In this pictorial recipe, I was teaching my kids how to make grass jelly dessert using the hand rubbing method and blender method. Grass jelly is known as sương sâm in Vietnamese and is a perennial vine in my edible garden of climate zone 9B in Florida. The simple dessert is easy to make and very refreshing. The vine so far has no pest or insect issues and creates a nice shade in front of my dining room window.
- Prep time: 30 minutes
- Cooking time: 30 minutes
- Serving: 2 quart or for 4 people
- 175 gram grass jelly leaves
- 2 liter water*
- 1/2 tsp vegetable oil
- 1 can 14-oz coconut creamed milk
- 1/2 cup water or pure coconut water
- 3 pandan leaves (optional)
- 1.5 cup light brown sugar or 1/2 pound pure palm sugar
- 1/2 tsp salt
- 1 cup water
- 1/2 Tbsp cornstarch + 3 Tbsp water
Note: *Use bottled water, filtered water, or cooled boiled water.
- Strip the leaves off of the grass jelly vine. My daughter taught me this trick. I’ve been cutting the individual leaves off and it took forever. She showed me to hold one end of the vine in my palm and clench my hand together like a fist. Then slide the fist down and the leaves will come right off into my palm! She is so clever for a five-years-old girl!
2. Weigh the leaves first. Then wash the leaves to remove any dirt and debris. Strain the leaves in a colander. Set aside. Note: To make the grass jelly firmer, use 175 gram of jelly leaves for every two liters of water. In this pictorial, we used 175 gram of leaves with 3 liters of water.
3. Prepare the sugar syrup. Simmer one cup light brown sugar or pure palm sugar with one cup of water with medium high heat until it thickens to your preference. This usually takes about thirty minutes for me.
4. Prepare the coconut creamed milk mixture. Bring one can 14-oz of coconut creamed milk and a half cup of water to a boil on medium high heat. Add cut up pandan leaves if a pandan flavor is desired. Simmer the mixture for about 5 minutes. Add 1/4 teaspoon of salt. Then drizzle the cornstarch mixture in. Stir and turn off stove. Let cool. Choose step 5 for the hand rubbing method or step 6 for the blender method.
Hand Rubbing Method
5. I set up the ingredients and tools ready for my little people. They empty the water bottles into the big bowl of washed grass jelly leaves. Then added the vegetable oil and used their hands to rub and lather the leaves in their palms. This was a bit hard for them so I had to help finish up this process. I prefer to use the blender method but the kids like this hands-on method because it’s more fun. The hand rubbing method didn’t make the grass jelly firm up as well as the blender method. I guess we didn’t rub and break the leaves up well enough by hands.
6. Put the grass jelly leaves into the blender along with 2 liters of water and a half teaspoon of vegetable oil. The oil will help prevent the grass jelly liquid to not form bubbly foam. Blend for 10 to 13 seconds. Blending too long will create a lot of foam even with oil added and will cause the grass jelly liquid to solidify too quickly that it’s hard to strain it.
7. Pour the grass jelly liquid through a cheesecloth, nut bag, or fine mesh bowl over a large bowl.
8. Then scoop the grass jelly into glass or plastic containers. You can strain the liquid through the cheese cloth and straight into the containers. Refrigerate the grass jelly for an hour. Quickly skim off any foam if there’s any.
9. Serve the grass jelly dessert with the sweet syrup and coconut creamed milk. I sometimes pour out the clear liquid if there’s any that floats on top once the grass jelly liquid firms up.
10. Enjoy! Picky Grace likes to eat the grass jelly with the syrup while little Ethan likes it served traditionally with the sugar syrup and coconut milk cream. Oh I hope my kids one day will teach their kids to make this refreshing natural grass jelly dessert.
Behind the scene:
Our very first attempt called for dad’s help. It was our first time trying to make grass jelly dessert by hand and I was not used to abusing the leaves this hard. So dad had to help and rubbed it too long. We forgot to add in the vegetable oil to prevent it from foaming up. We ended up throwing the first batch away.