Chè Khúc Bach
Doris Hô-Kane, who runs Ban Bè, a Vietnamese-American bakery in Brooklyn, is particularly fond of chè khúc bach, or “white chunk dessert soup.” (“It doesn’t sound as beautiful in [English] as it does in Vietnamese,” says Hô-Kane about this iconic sweet. Drizzled with sweet coconut cream, this Vietnamese dessert of flavored panna cotta, tropical fruits, and shaved ice is a riot of color and texture. Like chia seeds, basil seeds swell when soaked in water, giving them a mild crunch and a slippery, jelly-like consistency. Be sure to have 3 regular or disposable loaf pans on hand for the panna cotta. Hô-Kane, whose approach is an amalgamation of her Vietnamese heritage and her American upbringing, likes to add beet juice, butterfly pea flower, and coffee to the panna cotta to add both color and contrast to the chè. One tradition she does stick to is cutting the panna cotta with a wavy knife ($5, mrslinskitchen.com), which gives the squares a set of ridges, which are as fun to look at as they are to eat. For the finely crushed ice, use a countertop ice shaver, such as the Little Snowie Max.
Find butterfly pea powder, agar-agar, basil seeds, and canned lychees and longans at Asian grocery stores or online at foodsofnations.com. See p. 12 for our favorite shaved-ice machine.
Panna cottas can be made up to 1 week in advance. Coconut cream topping can be made up to 4 days in advance; let come to room temperature and whisk until smooth before using.