Many years ago, when I was a child living in a small town in Binh Dinh, a province in the middle of Vietnam, the most common dessert for kids was jelly. It could be white jelly (Vietnamese “sương sa”) made from some edible algae such as agar-agar or grass jelly made from edible leaves. There are two types of grass jelly, black and green. Black grass jelly is the most common type. According to traditional Vietnamese medicine, grass jelly leaves have a sweet taste, cooling properties, and the ability to dissipate heat, lower blood pressure, and treat colds or joint pain. I do not know if that is true or not, but this dessert has a uniquely delicious taste. Let’s explore how to make it at home and enjoy it as a dessert or substitute it for boba (tapioca pearls) as a healthier topping for milk tea.

black grass jelly
Enjoy black grass jelly with soy milk.

What is Black Grass Jelly?

Grass jelly is a type of dessert popular in China and Southeast Asia for hundreds of years. People here make it by processing certain types of leaves like Chinese mesona or Tiliacora triandra. From Tiliacora triandra (Vietnamese “cây sương sâm”), its leaves are crushed with pure water, then left to rest for a few hours to obtain an edible green jelly, hence its name can be called “green grass jelly”. On the other hand, Chinese mesona is the only ingredient used to make Black Grass Jelly (Vietnamese “sương sáo” or Chinese xiān cǎo (仙草), with a brown or black color.

You can find Black Grass Jelly across East and Southeast Asia, from China, Taiwan, Japan to Thailand and Vietnam, either alone or mixed with other ingredients in desserts and bubble tea. Meanwhile, Green Grass Jelly seems to be common only in Southeast Asia, especially in Laos, Thailand, Cambodia, and Vietnam. This is simply because the plant is native to this region. When I was young, I sometimes harvested Tiliacora triandra’s leaves from the fence to make green grass jelly.

black grass jelly

The difference between these two types of grass jelly also lies in the processing method. To make Black Grass Jelly, the leaves and stems must be processed like tea. They are dried, then oxidized to obtain a brown powder. Next, the powder is mixed with water and boiled, then cooled down to obtain a black jelly. It has a slightly chewy texture and a strong plant flavor, and is low in calories, making it a great choice for a healthy diet.

Let’s dive into how to make black grass jelly in detail below.

Ingredients

To make Black Grass Jelly, I bought a package of Black Jelly Powder produced in Vietnam, which includes a pack of grass powder and a pack of banana flavoring extract. You can find it in many Asian Food Stores. A pack of 50g of grass powder can make 1 liter of grass jelly. You don’t need to add sugar to the jelly, but you may prefer a sweeter taste.

black grass jelly

To enjoy the jelly, you can combine it with chia seeds, soy milk, almond milk, pumpkin milk, cow milk, or milk tea (I tried it with mung bean milk tea). They’re all tasty.

How to make Black Grass Jelly

Prepare the powder mixture: to dissolve the powder, we need 1 liter of water. Follow these steps:

Step 1. Mixing dried grass powder with water

  • Mixing grass powder with water requires a bit of patience. You shouldn’t immediately mix 1 liter of water with 50g of grass powder. Instead, slowly add water little by little while whisking continuously to avoid clumping. In a large bowl or pot (I recommend using the pot directly to avoid washing another bowl), add the grass powder and 250ml (~1 cup) of water. Add the powder carefully because it is very light and can easily fly. Use a whisk to stir the mixture until you no longer see any lumps of powder. Then add one more cup of water (~250ml) and stir well until the powder is completely dissolved. Finally, add the remaining water (500 ml or a bit more than 2 cups) and stir well with 50 grams of sugar (optional).
black grass jelly

Step 2. Cook the mixture

  • After stirring the powder, transfer the mixture to a pot. Turn on the stove and heat the mixture over medium heat, stirring regularly to avoid burning the bottom of the pot.
  • When the mixture thickens slightly, you can add the banana flavoring extract (optional), if available. The mixture will slowly thicken further. When the mixture feels heavy and is boiling, turn off the stove and pour it into the prepared mold. The mold can be a porcelain bowl, a glass box, a heat-safe box, or a silicone mold.
  • Rest it in the fridge for at least 2 hours so the jelly is completely cooled down and thickened. To test if it’s ready, shake the box. If the jelly jiggles and is firm, it is ready to eat.
black grass jelly

Step 3. Serve Black Grass Jelly

  • Cut the jelly into square cubes by making cross cuts.
  • With chia seeds: In Vietnam, people often eat black grass jelly with basil seeds. However, it is not so easy to find in the supermarket. Therefore, you can replace the basil seeds with chia seeds. To eat this jelly with chia seeds, soak chia seeds in water for 10-15 minutes so that the seeds absorb water and form mucilage around them.
  • Mix a desired amount of sugar with chia seed water, then add black grass jelly and its juice. Serve in a highball glass, or you can try decorating it as a fine dining dessert like the image below.
black grass jelly
  • With Milk or Milk Tea: Add black grass jelly to a glass, then pour the milk or milk tea in.
Mung Bean Milk tea with Grass Jelly
Mung Bean Milk Tea with Black Grass Jelly Topping

Storing Black Grass Jelly

From my experience, we can store black grass jelly in the fridge for 4-5 days. This jelly shouldn’t be kept at room temperature as it can become watery. It’s also impossible to freeze.

Once you notice your jelly becoming watery, you should consume it as soon as possible. Enjoy this healthy dessert and share your review with me!

black grass jelly

Black Grass Jelly

Yield: 4
Cook Time: 35 minutes
Total Time: 35 minutes

Black grass jelly is the most common grass jelly, which is believed to help lower blood pressure, treat cold or joint pain, and also very delicious.

Ingredients

Instructions

Step 1. Mixing dried grass powder with water

  • Mixing grass powder with water requires a bit of patience. You shouldn’t mix right away 1 liter of water with 50g grass powder, but slowly add water in little by little and whisk continuously. It’s to avoid clumping. In a large bowl or pot (I recommend to use the pot directly to avoid washing one more bowl), add the grass powder and 250ml (~1 cup) of water in. Add the powder carefully because the powder is very light, so it flies easily. Use a whisk to stir the mixture until you no longer see any lumps of flour. Then add one more cup of water (~250ml) into the bowl and stir well until the powder is completely dissolved. Finally, add the remaining water (500 ml or a bit more than 2 cups) and stir well with 50 grams of sugar (optional).black grass jelly

Step 2. Cook the mixture

  • After stirring the powder, transfer the mixture to a pot. Turn on the stove and heat the mixture over medium heat, stirring regularly to avoid burning the bottom of the pot.black grass jelly
  • When the mixture thickens slightly, you can add the available banana flavoring extract (optional). The mixture will slowly thicken. When the mixture feels heavy and boiling, turn off the stove and pour into the prepared mold. The mold can be a porcelain bowl, a glass box, heat-safe box, or silicon mold.black grass jelly
  • Rest it in fridge in at least 2 hours so the jelly is totally cooled down and thickened. To test if it’s good to go, shake the box. If the jelly jiggles and is firm completely, it is ready for you to eat.black grass jelly

Step 3. Serve Black Grass Jelly

  • Cut the jelly into square cubes by making cross cuts. black grass jelly
  • Serve With chia seeds: to eat this jelly with chia seeds, soak chia seeds in water for 10-15 minutes so that the seeds absorb water and form the mucilage around the seeds.black grass jelly chia seeds
  • Mix a desired amount of sugar with chia seeds water, then add black grass jelly and its juice in. Serve in a high ball glass, or you can try decorating it as a fine dining dessert like the image below.black grass jelly
  • Serve With Milk or Milk Tea: Add black grass jelly to a glass, then pour the milk/milk tea in.Mung Bean Milk Tea

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Nutrition Information:
Yield: 4 Serving Size: 250
Amount Per Serving: Calories: 105

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