Lotus seed sweet soup with longan (Che hat sen long nhan) is a delicious Vietnamese summer dessert. It has a pleasant aroma and sweetness, creating a relaxation effect.
Sweet soup (chè) is one of the most popular forms of dessert in Vietnam. Chè is often made from nuts, beans, root vegetables and fruits and you can enjoy it hot or cold.
This lotus seed sweet soup consists of soft, powdery lotus seeds and sweet dried longan. It is called chè hạt sen long nhãn (or chè hạt sen nhãn nhục) in Vietnamese. When enjoyed chilled/cold, it has a cooling and relaxation effect. It can also be eaten warm.
What Are Lotus Seeds
Lotus seeds (hạt sen) are the nuts of lotus flower plants. They have a round shape, mild flavor, and slightly sweet nutty scent. In Vietnamese cuisine, you can come across them in both savory as well as sweet dishes.
When using lotus seeds in cooking, we will need to remove the green germs in the center because they are very bitter. You can use a small toothpick to push the germs out of the seeds as in the video.
We use fresh seeds in this recipe (since it is very easy to buy them fresh here in Vietnam). Outside of Vietnam, I think you can only find dried lotus seeds at Asian grocery stores. It is fine to use the dried ones, just soak them before using and adjust cooking time.
What is Dried Longan
Dried Longan (long nhãn or nhãn nhục) is simply dried fresh longan fruit that has been shelled and pitted. It has a deep brown color and a sweet taste, somewhat like dates.
This lotus seed dessert soup can actually be made with either fresh or dried longan. I personally prefer using dried one since it has a more distinct concentrated flavor.
You can find dried longan at Asian grocery stores, but do you know it’s very easy to make dried longan at home? I have detailed instructions on how to dry longan fruits here.
In Vietnam, we love to infuse this soup with jasmine flowers which give it an incredibly sweet and relaxing fragrance. It is not easy to find jasmine flowers though, so you can use vanilla extract instead. Even without jasmine flowers or vanilla extract, the soup is still tasty and fragrant.
We will, of course, need sugar to sweeten the soup. I use rock sugar which has a mild sweetness to cook with the lotus seeds. You can use granulated sugar instead, but please adjust the amount of sugar to your desired sweetness. Rock sugar can be white or yellow. I use white rock sugar since I don’t want to alter the color of the lotus seed soup.
For the dried longan, I cook them with light brown sugar to retain the color. Once cooked, they will have a deep caramel color quite like dates. Again, you can use other types of sugar you have on hand, but adjust the quantity accordingly since each sugar type has a different degree of sweetness.
How to Make Vietnamese Lotus Seed Sweet Soup with Longan
To make che hat sen nhan nhuc, you will need to cook lotus seed and dried longan separately since they have different cooking time. Besides, I want to preserve the color and flavor of dried longan.
I like to steam the lotus seeds first before cooking them in water. The reason is if we simmer them in water for a long time, some parts may get really soft and mushy, and then broken into pieces. As a result, the soup will not look clear.
In terms of taste, it is okay to take the shortcut which is just simmering the seeds in water right away. When serving, you can scoop out the seeds, let the sediments sink to the bottom. Then only transfer the clear soup into serving bowls (or glasses), leaving the sediments behind.
With the dried longan, cook them in water with sugar until they look plump. Very simple!
How to Serve the Sweet Soup
It’s fine to enjoy the soup warm, but I personally think it’s best to enjoy this soup cold. If you want to enjoy it as soon as possible, add the sweet longan soup to serving glasses, then add lotus seed soup and top with ice.
If you have time to chill it in the refrigerator, when serving the soup, add lotus seed soup to serving bowls and then add the longan soup. You should enjoy the soup the same day or next day for the best taste.
I hope you will give this delicious and elegant sweet dessert soup a try. It is our favorite treat for summer to beat the heat (and of course, there’s no reason not to enjoy chilled dessert when the weather is cold).
More chè recipes you may like:
I’d love to hear what you think about the dish, so please feel free to leave a comment. New recipes are added every week so let’s connect on Facebook, Youtube, Pinterest and Instagram for the latest updates. You can find my collection of Vietnamese recipes here.
Lotus Seed Sweet Soup with Longan
- 7-8 oz lotus seeds (I use fresh seeds. See Notes if using dried white lotus seeds)
- 20-24 dried longans
- 3 cups water, divided
- 4 teaspoon packed light brown sugar (to taste)
- 1/4 cup rock sugar (to taste)
- jasmine flowers or a few drops of vanilla extract.
- Inspect lotus seeds and remove the bitter green germs in the center. Steam for 20-25 minutes until they start to soften.
- Give dried longans a quick rinse. Soak in 1/2 cup of water for several minutes. While steaming lotus seeds, place a small saucepan over medium heat. Add longans with the soaking water plus another 1/2 cup of water. Bring to a boil, then lower to a simmer. Add light brown sugar (to taste), stir to combine and simmer for 8-10 minutes until dried longans are plump. Transfer to a bowl to cool.
- After steaming lotus seeds, place a saucepan over medium heat and add the remaining 2 cups of water. Once the water starts to boil, add lotus seeds and simmer very gently for about 10 minutes until they are soft to your liking. Add rock sugar (to taste) and simmer just until sugar is fully dissolved. Transfer to a container.
- If you can find jasmine flowers, rinse them and add to the container with lotus seed soup and let it infuse for 15-20 minutes. Otherwise, just add a few drops of vanilla extract.
- The soup can be enjoyed warm but it is tastier when cold. Chill the lotus seed soup and longan soup in the fridge for several hours. When serving, divide lotus seed soup among serving bowls and then top with longan soup. Or if you want to eat it right away, divide longan soup among serving glasses, then add lotus seed soup and top with some crushed ice.