Chè Trôi Nước – Sticky Rice Dumplings with Caramel Ginger Syrup




Happy Year of the Rat! Chúc Mừng Năm Mới!

To start the New Year’s Day right, I wanted to make a sweet dish that is perfect for the hangovers cold weather we’re having. I recently came across Deb’s article on NPR’s website about dumplings and it got me thinking about the sweet rice dumplings that we often made at home – Chè Trôi Nước. I’ve never liked desserts that are too sweet or cloying and I am not exactly a die-hard fan of caramel either. Yet, somehow, this dessert and flan (both have caramel sauce) might be my favorites. In this case, the sweet caramel is balanced with the slightly savory but sweet mung bean filling, and the fresh ginger adds a nice, little kick to entire dish. We use Asian brown sugar (sometimes labeled Brown Candy or Chinese Candy Pieces) which is usually sold in 1-pound packages, consisting of of several thick slabs of sugar. It adds a beautiful, dark color and a subtle roasted flavor to the caramel.

Sweet dumplings are easy to make and even more fun if you have your children help. When we were young children, we used help our mother make these dumplings and we would try to see who could make the roundest, perfectly shaped dumplings. I think you know who won 😉

This can be served warm or chilled. Before sprinkling the top with toasted white sesame seeds, you can also spoon a little coconut milk over the the dumplings.






INGREDIENTS: (4-6 servings)

  • 1.5 cups (~260 g) dry mung beans, soaked in water overnight
  • 4 shallots, thinly sliced or minced [the white bulbs of green onion can be substituted]
  • 2 tsp. vegetable oil
  • 1/2 tsp. salt
  • 4-5 slabs Asian brown sugar
  • 8 cups (~2L) water
  • 2-inch piece of ginger, peeled and julienned into small strips
  • 3 heaping cups (~5oog) glutinous [sticky] rice flour
  • 1 .5 cups (350 mL) hot, boiling water
  • white sesame seeds
  • coconut milk


  • Add the soaked mung beans to a medium saucepan and add enough water to cover the beans by at least one inch (2cm). Cook on medium heat and bring to a gentle boil. Gently boil the beans until tender (approx. 20-30 min) and drain in a colander. While they are still hot, mash them with a wooden spoon or potato masher. Add salt and blend. Set aside. Next, sweat (gently cook) the shallots in oil until soft and translucent. Add them to the mashed mung beans and mix to combine. Measure about 1 Tbl. (1 cs) of the mashed mung beans and form into round, compact balls. Repeat with the rest of the mung beans.
  • In the same saucepan that you used to cook the mung beans (heat on med) , add 8 cups of water, ginger and brown sugar. Once it begins to boil, lower the heat to low and simmer for about 20 minutes.
  • Meanwhile, use a wooden spoon to combine the flour and hot water in a mixing bowl. While the dough is still very warm (but cool enough to handle), form into a round and cut into several slabs. Roll the slabs into round links (approx. 1 inch (~2.5 cm) in diameter. Cut the dough into 1.5 inch (~4cm) pieces. Using a rolling pin or the palm of your hand, flatten into a disk that is approximately 1/8 inch (~.3cm) thick and 4 inch (~10cm) in diameter. Place a mung bean ball in the center and enclose with the entire filling. Gently roll the dumpling between the palms of your hands until you have a smooth, crease-less surface. Repeat with the rest of the ingredients. If you have leftover white dough, make smaller balls without filling. We called the filled dumplings mamas and the smaller, plain dumplings babies 🙂
  • Add the dumplings to the simmering syrup. Once the dumplings rise to the top (about 2 minutes), carefully transfer them to a small bowl (along with syrup) and top with coconut milk and sesame seeds. [You can add or discard the ginger, depending on your preference.]




Bon appétit!



18 Responses to “Chè Trôi Nước – Sticky Rice Dumplings with Caramel Ginger Syrup”

  1. White On Rice Couple Says:

    You were born to create dumplings and beautiful food. Chè Trôi Nước is a dish that no very many Viet ladies want to make because of the time and detail it takes. But you make it look so easy and delicious. Your chè shop would put most others out of business !

  2. Wandering Chopsticks Says:

    How lovely. What a coincidence, my cousin just made these for me today. Except we’re not a fan of mung beans, so he only made the little dough balls. I’ve never heard of putting scallions in the mung beans before.

  3. lindsay Says:

    happy new year!

    i adore these.. my favourite being my grandma’s chiu chow specialty, filling them with a homemade sticky sweet taro paste. i’ll definitely have to give these a try!


  4. Warda Says:

    Happy New Year My sweet Christine! May it be a year of happiness, succes and blessing!

    Lovely photos! I have never heard of this kind of dessert before! But it seems so yummy!
    It’s funny how meticulous you are about the size of the dumplings! I can see the ruler in the picture 😉

  5. Hillary Says:

    So far, of all the Chinese New year recipes I’ve seen, this is hands down the most drool-worthy!

  6. holybasil Says:

    Happy New Year to you all!

    WhiteonRice- Oh thanks! Actually, I’ve always wanted to open up a bánh mì and chè shop! When I do, can you move to Ann Arbor and make your Pineapple gỏi cuốn to sell alongside? 🙂
    WanderingChopsticks – Thanks! I love the plain ones – they remind me of mochi. The shallot/onion is fairly traditional – I checked with some friends and online and the recipes included onion/shallot. It does sound weird but when they’re cooked slowly, they get nice and sweet – but not sugary sweet, of coure. Glad to have come across your site!
    Lindsay – Happy New Year to you too! I love Taro and I’m sure it’d make a yummy filling. Thanks for the idea. 🙂
    Warda – Happy New Year! Ha! The ruler is etched on the dough cutter I used. I’m not that meticulous 🙂
    Hillary- Oh, that’s very very very kind of you. Happy New Year to ya!

  7. Jen Says:

    I was so curious when I read the ingredients list and saw shallots because this is a sweet dish. Fascinating! And I’m so happy that you posted about this because I’ve had glutinous rice flour in my cupboard to make those little red bean paste rice balls but never got around to figuring out the whole dough thing (call it laziness or fear – either one will do!). So thanks for the instructive photos! 🙂 Gong xi fa tsai, my friend!

  8. Anh Says:

    I know that the central of Vietnam includes shallot in this dish. Weird to hear but delicious to eat :).

    I love this dessert a lot. Your photos make me want to throw my healthy salad eating regime out of the window right now!

  9. Rasa Malaysia Says:

    For Chinese, we eat plain rice balls (in various colors and some small, and some big) one month before the lunar new year…I really miss those traditions and rituals that I grew up with…

  10. mycookinghut Says:

    I have not tried this before…. must be real good as I really like caramel syrup!
    Yeah, we make this during Yuanxiao. And like RM mentioned, we make plain ones with various colours served in ginger syrup.
    I like those filled with seasame paste and peanuts too!

  11. holybasil Says:

    Jen – I know, I forgot about the shallots until my Mom reminded me. I love the sweetness they add to the mung beans. Rice balls with red bean paste is something I’d love to make so I’ll be on the lookout for your post 🙂
    Anh- I agree, shallots in dessert sounds weird but I’m glad you know how it is. Healthy? Mung beans have fiber, right 🙂
    RasaMalaysia – I think making them in different colors would be fun – maybe I’ll try that next time.
    Mycookinghut – Sesame paste and peanuts sound great. By the way, do you know how to make the peanut filled rice balls that they often sell at Chinese bakeries? I forget the name… I love that stuff!

  12. mycookinghut Says:

    I love those too!! They are called Jin Dui (Sesame Glutinous Ball)!! My mom makes this. I had this while I was young for breakfast! I love those with peanuts & sugar as the fillings then coated with sesame..
    Need to grab the recipe from my mom! 🙂

  13. AppetiteforChina Says:

    Hi there…I just found your site through Tastespotting. These remind me of Chinese tang yuan, which can be served in both sweet and savory soups. And I love the flower shape of the bowl in the pictures!

  14. holybasil Says:

    Mycookinghut – I’m looking forward to your post on Jin Dui one of these days 🙂
    AppetiteforChina – Thanks. I’ve never had savory sticky rice dumplings but I’d love to try it one day.

  15. Sammi Says:

    Thanks for the recipe. I’m so craving some sticky rice dumplings.

  16. evelyn Says:

    You for got about the coconut milk in the receipe, what do you do with them?

  17. Lyman Kinsman Says:

    Nice!Just bookmarked this blog, i will be back here once again.

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