Che bap (Sweet corn pudding)

31 July 2011
by Phuoc

It all started with a random tweet with two lovely Viet food bloggers. “Let’s have a chè off!” (Chè is a Vietnamese term that refers to any traditional Vietnamese sweet dessert soup or pudding) Our desserts aren’t exactly like your rich and decadent European desserts, in my opinion they tend to incorporate fruit, vegetables and beans and topped with coconut milk.

I’d have fond memories of having chè each week when I was younger. My parents would take my sisters and I to Flemington markets on weekends to buy fruit and vegetables, and at the end of our outing we would head to Cabramatta to the cafe my dad goes to daily to catch up with friends and for his daily caffeine hit. Jellies of all colours of the rainbow, fruits and beans are displayed for chè ba màu (3 colour dessert); where you have about 5-6 choices to create a multi-colour dessert drink, which is topped up with coconut milk, sugar syrup and shaved ice. There would also be bowls of different chè on offer at the cafe. On some days I would have fun choosing an assortment of jellies and fruits for my chè ba màu, others days I’ll have the bánh chuối hấp (steamed banana cake) or chè bắp (sweet corn pudding).

I was having trouble trying to figure out what to make. Vietnamese desserts are something I don’t really make. I’ve attempted to make bánh chuối hấp once but failed miserably. Instead of looking something like this, my cake turned out a runny and gluggy mess and there was no way of saving it. After that incident I didn’t want to try making Vietnamese desserts again.

…Until I found a recipe for chè bắp in Luke Nguyen’s Songs of Sapa cookbook. I remember watching him make this at his Auntie 8’s corn business in his first season of Luke Nguyen’s Vietnam. He was there helping sort out the different grades of corn, then he cooks up a batch of sweet corn pudding. In the cookbook he tells us that there’s a debate between his parents and aunties over how it should be cooked, what ingredients should be used and then which version of this dish is better. In the end, he decides that his auntie 8’s version is the better one as he believes it’s most authentic.

During the time I was making this chè my parents were also giving their opinion on the entire cooking process. “You should cut the corn this way” “You need more water” “You shouldn’t use that brand of coconut milk“… That’s parents for you!

Even when I had finished making the chè, my dad told me it was too cluggy and needed more water. I must admit, I may have overcooked it slightly but I just wanted to make sure that the corn had softened. I know it may be tedious work but I’d probably suggest ( if you can or can be bothered to do so) shaving the corn instead of having corn kernels otherwise, cook the corn for about 5-10 minutes in water prior to adding it to the sticky rice.

NB – If you can’t find pandan leaves or tapioca flour, that’s fine, just omit it from the recipe and follow this guideline for tapioca flour substitutions.

Anyway, check out the other entries of the Chè Off.
Chè hoa cau (Vietnamese mung bean dessert soup) by Anh and
Chè cốm (Vietnamese Young Rice Syrup dessert) by Chi Anh.


Recipe from The songs of Sapa by Luke Nguyen

Serves 6-8


Sweet corn pudding

6 corn cobs

100g (1/2 cup) white sticky (glutinous) long-grain rice

2 pandan leaves, each tied in a knot

625mL (2 1/2 cups) water

150g (2/3 cup) sugar

150mL coconut milk

toasted sesame seeds, to serve

Sweet coconut milk

1 tbsp tapioca flour or potato starch

300mL coconut milk

50g sugar

1 pandan leaf, tied in a knot

1/4 tsp salt


For the sweet corn pudding

  1. Remove the husk and silk from the corn cob. Cut the corn kernels with a sharp knife (make sure you do this in a bowl for a mess-free kitchen and to not remove the hard, inedible cob).
  2. Wash the sticky rice with cold water and strain until the water is clear (about 3-4 times).
  3. Place the sticky ice, water and pandan leaves in a medium saucepan.
  4. Bring to the boil, then reduce the heat to low, stirring constantly for 5 minute, or until the rice expands and the water has absorbed.
  5. Stir in the corn kernels and sugar, cooking it for a further 5 minutes.
  6. Add the coconut milk and continue to cook and stir the pudding until the rice has puffed and the corn softens slightly.
  7. Discard the pandan leaves.
  8. Serve warm in small bowls and topped with a couple of tablespoons of sweet coconut milk and toasted sesame seeds.

For the sweet coconut milk

  1. Combine the tapioca flour with 2 1/2 tablespoons of water in a small bowl and stir to form a smooth paste. Set aside.
  2. Add coconut milk, sugar, pandan and salt in a small saucepan over low heat.
  3. Stir in the flour mixture (giving it a brief mix before adding as it sets) and continue stirring until the coconut mixture starts to thicken. Take off the heat.
  4. Discard the pandan leaf.

[NB – Sweet coconut milk can be stored in the fridge for up to 2 days.]

Print this recipe


  1. Jenna

    I always use to look forward to giving Isis lifts to your house because it meant she’d share all the amazing things you make for her with me! Just realised once I return to Sydney she’ll know how to drive so won’t need me! So cruel! *shakes fist* but thank you for this recipe Phuoc, it’s so perfect! I am definitely trying it this week and I think it is such a good remedy for homesickness/quê-hương-ness? too. I’ve so many memories rushing through my head just reading this post. 🙂

  2. joey@FoodiePop

    Looks like a great dessert to make for me mum, thanks! 😀

  3. Lorraine @ Not Quite Nigella

    I’m such a sweetcorn fan that I know instantly that I’d love this! 🙂

  4. JasmyneTea

    Wow, I’m intrigued, I’ve never had corn in a dessert before! Looks lovely 🙂

  5. Phuoc

    Jenna: Awww… There’s more sweet goodness to share, you know where I live. I hope you get around to making it and I love how this post provoked memories for you 🙂

    Joey: If you get around to making it, I hope she likes it!

    Lorraine: Brilliant!

    JasmyneTea: My boyfriend’s dad got put off when I mentioned corn being featured in a “dessert”, but I guess if people can put carrot into a cake, then you can put corn in a pudding 🙂

  6. mademoiselle délicieuse

    Haha, parents! Especially ones who cook and, like most who have cooked for a while, cook without recipes and by feel – their way, even though it changes a little each time they make it, will always be the best and only way!

  7. Adrian (Food Rehab)

    Haha! My mum does the same thing. I now make it a rule that I never tell her about any variances to her recipes!

    I love cooking up childhood favourites – this one looks like a gem. Mmmm, sweet corn…..

  8. Phuoc

    Mademoiselle délicieuse: We can never win hey..? Cooking by feel is something I want to master one day, especially all the Vietnamese dishes.

    Adrian: Although I know they mean well, I think I should not tell my parents what I’m make in the future, just to avoid, but only ask for their advice when I need it… Childhood cooking is brilliant, so many fond memories (ahhh the power of food)

  9. Sylvie @ Gourmande in the Kitchen

    Wow, that sounds amazingly good. I’ve never had anything like it before.

  10. Ramen Raff

    Hi Phuoc!

    Love corn in desserts and this sounds like a winner!

  11. chopinandmysaucepan

    I love sweet corn and also your photography and styling. Wished I had that flair to make your dessert look so good 🙁

  12. Maria Tsoli

    That looks great. Would love to try it.

  13. betty

    hehe my mom does that too (try to take over when im in the kitchen) i wish she would just let me learn from my own mistakes

  14. Phuoc

    Sylvie: I guess a good way to explain it would be thinking of it as rice pudding with corn in it 🙂

    Ramen Raff: It may seem odd to some but it does work 🙂

    Chopinandmysaucepan: Thank you, I’m still playing around with it, I’m no pro but still learning. You’ll get it with practice 🙂

    Maria: I should’ve passed some on to you when I made a big batch 🙁

    Betty: They do mean well and are only trying to pass their wisdom onto us but yes, you are right, let us learn from our own mistakes.

  15. Anna Johnston

    Love the idea of a che off. Lol. Sounds fun. 🙂 I’m funny about corn, not normally a big fan, but dang, this looks tasty. I’m going to overcome my fears and tackle the corn. Cheers for the interesting recipe, I’m pumped to try it. 🙂

  16. Phuoc

    Anna Johnston: What? You don’t like corn? 🙁 I hope you do overcome your fears, let me know how you go if you get around to making this 🙂

  17. veggie mama

    I absolutely adore corn, and this is the second corn dessert I’ve read tonight. I’m so intrigued! I could eat it in any fashion, but I really want to try this – the coconut milk in it really has convinced me 🙂

  18. Phuoc

    Veggie mama: I think that’s a sign… I think one way to think of it as a creamy coconut rice pudding with corn throughout 🙂

  19. Sefie

    Hmmm, there’s a Filipino version of this with shaved ice, milk/coconut milk and sweetcorn that we call “mais con hielo” (corn with ice). Sweetcorn is also a common ingredient in sticky rice puddings. I love how asian-style desserts are so much more varied than just sugar, pastry or chocolate… not that I have anything against all three!

  20. Phuoc

    Sefie: How interesting, it sounds similar to the Malaysian desssert; ice kachang. I guess that’s the beauty of South East Asian food, there are similarities between each cuisine

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