Some black-eyed peas are downright thunderous.
Most though, are sweet and mild.
These small, creamy-white beans with a black mark (the "eye") at the sprouting point are cousins of the mung bean. Historians disagree about their origins—some point to Eastern Asia and others to West Africa.
Like anyone with a shady history, black-eyed peas have aliases: black-eyed Suzy, brown-eyed pea, cherry bean, China pea, cow pea, Indian pea, marble pea and Tonkin pea. No matter their a.k.a.—they absorb the flavors of most accompanying ingredients really well. And they're an adventure ingredient.
We're passionate about them in chè, a Vietnamese dessert that falls somewhere between a soup and pudding. Created in endless configuration, chè
can be served hot or cold, in a bowl or a glass, with a range of ingredients like beans (most common: black-eyed, azuki or mung), coconut milk, tapioca, sugar and often, shaved ice. Also: lotus and sesame seeds, taro root and water chestnuts, glutinous rice and crazy colored jellies made from agar agar. Each fabulous spoonful is a satisfying contrast in texture.
Our version below is a work in progress. So—suggestions, anyone?
Tutti Loves Chè
1/2 cup small tapioca pearls (avoid instant tapioca)
3 cups cool water
1 13 oz. can coconut milk
1/2 cup sugar
1/3 teaspoon salt
1 cup organic black eyed canned peas, drained and rinsed
Several sprinklings crushed, roasted peanuts
the tapioca in cool tap water and drain.
tapioca in a saucepan with 3 cups water.
to a boil over medium heat and cook for 5 minutes, stirring constantly.
in a fine sieve and rinse quickly.
coconut milk in a clean saucepan, then add tapioca and bring to a boil over medium heat, stirring constantly.
Add sugar and salt, stirring only until dissolved (about 30 seconds) and then remove from heat.
tapioca mixture to rest in the saucepan for 30 minutes, then place in a covered bowl and refrigerate overnight; the pearls will grow a bit.
black eyed peas evenly in four 8-ounce glasses when ready to serve chè.
the rest of each glass with tapioca mixture and then top with a sprinkling of crushed peanuts.