This dish “Sương sa hạt lựu” literally means a sweet soup with “sương sa jelly and pomegranate seeds”. However, there are no real pomegranate seeds here. They are actually water chestnuts which are cut into dices, then get coated with tapioca flour and get cooked in boiling water. The final outcomes are translucent dices that resemble pomegranate seeds. Those dices are often dyed with vibrant colors.
True sương sa jelly is a type of white jelly made from a type of seaweed called Gracilaria verrucosa (Vietnamese: rong câu chỉ vàng). However, modern Vietnamese chefs often made jelly from algar powder. Agar jelly (Vietnamese: thạch rau câu) is a mix of carbohydrates that have been extracted from red algae, a type of seaweed. So, technically, agar jelly is close enough to the original sương sa jelly, but not exactly the same. Other home cooks also replace sương sa jelly with some other type of jelly like sương sâm jelly (a green leaf jelly made from Tiliacora triandra or Tiliacora acuminata leaves), or sương sáo jelly (a black jelly made from Platostoma palustre leaves). However, such variations are a bit too far from the original recipe.
The dessert dish is served with sugared water or coconut milk together the two basic ingredients. Modern recipes often adds extra toppings or some ingredients like mung bean paste to the base sweet water.
Because making sương sa jelly directly from Vietnamese raw seaweeds is really tiresome, this recipe utilizes agar jelly instead.
1. Soak mung beans in a pot of 300 ml (1¼ cup) boiling water to soften them. Then add 200 ml (7/8 cup) of hot water and 50 g (12 tsp) of granulated sugar. Cook until the beans are soft. 2. Rinse and cut water chestnuts into dices. 3. In 3 separate bowls, add red beet juice, carrot juice, and pandan leaf juice. Throw in water chestnuts dices to get dyed. 4. Soak agar powder in 500 ml (2 1/8 cups) water for a while and cook with 80 g (6 1/3 tbsp) granulated sugar. Stir evenly until the agar solution gets to a boil and becomes pasty. Pour the agar into molds.
1. Cook coconut milk with some pandan leaves. When the milk comes to a boil, add 20 g (4 3/4 tsp) granulated sugar, stir and turn off the heat. 2. Drain the diced water chestnuts. Coat the dices with tapioca flour. Bring a pot of water to a boil and add the coated water chestnuts into the pot. When the dice float to the surface, they are cooked, scoop them out and let them cool off.
If you do not have water chestnuts, you may use jicama roots instead.