipe
1 tablespoon of agar agar
5 drops of green food coloring
1 teaspoon of Colombian roast instant coffee
⅛ teaspoon of vanilla extract
1 tablespoon of tapioca starch (not pictured in the picture below)
Part 1A – Cook the mung bean
Soak 2 cups of dried split mung bean in a bowl filled with 4 cups of water for at least 15 minutes.
After 15 minutes, the mung bean should be re-hydrated. Drain and rinse well.
In a pot, boil the mung bean in ½ cup of water.
Cook on high heat for 15 minutes with a cover on. Occasionally remove the cover to release the steam so the mixture does not boil over. Stir occasionally.
After 15 minutes, turn the heat to low and continue to stir so the mung bean does not stick to the pot.
When the mung bean is cooked (total cooking time approx. 20-25 minutes), stir in 1 cup of sugar and ⅛ teaspoon of vanilla extract. When you are stirring, press the mung bean down with the back of the spoon so that the mung bean is mashed and has a paste-like consistently. Turn the heat off.
Alternatively, you can also put it into a blender.
Part 1B – Prepare the pre-cooked cannellini beans in lieu of the mung bean
Drain the cannellini beans from the can and rinse 2-3 times to get rid of any residue and brine.
Add the cannellini beans, ½ cup of water, and 1 cup of sugar to a pot and cook on medium heat.
Stir occasionally and skim away any foam. The goal is to have the beans absorb all the water.
When the water has been reduced by half, turn the heat to low and let the mixture continue to reduce until the water has been absorbed. The beans should have a mushy consistency.
Part 2 – Cook the dark kidney beans
Drain the dark kidney beans from the can and rinse 2-3 times to get rid of any residue and brine.
Add the dark kidney beans, ½ cup of water, and 1 cup of sugar to a pot and cook on medium heat. Stir occasionally and skim away any foam. The goal is to have the beans absorb all the water.
When the water has been reduced by half, turn the heat to low.
Once the water is almost absorbed, add 1 teaspoon of Colombian roast instant coffee. The instant coffee is my family’s addition to the traditional recipe to give extra depth to the sweet red beans.
Turn off the heat.
Part 3 – Make the green gelatin
In a pot, add 3 cups of water, ⅔ cup of sugar, 1 tablespoon of agar agar, and 5 drops of green food coloring.
Cook on low heat and stir until all the ingredients are dissolved and incorporated.
Pour into a shallow square bowl and let the gelatin set for at least half an hour or until the gelatin is hard and you can cut through it.
Part 4 – Prepare the coconut milk
In a small sauce pan on medium heat, simmer 1 ½ cup of coconut milk and ½ cup of water.
Add ⅛ teaspoon of salt and 1 teaspoon of sugar and stir.
In a separate bowl, add 1 tablespoon of tapioca starch and 2 teaspoons of water. From this mixture, add 1 ½ tablespoon of starch water to the coconut milk and stir. The coconut milk should thicken so that the back of the spoon is covered when you dip it into the milk and take it out. Turn off the heat.
Part 4- Assemble the ingredients
or with cannellini beans
In a tall glass, add crush ice at the bottom. Next add the red beans, yellow beans and green gelatin in equal parts. Usually one to two spoons of each component is sufficient. Top with one to two spoons of the coconut milk.