Recipe: Rau Cau (Vietnamese Jello)

Yesterday I talked a little bit about the inspiration towards what I chose to be the dish brought to the Oscar party that was thrown by friends. Just to keep things simple I actually found a rather common recipe used to make Rau Cau that uses generally the same ingredients that my mother and I used for our version. As always I will start with what I found online that you guys might like and then I’ll talk about how the one I made differs.

Now below is the recipe used by the Ravenous Couple:


Below are the directions provided:

Have multiple, ideally 3, small saucepans ready. Split the agar packet into thirds for each layer. The amount of condensed milk/sugar is really up to you as some people like this mildly sweet and some really sweet, so adjust according to your tastes.

For the coffee layer, heat about 1.5 cup of water in small pot, add about 1/3 of the agar packet, stir constantly until the agar dissolves. Add 2 tbs of instant coffee, add about 2 tbs of condensed milk or 2 tbs of sugar and a drop of vanilla extract. Taste, adjust condense milk/sugar to your taste and bring to boil. Carefully pour this into your mold. This will slowly set so in the meantime, start the next layer.

For the coconut layer, heat about 1 cup of water and can of coconut milk. Add 1/3 of agar packet and stir constantly. Add about 2 tbs of condensed milk or sugar and then adjust to taste and bring to boil. Before adding to the bottom coffee layer, check to make sure it is not fully set…test with your finger–it should not perforate through but spring back but still slightly sticky. You don’t want it too soft or else the coconut will just mix with the coffee. Conversely, you do not want it to completely harden or else the layers will slide apart when cut. Carefully ladle on the coconut layer to the slightly hardened, but sticky coffee layer.

Finally, for the pandan layer, heat about 1.5 cup of water, the rest of the agar packet, 1 tbs of pandan extract (if using pandan leaves, tie in bundle with twine and remove at last minute), 2 tbs of condensed milk or sugar, and a drop of vanilla extract and 2 drops of green food color. Stir constantly and adjust to taste and bring to boil. Now you’re ready to add the final layer. Again, before adding this layer, check to make sure the coconut layer is slightly hard and still sticky to the touch and then carefully ladle this on.

Let the jelly cool at room temperature or refrigerate to quicken the process (around 10 min-the thinner and larger surface area, the quicker it will set) and enjoy!

For the most part the above is rather close to what we have done… so how did we change it up?

Well the major change is that we didn’t put the jello in layers we actually mixed it up, so as one could understand the whole do one layer at a time part of directions just wasn’t going to work for us.

So in each separate bowl we had:
– 1 can of coconut milk (approximately 14 oz)
– 1 can of pandan leaves extract (approximately 14 oz)
– 1-3/4 cups of strong coffee (approximately 14 oz)

In each of the three bowls we used a whole can of condensed milk and separated it three ways… a full can. Then we added food coloring to the pandan leaves mixture (which ironically was also a pandan leaves food color extract) to give it a brighter green color.

Now in a tangent… I remember while growing up my mother originally had four colors as opposed to three, the fourth being yellow and the flavor being eggs. When I asked her why she didn’t use actual eggs she said because to her it didn’t taste as good… and thinking about it now I probably had to agree with her.

However now that I look at the above recipe I might be tempted to use the yellow part of the jello as purely vanilla… which could be interesting, but I digress.

For the Oscar inspired dish I mixed in some red food coloring into the coconut, but typically it is kept white.

Now instead of separating the packet of agar powder right off the bat we poured it into a saucepan and added a 1/2 cup of sugar… since this was my parents’ place sugar was used as opposed to my normal honey.

Then came the water: for some reason at this point my mother mentioned something of 7.5 cups multiplied by 8 oz per cup which came out to be 60 oz total. Now if you count just the coffee, coconut milk and the pandan leaves juice/extract we only had 42 oz which meant we were left with 18 oz of water or approximately 2-1/4 cups of water. Do not ask me where the 7.5 cups came from because I have no idea.

So in the saucepan went
– one packet of agar powder (approximately 8 oz)
– 1/2 cup of sugar
– 2-1/4 cups of water
Stir the mixture until all of the agar powder has dissolved and then pour the mixture into three parts for the coffee, coconut and pandan leaves.

Stir the three bowls and be sure to have your jello pan ready and start scooping in the three flavors in any way you see fit until you run out.

Once done let the jello sit at room temperature for about fifteen minutes so it could set and then place in refrigerator until ready to serve. So done right? Nope… what’s left is serving!

So take it out of jello pan and chop it up in whatever way you see fit, and voila! Jello… and not in that boring three layer shape you all probably saw in Asian grocery stores.

Anyway… that was fun… the food was only a small portion of the Oscar party…. what is next: Costumes!


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