The Restaurant Takeaway column is devoted to restaurant dishes you can make in your own kitchen, tested and tweaked for home cooks.
Chia seeds may be having their moment as the darling of the natural food set, but that’s not what made me want to sample the unusual chia-seed pudding at El Rey, a coffee bar on the Lower East Side that offers a small menu of dishes and pastries.
For me, the lure is in the seeds’ tapioca-like texture (and, I won’t lie, the fact that they are related to chia pets, which I loved as a kid).
When chia seeds are soaked in some kind of sweet, milky liquid (milk, coconut milk, almond milk), the whole thing turns custardy, and the seeds take on a pleasingly slippery texture while remaining very slightly al dente at the core. The pudding has the appeal of tapioca, but is easier to make (you don’t need to cook it), nutritionally dense and slightly more exciting to crunch.
The simplest chia-seed pudding doesn’t even require a recipe. Just cover the raw seeds with some kind of liquid, sweeten it to taste and let it sit at room temperature. After as little as 15 minutes, the seeds soften and swell, and the liquid all but disappears. Instant pudding, but good for you, too.
At El Rey, the chef Gerardo Gonzalez offers a breakfast version that’s a more sophisticated take. He mixes the seeds with both coconut milk and almond milk seasoned with sugar and sea salt, then garnishes it with apricots simmered in passion-fruit nectar, toasted almonds and coconut flakes.
It’s a complex jumble of tart, sweet and milky flavors, with a multitude of interesting textures. It makes an excellent breakfast, an unusual and not-too-sweet dessert and, if you mention the pets, an amusing conversation starter too.
Recipe: Chia Seed Breakfast Pudding
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