We took an overnight holiday with the kids to Ben Tre last week with some of their school friends and family. Even with 8 kids aged between 3 to 11 we managed to have one of the most relaxing holidays thanks to Cocohut Farm-stay where they cooked homestyle Vietnamese food for us and planned many activities to help the kids reconnect with nature and keep them entertained. The food was incredible and I would probably rate it right next to my mum's Vietnamese cooking.
|Coconut Jelly (Rau Cau Dua)|
Note: scroll to the end for the Coconut Jelly recipe (Rau Cau Dua recipe) if you are in a hurry, or grab a cup of tea and enjoy the trip to Cocohut with the kids.
Ben Tre is about 2 hours from Saigon in the Mekong Delta area of Vietnam and is also known as the land of the coconut with the coverage of about 40,000 hectares and a wide range of coconut species, they have the best tasting coconuts and really fresh produce grown on a small scale with little to no chemical pesticides.
We hired a bus to take us to Cocohut's Farm-stay where they met us just off the main road and transported us and our bags by motorcycle. It was my 3yo's first ride on the bike, I was a little nervous but the bike trip was pretty short and he absolutely loved it.
|Our transport in to Cocohut's Farmstay|
|Home grown guavas|
|The incredibly fit 54 yo lady that climbed the star apple tree for us!|
|Freshly picked organic star apples (vu sua aka breast milk fruit)|
|small fried fish with tamarind dipping sauce|
|banh xeo (vietnamese pancake - I have a paleo version here)|
|thit kho trung cuc (caramelised pork & quail eggs)|
|fresh mit (jackfruit) from coconut's tree|
|We went to the neighbouring farms to feed the cows grass|
|Picking their home grown guavas, you can see they are individually bagged to prevent bugs|
|Net fishing with the kids|
|Exploring the rice paddies|
|Picking winter melon for dinner|
The next morning the owner of Cocohut asked us what we wanted for breakfast and was so accommodating when we requested to try a little of everything, she set off on her motorbike to the markets and returned with sticky corn and sticky rice, the cooks make trung ga op la (eggs sunny side up, traditionally eaten some salt & pepper, soy sauce and the runny yolk is mopped up with a crispy Vietnamese bread roll #notpaleo but so friggin yummy it was worth it!)
Checkout was at 12pm so we took the morning easy and slowly packed our rooms while the kids continued to play in the pool and run around. By lunch time we all were eagerly waiting to see what food was on the menu and was not disappointed. We were served a platter of freshly steamed vegetables from their garden including winter melon, okra, baby bok chou, green beans with this incredible dip, sour soup (canh chia), caramelised fish & pork (ca thit kho) and coconut jelly (rau cau dua).
Steamed home grown vegetables with Vietnamese dip
|Sour soup (canh chua)|
|caramelised fish & pork (ca thit kho)|
Agar comes in strips, flakes or powder form. Agar can act as an appetite suppressant, once it is wet it swells and can give the feeling of fullness to aid with weight loss. It is rich in minerals as it is derived from red marine kelp (seaweed) and is said to be able to help with diabetes and constipation.
Recipe for 1 coconut or 1 standard cup (you can also use mini moulds as pictured below)
|I used maple sugar for this version. Nativa, honey or half and half also work well to keep the jelly a light colour. I cannot bring myself to use refined white sugar just for the appearance of the jelly as it has no nutritional benefit.|
You will need:
- 1 young coconut (choose Thai coconuts, they are generally sweeter or in Vietnam choose Dua xiem) or 250ml 100% coconut water from the carton or bottle (check the carton and choose the ones from Thailand for the best taste)
- 1-2 tbsp sweetener of choice, increase if your coconut juice is not naturally sweet enough (stevia, natvia, honey or maple sugar work well or coconut sugar (this will darken the coconut jelly to a brown though so be ware!)
- 2 tbsp coconut milk for the top layer of jelly
- 1 tsp agar powder or if your are in Australia, you can order it here (from iHerb)
- Cut the top off the coconut (I do this by placing the coconut on its side, and gently tapping the bottom corner of my meat clever) the cut needs to be large enough for your spoon to fit in (discard the coconut if the flesh and liquid has a pink tinge, the coconut has expired)
- Measure out 1 cup (250ml) and place the juice into a saucepan
- Have a taste of the juice, and add sweetener to taste. The juice should be sweeter than you would like as once the agar sets, it becomes less sweet. I usually add 1 tbsp of sweetener
- Add the agar powder and stir to combine well
- Place on the stove on low to medium heat and stir until the agar and sweetener has dissolved
- Reserve about 1/4 cup of coconut liquid and pour the rest of the liquid into the coconut or a glass
- Place the coconut or glass in the fridge to set (about 10 minutes)
- Keep the remaining liquid in the saucepan and add the 2 tbsp of coconut milk
- Stir well and keep on the hot plate where it was simmering but ensure the hotplate is turned off
- If you find the coconut milk starting to set in the saucepan you can lightly reheat it
- Once the coconut juice has set (try gently shaking the coconut or glass to see if it is set)add the coconut milk layer on top and return to the fridge to set
|This is a Coconut Jelly (Rau Cau Dua) from a street food vendor found almost everywhere in Ho Chi Minh City|
Hope you enjoy this recipe! I'm ending with a beautiful pic of the sunset at Cocohut Ben Tre <3